There are no bears in Trance. The word that’s wanted here is grisly.
Finally, a really big goof, as in several inches high:
The great Chicago writer and radio man spelled his last name Terkel (it’s correct in the text beneath the headline). The erroneous spelling appears in an exhibit on the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower that’s been up for “about 14 years,” according to a Chicago Tribune story; no one mentioned the misspelling until this week, when media blogger Jim Romenesko published an item about it.
Stoker, the first English-language film from Korean director Park Chan-wook. A nod to Hitchcock – two shower scenes, an Uncle Charlie, a whistled motif – minus the wit and plus a lot of arty gore.
A few observations about the new marketing campaign for the Bay Area’s Sutter Health medical group.
Outdoor ad, Van Ness Avenue at Filbert Street, San Francisco.
First, who says “with child” in 2013? Even on Downton Abbey, set between 1912 and 1922, characters were constantly saying that so-and-so was “pregnant.” (The casual use of the word was almost certainly anachronistic: the Online Etymology Dictionary tells us “pregnant” was a taboo word until the mid-1950s. “Expecting” and “in the family way” were far more common.)
“When you’re with child, we’re with you” is earnest but clunky: “with child” and “with you” aren’t really parallel here.
But what will puzzle most people about the ad is the slogan: “We Plus You.”
It isn’t intended as a mathematical statement, with plus as a conjunction: “We plus you equals good health,” or something like that. No, plus is clearly a verb here: “It’s how you plus us, and we plus you.”
“Because you plus us … and we plus you.”
I remember some talk about to plus a couple of years ago, when Google launched its social-media service Google Plus. To give a stamp of approval to something on Google Plus, you click a “+1” icon. Users started referring to the action as “plussing.”
Sometime during the 1940s, Walt coined the term “plussing.” Normally, the word “plus” is a conjunction, as in “two plus two equals four.” But Walt used the word as a verb—an action word. To “plus” something is to improve it. “Plussing” means giving your customers more than they paid for, more than they expect, more than you have to give them. … He began by plussing Mickey Mouse with sound, then plussing the Silly Symphonies with color. Walt plussed the skills of his artists by sending them to art school at his own expense. Walt’s relentless quest for excellence kept him at the leading edge of his industry—and left his competitors, well, nonplussed.
Sutter Health may be using “plus” in this “improvement” sense. Or maybe it’s saying “You complete me.”
“We Plus You” isn’t the only bit of peculiar wordplay in the Sutter Health campaign. Here’s a full-page print ad in the March issue of San Francisco magazine:
“We specialize in You-ology.”
You-ology? Right down the hall from Your-ology, where you can get that prostate exam.
UPDATE, March 4: I’m pleased to announce that Arika Okrent’s tweet (above) took top honors in the haiku contest. And I’m surprised and very pleased to report that my yoga-teacher rant placed third. Read all about it.
Q. When referring to a zombie, should I use the relative pronoun who (which would refer to a person) or that (since, technically, the zombie is no longer living)? Essentially, does a zombie cease to become a “person” in the grammatical sense?
A. Let’s assume this is a serious question, in which case you, as the writer, get to decide just how much humanity (if any) and grammatical sense you wish to invest in said zombie. That will guide your choice of who or that.
The woman in the photo may appear to be thanking a sky deity, but the copy provides a different answer to the headline’s question: “Thank the Technion.”
The grammatical correctness of “Whom Do We Thank for Iron Dome?” is unimpeachable: whom is the object of thank. But I can’t help thinking it’s a little too correct — stilted, even – given the context.
Iron Dome, in case you haven’t been following the latest Israeli-Palestinian troubles (and who could blame you for tuning out?), is the defensive anti-missile system developed in large part by graduates of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, with American backing. According to the American Technion Society’s website, Iron Dome “saved countless lives on both sides” in the recent Israel-Gaza conflict. (The James Bond-ish name “Iron Dome” is a beefed-up translation of the Hebrew kipat barzel, or “iron cap”; kipa can also mean “yarmulke.” The English term carries echoes, intentionally or not, of Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.)
Iron Dome performed better than expected, according to Israeli defense spokesmen, but it’s expensive: each Iron Dome missile costs $50,000. And the rockets it’s designed to intercept, writes Dan Ephron in The Daily Beast, “are manufactured in Gaza at a fraction of the price—sometimes for just a few hundred dollars.”
And while “countless lives” may have been saved, many other lives were lost. Advanced technology or no, war is still hell.
Which is why, even though I acknowledge the correctness of whom in the ad, I think it’s lipstick on a pig. I’d have recast the headline to avoid fussy points of grammar. And while I was at it, I’d have changed the question to a declarative statement.
Negropolitan’s slightly cryptic reference is to Colorado’s passage of Amendment 64, which legalizes the use of recreational marijuana. –sterdam has become the de facto suffix for “legal pot,” in tribute to Amsterdam. (See Hamsterdam and Oaksterdam). The ver-ster combination makes this coinage especially hilarious, at least to me.
Officials in Incheon, the city in South Korea, announced plans this week to transform a small fishing island off the country’s west coast into a gambling and tourism center. According to a report in the Washington Post, the project will be called EIGHTCITY – Bloomberg News reported a different spelling, “8-City” – and will be built in the shape of the number 8, which has connotations of good fortune in several Asian cultures.
California’s new health-insurance exchange, formed in compliance with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), won’t be called Avocado after all. Instead, the five-member exchange picked a safe choice, Covered California, the Los Angeles Timesreported this week. (The tentative tagline is equally bland: “Your destination for affordable healthcare.”) The stated rationale for the name is on shaky grammatical ground: “Covered is an action verb, and if we do our job, that’s what we want to happen,” exchange-board member Robert Ross told the Times. Actually, in this construction “covered” is an adjective.
Other rejected names included Eureka (the state motto) and Ursa (a Latin word for bear, in honor of the state animal).
The cable company Comcast, which already owns faster, has applied for trademark protection for UPWARE. According to the industry publication Fierce Cable, the name would be used to market software as a service (SaaS). I suspect many Comcast customers are already using UPYOURS.
(Hat tip: MJF.)
Two things I learned from a Daily Candy email this week: that there is a salon in San Francisco called Lonni’s Punani, and that the salon employs “body hair stylists,” a job title that was new to me. Lonni is the first name of the salon’s owner; she’s originally from New Jersey. And “Punani”? “Not Lonni’s last name,” Daily Candy said coyly. Further research revealed that punani is a Hawaiian word meaning “heavenly flower” and a Pacific Islander slang term for “vagina” or “vulva.”
You gotta admit that “Lonni’s Punani” sounds classier – and rhymier – than “Virginia’s Va-jay-jay.”
New York City gangs take their names very, very seriously, according to “Gang ‘Slang’ers,” in the New York Post. “It took us about a month to come up with our name,” said Piff Montana, a member of the Get Touched Boyz of Jamaica, Queens. … We wanted a name that would make an impact.” The full list of 300 or so gang names reveals a preoccupation with numbers and precinctspercentages: there are gangs called 5 Precinct Percent, 10 Precinct Percent, 40 Precinct Percent, and so on up to 122 Precinct Percent. (Hat tip: NameFlash. And thanks to Dave for correcting me on "precinct.")
Before she founded the online dictionary Wordnik, Erin McKean worked on the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus,a reference that isn’t just for writers but is also by writers—i.e., various writers were invited to contribute notes on words that interested them. One of the writers assigned to McKean was the late David Foster Wallace, who, she writes, approached the copyediting phase as if “someone invited him to an all-day grammar seminar (with celebrity photo signings and vendor's expo hall), combined with a debating society picnic, where the topic was ‘RESOLVED: This Comma Should Be Removed.’ (You're not surprised, are you?)” Read the whole delightful account at “It was wonderful, marvelous, magnificent, superb, glorious, sublime, lovely, delightful ...”
In brand naming, many clients panic if a name is more than five letters long. According to Baby Name Wizard, there’s a contrary trend in baby-boy naming, at least in the US: fear of short names. Finn becomes Finnegan, Quinn becomes Quinlan, and—most boggling of all—Levi becomes Leviathan (“the twisted serpent to be killed at the end of time”) or Leviticus (the third book of the Old Testament, notable mostly for its litany of laws about skin diseases, sacrifices, and genital discharges).
Fellow name developer Chris Johnson (aka The Name Inspector) has created my new favorite Pinterest board: the Wall of Namifying, “logos of companies whose names end with -ify (or, in one case, -efy).” As you probably know, I share his obsession. (And speaking of Pinterest, I’m trying my hand at a similar project: cataloguing the many, many -ly names and logos.)
Speaking of jaundiced, there’s nothing like a Condescending Corporate Brand Page to say “We're a big corporate brand using Facebook. So look out for us asking you to like and share our stuff in a faintly embarrassing and awkward way.” Read more about the CCBP in Fast Company. (Note: the CCBP is British in origin—its URL contains “corporate bollocks”—but the themes are, alas, universal.)
I attended the Brand New Conference last year, when it was held in San Francisco, but couldn’t make it to New York for this year’s conference. Thankfully, organizer Armin Vit has compiled the best quotes and tweets from the event. Here’s a provocative opinion from UK designer Miles Newlin: “Stories have an end, and unless you want to think of your brand as having an end, then forget the storytelling idea, and forget people who talk about brand storytelling.”