The reference for the name is related to music in that timbre is the inside quality of the sound (or richness of sound) produced by a musical instrument. Timbre is meant to be part of a computing instrument so that one might say about it: "It has Timbre". In this application it refers to the ability of the translation engine to be tuned to any circumstance as required, perfectly allowing translation without hindrance. It is pronounced the same as "timber".
Timbre began life as an result of several diverse needs and lack of a single tool which met all these needs. Initially it was built to run on a 10Mhz 16-bit microprocessor (RTX2001), so size and execution speed were paramount. Subsequently, it was evolved to run on larger 32-bit computing platforms including Unix workstations, Windows and Macs.
Two important technologies were built prior to Timbre and were essential to its creation. Queues act as a method of capturing data flow, providing elasticity between asynchronous tasks and nicely complement stacks. Dictionaries map the linguistic universe into the data structure universe in a very fast and efficient manner. Multiple dictionaries can be created for many different mappings to link together multiple linguistic universes.
A series of 7 papers define the evolution of Timbre from initially being called a translator to its present form as Timbre. Each of these papers represent a step forward in the history of bringing Timbre to life and present useful and practical design issues relevant in creating rules and rule sets.
Timbre is how you catch the wisp of patterns in the input: a compact way of triggering actions or substitutions. If one can peel back all the patterns in the input, then there will be no more input. Matching nothing misses everything, allowing all to pass; matching everything, blocking all or replacing all, allows full change; matching all the patterns in between, is Timbre.
For those looking for an acronym:
Ultimately, Timbre will be expressed in Timbre (as first suggested by Bob Le Quey).