Last week Buzzfeed published a collection of memos, prepared in 2015 by a former British intelligence agent, that make “explosive — but unverified — allegations that the Russian government has been ‘cultivating, supporting and assisting’ President-elect Donald Trump for years and gained compromising information about him.” The “compromising information” included reports that Trump had engaged in “perverted sexual acts” in a Moscow hotel – acts that had been arranged and monitored by the FSB, Russia’s foreign security service.
The story introduced several terms to the public, including kompromat (a Russian portmanteau meaning “compromising material”) and “golden shower” (defined in the report as “a urination show” performed by Russian prostitutes). But the word that circulated most widely was dossier, which can mean “file,” “document,” “report,” or “case history,” often with detailed information on a specific person or subject.
It’s fitting that elite emerged as one of the buzzwords of the 2016 presidential election, because elite is the French word for “selection” or “choice.” The word entered English in the late 14th century, when it signified “a chosen person,” especially a bishop-elect; it died out a few decades later and was re-introduced more successfully in Byron’s “Don Juan” (1823).:
At once the ‘lie’ and the ‘elite’ of crowds; Who pass like water filter’d in a tank, All purged and pious from their native clouds
In the poem, lie is pronounced lee, and meant “scummy remnant” (as in the lees at the bottom of a wine barrel).
As the name of a typeface, Elite was first recorded in 1920.
Special Elite typeface, “created to mimic the Smith Corona Special Elite Type No NR6 and Remington Noiseless typewriter models.” Via 1001 Fonts.
The press release arrived in inboxes Thursday afternoon, and within minutes it seemed everyone in media or branding was scoffing at it.
Tribune Publishing Co. (NYSE:TPUB) today announced that the Company will change its name to tronc, Inc., a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels. tronc, or tribune online content, captures the essence of the Company’s mission. tronc pools the Company’s leading media brands and leverages innovative technology to deliver personalized and interactive experiences to its 60 million monthly users. The name change will become effective on June 20, 2016.
Tribune Publishing Co., based in Chicago, owns some of the oldest and biggest surviving newspapers in the United States, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. The company, like the rest of the newspaper industry, has been struggling for years.
And now it faces yet another challenge: a storm of ridicule from journalists, brand consultants, and critical civilians.
Of course, negative response to a rebrand is to be expected. Indeed, most renaming announcements are met with jeers. (Everyone’s a critic.) For my part, I keep theZajonc effect in mind: the tendency of people, after repeated exposure to something they initially disliked, to like the thing more over time. (Zajonc does not rhyme with “tronc”; it rhymes with “science.”)
But, ladies and gentlemen, I am fairly confident that years of exposure will not make me fall in love, or even in like, with tronc. It’s a word that sounds silly at best, ugly at worst, a rhyming cousin of honk, zonk, bonk, and honky-tonk. The lack of capitalization is ridiculous and impractical. (How will, say, the Chicago Tribune, a tronc property, treat the name at the beginning of a sentence?) And it’s a bad portmanteau, a Frankenname soldered together from a heartless DisruptionSpeak buzzword, “online content” (not to mention “premium, verified content”). The story that’s meant to justify it is blistered with other soulless buzzwords: “leverages,” “innovative,” “personalized,” “interactive experiences.”
Cache-coeur: A style of women’s blouse that crosses in front and secures at the waist or under the bust. From French (where it’s cache-cœur), meaning “hide the heart”; pronounced (roughly) cash-coor. Sometimes called surplice or simply wrap-front.
On the evening of Saturday, January 2, a group of armed protestors commandeered the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a federal preserve near Malheur Lake, about 30 miles south of Burns, in eastern Oregon. The group, which includes Ryan and Ammon Bundy, sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy – who had his own clash with the federal Bureau of Land Management in 2014 – is protesting the arrest and imprisonment of two Oregon cattle ranchers convicted of arson on federal land. (The convicted ranchers, father and son Steven and Dwight Hammond, have disclaimed any connection to the armed group, and have begun serving their sentences.) As of today, January 6, the standoff continues, with the protestors vowing to occupy the building “for as long as it takes.” (Or until the local community asks them to leave. Or until their food runs out: Ammon Bundy made a Facebook appeal for “supplies or snacks” – to be sent via U.S. Postal Service, that tool of the archenemy. PETA responded by hand-delivering vegan jerky.) The refuge, which is an important habitat for some 320 species of birds, remains closed to the public until further notice.
For more about the motives and legality of the protest, follow the links at the end of this post. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the story from my preferred angle: naming.
Laches: Negligence in the performance of a legal duty; delay in asserting a right, claiming a privilege, or making application for redress. “Laches is not to be confused with the ‘statute of limitations,’ which sets specific periods to file a lawsuit for types of claims (negligence, breach of contract, fraud, etc.)” – Law.com. Pronunciation is similar to “latches.”*
The skincare brand Vichywas new to me when I spotted it at Walgreen’s last weekend.
Vichy display at Walgreen’s.The headline strikes me as not quite idiomatic: “transforms” generally doesn’t take “to.”
But Vichy is not a new brand: it was born in 1931, when a Parisian cosmetics manufacturer, George Guérin, was treated by Dr. Prosper Haller, at the spa in Vichy, France. The two men then created a line of skincare products that used water from the famous Vichy spring. In 1955, the company was bought by L’Oréal, which still owns the brand and which in 2014 is the world’s largest cosmetics company. (L’Oréal brands include Lancôme, Maybelline, Kiehl’s, Garnier, and Clarisonic.)
Here’s where we take a detour into 20th-century European history.
For students of World War II, or for anyone who’s watched Casablanca or Marcel Ophüls’s The Sorrow and the Pity, “Vichy” is not a neutral place name.* Beginning with the French surrender in June 1940, Vichy was the administrative center of German-occupied France and became shorthand for the pro-Nazi French regime. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “While officially neutral in the war, Vichy actively collaborated with the Nazis, including, to some degree, with their racial policies.”
Bygones, you say? Not so fast.
The founder of L’Oréal, Eugène Schueller (1881-1957), provided financial support for a violent French fascist group, La Cagoule (“the hood”). After the war, one member of the group, Jacques Correze, became chairman of L’Oréal’s U.S. marketing arm. Another member of the group, André Bettencourt, married Schueller’s daughter, Liliane. (Their daughter married a Jew, and a son from that marriage, Jean-Victor Meyers, now sits on L’Oréal’s board.) Nor did L’Oréal make public amends after the war: In Bitter Scent: The Case of L’Oréal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott (1996), the Israeli historian Michael Bar-Zohar tells the story of how company director Jean Frydman**, a Jew and a hero of the French Resistance, was forced off L’Oréal’s board in 1989 to satisfy demands by the Arab League.
And, of course, L’Oréal keeps the Vichy name alive on its high-priced (for a drugstore brand) skincare products.
One has to assume that L’Oréal thinks the upside of the name (brand equity, pleasant sonic qualities) outweighs the downside (unsavory history, the effort and expense of a name change).*** As for me, I’m with Captain Renault.
Vichy? Absolument non!
* Also see L'Œil de Vichy (“The Eye of Vichy”), Claude Chabrol’s 1993 documentary made up of pro-Nazi propaganda produced by the Vichy regime between 1940 and 1944. You can watch the film in its entirety on YouTube.
** Not related to your author, as far as I know.
*** May a more appropriate tagline than “Your Ideal Skin” would help. How about “Your Beauty Collaborator”? Or “Surrender to Beautiful Skin”? Or even—cue the Marseillaise and the fog-shrouded black-and-white airport scene!—“This Could Be the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship.”
It’s a double whammy, folks! Numero uno, another candidate in the Near-Profanity Sweepstakes, F-word division. It’s a category already overpopulated with entries like Fresh ’n’ Easy’s “It’s about time life was this f’n easy” and Booking.com’s “Look at the booking view!” (For more, see my post from June 2013.)
And numero two-o, it’s another example of the funny uses of funin the language of commerce. We’ve seen comparative fun (funner), superlative fun (funnest), and even super-comparative fun (funner-er). Now Toyota has transformed fun into a reflexive imperative verb.
The Italians must think the slogan is untranslatable.
You may recall that Toyota isn’t the first mass brand to hop on the F train. Last year Jell-O verbed funin a boundary-pushing campaign called “Fun My Life.” The #FML hashtag made it clear that Jell-O knew exactly which boundaries it was pushing. Bye-bye, Bill Cosby.
Despite the boggling number of Urban Dictionary upvotes, FML does not mean “Fix My Lighthouse.”
What else can we say about Toyota’s creative effort? Well, the copy avers that “The spirit of playfulness is alive in this small car.” The spirit of punctuation, however, is on its last wobbly legs.
Sophisticated dramatically styled and compact. We’ve designed our best small car ever, now it’s time you got involved.
The idiocy of this slogan truly boggles the mind! I’m an avid user of the longer F word in the right context, but Toyota has shot itself in the foot with this one...not funny, not clever, won’t sell cars.