Let us briefly imagine the brainstorming session at Polish Eats, of Garfield Heights, Ohio, that led to this travesty.
“WHYYYYYY WHY WHY. Why.” -- K. Sekelesky, via Instagram/Twitter. (“Ditto.” – Fritinancy.)
Now let’s unimagine it, if we can.
Pierogi are Polish dumplings. Sophie’s Choice is the title of a novel by William Styron that became a film starring Meryl Streep as Sophie. The “choice” of the title is an excruciating one: to survive a Nazi death camp, Sophie must sacrifice one of her children.
Let us review:
I don’t care if your beloved founder is named Sophie. I don’t care if she chose the ingredients, the recipe, and the wacky label art. I will not listen to your argument about “choice” being an adjective meaning “of fine quality.” I don’t care if you call it an homage, and I don’t care how you pronounce “homage.”
I definitely won’t listen to arguments about Polish jokes.
Here’s the thing: Literature renders some names off limits. In this case, William Styron got there first, and thanks to him, “Sophie’s Choice” now stands for something horrific.*
Unless you are truly tasteless—a damning thing to say about a food company—you do not get to name your product “Sophie’s Choice.”
This new book by Mark Schatzkerlooks interesting. The title, though, troubles me.
There is no “Dorito.” The trademark is DORITOS, which only looks like it’s plural. In fact, it’s singular.*
“But,” I hear you cry, “how do I say I want just onerobustly flavored corn-based snack-food product manufactured by Frito-Lay North America, Inc.?”
My answer: In the privacy of your home, you can say whatever you like. But if you are a major publisher—Simon & Schuster, in the case of The Dorito [sic] Effect—then you should pay attention to the legal niceties. I’m sure Frito-Lay’s lawyers do, every single day.**
Normally, I wouldn’t fault the author. Authors only rarely get to choose their titles; the final decision is almost always up to the publisher. However, a search through the book’s contents reveals several examples of singular “Dorito”: “the Dorito model,” “heirloom Dorito cuisine,” “the Dorito treatment.” So the finger of blame must point back to the author—or perhaps to an editor unfamiliar with trademarks.
Pass the chip, please.
* Just like “kudos.” And speaking of brand names, LEGO, a trademark for a brand of interlocking toy bricks, is never pluralized. At least, not if you want to stay out of legal hot water. Read more about brand names with plural problems (by Arika Okrent for Mental Floss)—but bear in mind that in strictest legal terms, none of these brand names is supposed to be pluralized.
** It has occurred to me that the publisher went with “Dorito” to avoid legal implications from the use of a registered trademark. Well, good luck with that.
Trilby: A soft hat, traditionally made of felt, with a narrow brim and indented crown.
The trilby hat style takes its name from Trilby, the title and principal character of an 1894 novel by the British writer and caricaturist* George du Maurier (grandfather of Daphne du Maurier). In Du Maurier’s story, Trilby O’Ferrall is a half-Irish woman living la vie bohème in Paris; she’s transformed from artist’s model to opera diva through the hypnotic powers of a sinister mesmerist named Svengali. In one production of the play that was adapted from the novel, the actress playing Trilby wore a distinctive short-brimmed hat that became a fashionable menswear staple. Du Maurier may have borrowed the name “Trilby” from an 1822 novel, Trilby, ou le lutin d’Argail,by Charles Nodier, in which Trilby was a Scottish fairy; the ballet La Sylphide is based on the French story.
(Like trilby, “Svengali” also entered the lexicon: it’s “a person who exerts a sinister controlling influence,” usually over a woman. “The name has been absorbed into the language as irrevocably as ‘Simon Legree’ as a definition of cruelty, or ‘Scrooge’ of parsimony,” wrote Avis Berman in a 1993 article for Smithsonian Magazine. Trilby also contributed the phrase “in the altogether” as a euphemism for “naked.”)
From the back cover of the Oxford World’s Classics paperback edition of Trilby (2009):
Immensely popular for years, the novel led to a hit play, a series of popular films, Trilby products from hats to ice-cream, and streets in Florida named after characters in the book.
This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike, by Augusten Burroughs. The paperback edition (2013) bore an abbreviated subtitle: Surviving What You Think You Can't.
The hook for Shapiro’s story is Going Clear, Alex Gibney’s new documentary about the Church of Scientology, which will have its premiere March 29 on HBO. (Shapiro said the film aired “last week.” Maybe for critics, but the rest of us will have to wait.) The film is based on the book of the same title by Lawrence Wright; the book was published in the U.S. in 2013 (and was short-listed for a National Book Award), but has not yet been released in the U.K. There have also been “serious challenges” to the release of the film, Shapiro reports, “because Britain does not have the same free speech protections as the United States.”
The libel tourism coinage is credited to the British media lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, who cited “the menace of libel tourism” in a 2010 opinion piece for The Guardian. The term had already been in circulation for at least a few years by then. It appeared in a January 2008 article by Doreen Carvajal in The New York Times about a Scandinavian case:
You’re an investment bank in Iceland with a complaint about a tabloid newspaper in Denmark that published critical articles in Danish. Whom do you call?
A pricey London libel lawyer.
That is called libel tourism by lawyers in the media trade. And Britain remains a comfortable destination for the rich in search of friendly courts, which have already weighed complaints from people who consider themselves unfairly tarred with labels like tax dodger, terrorist financier or murky Qaeda operative.
Russian oligarchs and Saudi billionaires have also found refuge in British libel law, Carvajal writes. Her succinct explanation:
Britain is a legal refuge because of defamation standards rooted in common law. They essentially assume that any offending speech is false and the writer or author must prove that it is in fact true to prevail against the charge.
In the United States, with its First Amendment protection for free speech, the situation tilts in the opposite direction: To succeed, libel plaintiffs must prove that the speech is false and published with a reckless disregard for the truth.
The expanded Dictionary.com entry brings us up to date:
After several high-profile libel suits filed in the U.K. against U.S. authors resulted in judgments against the authors—lawsuits that, in the opinion of many jurists, probably would not have held up in a U.S. court of law—Congress in 2010 passed the SPEECH (Securing the Protection of our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage) Act. The title of the act speaks volumes: foreign libel judgments are no longer enforceable in the U.S. unless they meet the same high legal standards in libel matters as required by U.S. law, including that they do not violate the First Amendment right of free speech of an American author.Thus the tourist must return home.
SPEECH is a masterly example of the bureaucratic backronym.
Besides libel tourism, there are a few other examples of the “X tourism” formula.
Birth tourism, also known as maternity tourism, is travel to another country for the purpose of giving birth. Reasons for the practice, according to a Wikipedia entry, “include access to the destination country's healthcare system, circumvention of communist China's one-child policy and (in countries that recognize jus soli) birthright citizenship for the child.” According to a CBS News story published February 9, 2015, the number of Chinese women giving birth in the United States “more than doubled to about 10,000 in 2012.”
Medical tourism is travel to another country for health care, often for economic reasons. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has estimated that 750,000 U.S. residents travel abroad for medical care each year; a CNBC report put the 2013 figure at 900,000, and noted that the worldwide market is $20 billion to $40 billion. Websites such as MedicalTourism.com (“Your Passport to a World of Options”) and PatientsBeyondBorders.com (“The Most Trusted Resource in Medical Travel”) provide information and patient accounts; companies like Planet Hospital (“A New Way to Care”) handle the logistics.
A subset of medical tourism is surgery tourism, and a sub-subset is plastic surgery tourism, which New Yorker contributor Patricia Marx touches on in her “Letter from Seoul,” published in the March 23 issue. Her subtitle: “Why is South Korea the world’s plastic-surgery capital?” Her answer:
“Surgery tourists” from abroad make up about a third of the business in South Korea, and, of those, most come from China. One reason is that, throughout Asia, the “Korean wave” of pop culture (called hallyu) shapes not only what music you should listen to but what you should look like while listening to it. Cosmetic transformations can be so radical that some of the hospitals offer certificates of identity to foreign patients, who might need help convincing immigration officers that they’re not in the Witness Protection Program.
Some of the clinic names Marx spotted on her visit: Small Face, Magic Nose, Dr. 4 Nose, Her She, Before and After, Reborn, Top Class, Wannabe, 4 Ever, Cinderella, Center for Human Appearance, and April 31 Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Marx’s translator explained “Small Face” to her: “Koreans, and Asians in general, are self-conscious about having big heads,” he said. “This is why in group photos a girl will try to stand far in the back to make her face relatively smaller.” Also popular in South Korea: the “Bagel Girl” look—bagel being a portmanteau of “baby-faced” and “glamorous.”