I had some errands nearby, so I stopped into the Title Nine store in Berkeley over the weekend to see what was new with this local brand.
A bit of background: Title Nine was founded in 1989, taking its name from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex to any person seeking the benefits of any federally funded education program. Title IX opened doors to girls and women who wanted to play sports in school; Title Nine sells non-technical sports gear and clothing. The company has 19 retail stores—none in malls, the website boasts—243 employees, and a manifesto.
Appropriately, there’s a lot of playful, you-go-girl energy in a Title Nine store. This poster typifies the spirit:
“You are so busted!” is very cute. The medallion touts the company’s “bravangelists”: also nice.
I actually laughed out loud at this sign displayed above the entrance to the bra department—excuse me, the “Home for Unruly Girls Support Center.”
If you don’t get the joke in “unruly girls,” see the Online Slang Dictionary.
So far, so good. By the evidence, Title Nine is a company that makes a big investment in copywriting, and that’s a good thing. The attention to words carries over into the dressing rooms—or so I thought until I encountered this sign:
“Have a Fit!” is fun. So are the other headings: Containment, Mind the Strap, Be Smooth, Know the Terrain, and Think Straight. Then I read the very last sentence: “The bra should lay straight.”
Aha! So Title Nine’s editorial department has an Achilles heel after all: the lay/lie fault. The bra should lie straight, if you please.
(Listen, I get that a lot of people mix up lay and lie, and in fact I tolerate “lay” for “lie” in casual speech. But I can’t condone its appearance in published prose. And that includes marketing copy: See my critiques of the Hanes Lay Flat Collar, the SpeedSleep ad, the Back2Life back-pain “solution.” This is why professional copyeditors were invented. They know this stuff. They can help.)
I picked up a fall catalog to see whether the dressing-room sign was anomalous. Nope: The error is even worse in the catalog (insert, page 7), where in addition to the lay/lie error we have a comma splice:
“The bra should lay straight, if it rides up, it’s still too loose.”
There needs to be a period—a colon would be OK, too—after “straight.”
The “lay” error persists on the website:
I leafed through the catalog to distract myself from all this lay-ola. Unfortunately, my eye fell on an even bigger boo-boo—in a name with a trademark symbol, no less:
Page 19, fall catalog.
I was drawn to that “Wooliscious” headline because in all the time I’ve been tracking -licious compounds—see here, here, here, and here—I’d never come across a -liscious. It looked odd, and I wondered whether it was a clumsy attempt at a portmanteau with “luscious.” Nope again: In the product copy—and on the Web—the word is spelled “Woolicious.”
I’m guessing Title Nine’s lawyers have already pitched a fit over this mistake, so I’ll leave it at that.
In my crappy photo you can just barely make out the name of this garment: “The Swacket.” It’s “more than a sweater—not quite a jacket,” the copy says. Honestly, is that the best they could come up with? Because all I can think of is the poor sacrificial fracket.
I’ll have another post about Title Nine later this week.