Blackwater: A Smell by Any Other Name?

03/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Some of your employees are facing manslaughter charges. Your biggest customers just yanked your contracts.

How do you repair your image and your reputation?

Simple: Change your name.

The Outfit Formerly Known as Blackwater, the huge military contracting and consulting firm, made its bones and its less than salubrious name in Iraq. And now it wants to unmake its notoriety. It is changing its name to Xe.

Pronounced Z. Or maybe "zed," depending on what part of the world you're in.

Blackwater: from the unspeakable to the unpronounceable.

In a memo to employees, Blackwater/Xe president Gary Jackson says the switch "reflects the change in company focus away from the business of providing private security." To providing what now, exactly? Frosted cupcakes?

Xe is on the periodic charts at atomic number 54; it stands for xenon, a "noble gas" like fellow elements krypton and neon.

The Outfit Formerly Known as Blackwater now joins the ranks of the rebranded, along with Altria, a bland, content-free name meant to make people forget that its original name and mission was Philip Morris, cigarette maker.

Whatever they choose to call it, for an awful lot of people, here and in Iraq, Blackwater's name will always be mud.