Why 'Wrecking Ball' is awkward to say, and other reasons Overwatch fans prefer 'Hammond'

Overwatch fans are pretty much in agreement that the new hero Wrecking Ball, a spherical mech piloted by a genius hamster named Hammond, is cool. He's a fast, cute tank who reinforces the idea that the Overwatch universe is built on fun, not deadpan seriousness. There's just one little problem: lots of players hate the name Wrecking Ball. More to the point, many players would prefer Blizzard officially change his hero name to Hammond—so much so that someone started a petition for just that. 

The arguments against Wrecking Ball are many and varied. Many players, like Reddit user d3fin3d (and the tens of thousands who upvoted their Reddit thread), think the name is too obvious. What do we call a ball who wrecks things? Wrecking Ball! It is a little on-the-nose, you have to admit. Similarly, many believe the name is impersonal and focuses too much on the machine rather than its pilot—equivalent to calling D.Va 'Mech' or Reaper 'Shotgun' or what-have-you. 

Many players have also pointed out that Wrecking Ball just doesn't roll off the tongue. And while the creativity of Wrecking Ball as a name is up for debate, a bit of research shows that the words themselves are provably tough to say. Wrecking Ball uses some of the most difficult sounds in the English language and in a difficult way, and it breaks a lot of the rules that make other Overwatch names so snappy. 

The three syllables in Wrecking Ball use three main sounds: the 'r' sound, the 'i' sound, and the 'ɔ:' sound. As the English Language Club explains, you position your tongue and lips very differently when you pronounce these sounds, and you can feel this when you say it. To make the 'r' sound in 'wre', you curl your tongue up to the roof of your mouth. To make the 'i' sound in 'king', you keep your tongue up high but bring it forward to the front of your mouth while stretching out your lips. Finally, to make the 'ɔ:' sound in 'ball', you put your tongue low and bring it to the back of your mouth while also bringing your lips together. 

In other words, saying Wrecking Ball puts your tongue and lips all over the place with no clean pattern or loop to connect the sounds. And it doesn't stop there: the 'wr' consonant blend is naturally awkward in the same way the word 'rural' is awkward, and the hard 'g' and 'b' in Wrecking Ball put unnatural stops in your speech. This is especially cumbersome here because the 'wr' at the start of Wrecking uses your tongue heavily, while the long vowel and hard consonant at the end don't use it much at all. 

Compare that to Hammond, paying close attention to the way your mouth moves when you say it. Not only is Hammond two syllables instead of three, it also barely uses your tongue. Your lips and vocal chords do most of the work, which, ironically, is why it seems to roll off the tongue. Plus we get the added alliteration of Hammond the hamster.

We're still not done. Most Overwatch names are two syllables or less. In fact, excluding Wrecking Ball, there are only seven (arguably eight) with three or more syllables: Orisa, Zarya, Soldier: 76, Symmetra, Widowmaker, Lucio, Zenyatta and arguably Bastion. Bastion is a bit of a wild card here because some people pronounce his name in two syllables like 'bas-chun' while others hit all three syllables as in 'bas-tee-in'. I'm in the former camp, so I'm going to ignore Bastion here. 

Of these seven names, five end on long vowels: Orisa, Zarya, Symmetra, Zenyatta and Lucio. Interestingly enough, four of these five end on a long 'a' because it's an easy and pretty sound for punctuating names (which, if you're wondering, is also why so many elves in high fantasy settings have names like Aria). The two standouts, Soldier: 76 and Widowmaker, also have something in common: their names are usually abbreviated by players, respectively to Soldier and Widow, which are much more convenient two-syllable names. 

Wrecking Ball doesn't fit into either of these groups. It ends in the double consonant 'll' which doesn't trail off with the same elegance as a long vowel, and it also can't easily be abbreviated. How are we supposed to shorten it? Ball? That's even more on-the-nose. Wreck? That doesn't feel quite right either. 

So, you can see why this is so difficult. Players are linguistically hardwired to gravitate toward Hammond, but there are all kinds of lore reasons behind the name Wrecking Ball, which is to say nothing of the fact that Blizzard has already settled on the name and isn't likely to change it. But hey, we can always just call him Hammond, lore be damned. And as Reddit user Owlero pointed out, at least one good thing came out of the name Wrecking Ball: