Jim VandeHei’s dream is dead. No, not the one about starting a new media organization: His Arlington-based Axios is doing just fine, and even has a deal for a limited-run HBO series.
I’m talking about his hopes that you’ll pronounce the company’s name “Axi-us.”
“I am a Cheesehead with a nasally Oshkosh voice who WISHES all would join me in calling it AXE E US,” he said in a Reddit chat last year. You can hear him say it his way in the opening minute of this podcast with Kara Swisher. A quick survey of reporters who’ve interacted with the company found more than half had the same experience as me: The company telling you its name is pronounced “Axius.”
Even though there’s clearly an “o” in there.
The name, as any Axios profile is required to state, means “worthy”: “It’s Greek for worthy, dude,” Axios cofounder Mike Allen told BuzzFeed reporter Steven Perlberg when he asked whether the name was a play on access.
But all good startups need to know how to pivot. “During launch, we had some fun with Axi-US vs. Axi-OS,” Axios spokesperson Megan Swiatkowski writes in an email. “But Axios is always about the audience, not about us. So with the launch of Dan Primack’s “Pro Rata” podcast and our HBO show this fall, we decided to stick with Axi-OS — just like the Greeks.”
Swiatkowski also sent along this helpful video:
As a non-Greek speaker, I wasn’t sure how to fact-check her contention that the pronunciation was now accurate. A call to the Greek Embassy’s media department was not immediately returned, but Greek Deli owner Kostas Fostieris interrupted his lunchtime service duties to pronounce the world several times for me. Fostieris came up with several instances in which one might use the word–if your son brought you a beer on a hot day, for instance, you’d say he was a good boy and axios–and confirmed that the final vowel is pronounced closer to an “o” than an “uh” sound. But he stressed the importance of drawing out the “a” at the beginning of the word.
“If you pronounce it Axi-OS,” he says, “no one’s going to know what you’re saying.”