The last linkfest of 2017! Let’s exorcise this miserable year with some amusing and edumacational links. And have yourselves a merry little Festivus.
Drew Magary is back with the 2017 edition of his Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma catalog: “More than any reindeer parable or silly children’s rhyme, it is THIS catalog and its splendidly useless items wherein you and I can discover the TRUE meaning of Christmas, which is that it delays the pain and horrors of this shit world at least until after New Year’s.”
“You listen to me, Williams-Sonoma: There will NEVER be a fondueassaince. Ever.”
In 1879, a telegraphic code book proposed SCOTUS as shorthand for “Supreme Court of the United States.” Ammon Shea, writing for the Merriam-Webster blog, traced the next -OTUS coinage to the 1890s, when telegraph operators began using POTUS to abbreviate “President of the United States.” Both acronyms became widespread, joined in the 1980s by FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States), which may have originated as Secret Service code for Nancy Reagan. “Time will tell if additional -OTUS words continue to join our language,” Shea concluded.
We didn’t have to wait long. In early February 2017, after President Trump lashed out at a “so-called judge” who halted his travel ban, SCROTUS began circulating widely on social media. This tweet appears to be the first to use the definition “So-Called Ruler of the United States.”
@jonathanalter ... SCROTUS stands for "So Called Ruler of the United States."
On January 22, presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and defended a (provably false) statement by the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, about the size of the crowd at his boss’s swearing-in ceremony. Spicer wasn’t telling lies, Conway insisted; he was presenting “alternative facts.”
The phrase quickly became a social-media meme and an entry in Urban Dictionary. (Definition: “The worst of the four classifications of lies: lies, damned lies, statistics, alternative facts. Alternative facts are distinguished from the other damnable lies by the addition of gaslighting the listener.”)
A few years ago I wrote a guest post for the trademark-and-branding blog Duets Blog that, if I say so myself, seems as fresh and relevant today – especiallytoday – as it did then. I’ve updated it a bit and am publishing it here as a public service.
The ABC Family network, stigmatized by that F-word in its name, now calls itself Freeform. Network president Tom Ascheim told the Television Critics Association that the new name “not only elicits the moment of transition in the medium and a sense of ‘creativity’ and ‘spontaneity’ but also evokes [a] younger 14 to 34-year-old audience, whom he’s dubbed ‘becomers’.” So much to ponder in that single sentence. (Hollywood Reporter)
As for the Freeform logo, Brand New dismisses it as “atrocious in either its stacked or horizontal form.”
Almost overnight, it seems, the world has fallen head over heels for Slack.
“I am basically in love with Slack,” declares About.me founder Tony Conrad in a testimonial on Slack’s home page. “Slack, a messaging tool designed for team collaboration, is the working digital world’s latest paramour,” writes Scott Rosenberg in an admiring article published earlier this month on Medium (“Shut Down Your Office. You Now Work in Slack”). “Slack is the new favourite tool of newsrooms” reads a headline in Digiday, which calls itself “the authority on digital media.” In April, Slack’s co-founders won a Crunchie—one of the technology awards bestowed each year by TechCrunch—for founder of the year. Slack is also the investment world’s BFF: launched less than two years ago, it has only about 750,000 daily users—more than two-thirds of whom pay nothing for the service—but is worth $2.8 billion, according to Business Insider.
Chart via Business Insider(May 19, 2015), which is shaky on its spelling of Pinterest.
The numbers and accolades are impressive. But how does that name—Slack—stack up?
Don’t read “How to Name a Baby” to learn how to name a baby. Read it for insights into historical baby-naming trends and to confirm your hunches (e.g., “the popular girl name Reagan is for Republicans”). Also: charts!
Given names are “one of the last social acceptable frontiers of class war.”Also: nominative determination, implicit egotism, and how the Internet has made baby naming more difficult. Part 1 of a four-part podcast series about names from Australian radio network ABC. The presenter, Tiger Webb, has an interesting name story himself. (Hat tip: Superlinguo.)
The not-so-secret jargon of doctors is full of acronyms: a flea—fucking little esoteric asshole—is an intern, an FLK is a “funny-looking kid,” and an “SFU 50 dose” is the amount of sedative it takes for 50 percent of patients to shut the fuck up.
Ever wonder what value-creating winners do all day? Here’s Business Town to enlighten you. It’s “an ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry.”
“The decision is made. The name won’t be changed.” – Tim Mahoney, head of marketing for Chevy, speaking to the Detroit Free Press about the Bolt electric vehicle, whose name is strikingly similar to that of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. In fact, a Spanish speaker would pronounce the two names identically. (Hat tip: Jonathon Owen.)
Stan Freberg, a man of myriad talents who was often called “the father of funny advertising,” died Tuesday in Santa Monica. He was 88.
Freberg was born in Pasadena and grew up in Los Angeles; he turned down scholarships to Stanford University and the University of Redlands in order to pursue a career in radio. He became a successful comedian and a voice actor in cartoons—his was the voice of the beaver in Disney’s Lady and the Tramp—but it’s as rule-breaking advertising copywriter that I choose to remember him.
According to the New York Times obituary, Freberg went into advertising “because he considered most commercials moronic.” In 1957, after the CBS Radio Network canceled “The Stan Freberg Show” after just 15 weeks, Freberg formed his own ad-production company, which he called Freberg Ltd. (but not very). His motto, according tothe Los Angeles Times obituary, was Ars gratia pecuniae: “Art for money’s sake.” He “set the standard for humor in advertising,” according to a tribute in Advertising Age: his work included campaigns for Chun King, Jeno’s Pizza, Sunsweet prunes (one of his prune ads starred Ray Bradbury, the science-fiction writer), Contadina tomato paste (“Who puts eight great tomatoes in that little bitty can? You know who. You know who. You know who”), and Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Freberg’s copy wasn’t just funny; it was subversive. He “used humor to declare war on postwar advertising,” writes the New York Times’s Douglas Martin: “Mr. Freberg even committed, eagerly, the ad industry’s greatest heresy: lampooning the deficiencies of a paying client’s own products.”
When he couldn’t get a paying client to underwrite his heresies, he went indie. His 1958 comedy single, “Green Chri$tma$” hardly seems dated today, nearly half a century later:
Deck the halls with advertising! Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la! ’Tis the time for merchandising! Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la! Profit never needs a reason! Fa-la-la, la-la-la, la-la-la! Get the money, it’s the season! Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!