The San Francisco magazine 7x7* brought to my attention a pop-up juice bar that opened in the city over Memorial Day weekend. It’s called Sow.
This is what I pictured:
Sow and juice-imbibing piglets. Image from JustMommies.
No, no, not /sau/, insists the Sow website.
See? It’s Sōw, with a macron over the O to tell you to pronounce it as a “long” vowel. Or to confuse you further.
And because most city folks won’t know a sow from a sōw from a hole in the ground, there’s a dictionary definition:
verb /sō/ plant (seed) by scattering it on or in the earth
That’s mildly interesting, but so what? A dictionary definition doesn’t make me want to patronize the shop. Besides, while the “planting” concept might make “Sow” an apt name for a nursery or a community garden, the connection between “scattering seed” and “drinking fresh juice” is fairly remote. (From what I’ve read—on the Kickstarter page, for example—Sow doesn’t grow its own fruits and vegetables.)
Another quibble: Nowadays, if a non-farming person is at all familiar with the verb form of “sow,” it’s probably as part of an idiom. And that idiom is a shady one: sow discord, sow rancor, sow rumors, sow one’s wild oats.
As for the macron, here’s something I wrote in 2008 about Grāpple, a brand of grape-flavored apples:
Basic naming rule: If you have to rely on diacritical marks like the macron over the a to clarify pronunciation, your brand name isn't working. Additional hints (“Say Grape-L”) only make you seem more desperate.
That observation applies to Sōw, too.
We recently saw some fancy macronizing with Mondelēz, the new name of Kraft Food Inc.’s global snacks business. The macron over the second E is there to tell you—force you—to pronounce the name “moan-de-LEEZ.” But even the company’s original press release dropped the macron after the headline, and a more recent press release dispensed with it altogether. So go right ahead and say “MAHN-de-lezz” if you please. Or mahn-de-LAY. I won’t turn you in to the brand police.
(As Tate Linden of Stokefire, a branding agency, said in a tweet about Mondelez: “Any name that requires the Latin Extended character set gets a FAIL in my book. How many people can type an ē?”)
Let’s extract the juice from this critique: