I'd thought about this when I read this TechDirt article as few weeks ago. Someone sued Google and Yahoo, because he claimed the names were based on Tanzanian tribe names....and somehow this was evil. The suit is a frivolous one, but as the article points out there are tons of startups whose names are essentially just Swahili words. Now, this would annoy me about any language. but the overuse of a language that I could once speak (I'm told that till age 5 it was the language I was most comfortable with) seems particularly egregious.
The practice may have been interesting the first time, even the second, sometimes it can be still be witty and original...but at some point its just being unoriginal. I'm willing to bet that most people in these startups don't have a Tanzanian/East African connection of any sort, so its just one way to find a name that seems "cool"....either to them or an expensive naming consultant.
Swahili (Kijiji="Village", Joomla ="All Together", Tafiti="Research", Jambo="Hello") seems to be favorite the favorite language to appropriate, and Hawaiian (Mahalo, Hulu(?)) seems to be another. There are tons of Indian startups that use variations of Sanskrit/Hindi names, but that doesn't seem to annoy me as much. I rationalize that there's a reason behind those names (identity/making a statement etc.) and many of them happen to actually be pretty smart/witty/eloquent choices rather than just translations of regular words.
In this age of the overuse of Hawaiian words in the tech sector, lets remember one that truly belonged and was truly brilliant as a choice: ALOHA: a communication protocol developed at the University of Hawaii that also worked as an acronym...I think.:)