Limerence: “The state of being romantically infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship.” (Oxford English Dictionary)
Weddings are a $55 billion industry in the United States; in 2014 the average wedding—average!—cost about $31,000. Doing their share to boost that sum are wedding magazines: Unlike much of the suffering publishing world, they have a captive, eager, and free-spending readership.
Dozens of wedding magazines succeed, month after month, in spite of their names, which are almost as indistinguishable as their cover photography: Brides. Your Wedding. Southern Weddings. Southern Bride. Martha Stewart Wedding. InStyle Weddings. Weddings with Style. Modern Wedding. Perfect Wedding.
The contents are almost identical as well: gowns, makeup, hairstyles, “destinations,” planning, invitations, food. Oh, and horoscopes. Superstition sells.
This week, a new contender joins the crowd, one that promises to “elevate love and personality over spending and aesthetics” and to explore “the intersections of creativity, community, and feminism in the wedding world.” Its publishers call themselves, naturally, “disruptors”; they envision their target market as “game-changing couples.”
What a refreshing idea! If only the name of the magazine rose to the occasion.
This month Scratch Magazine, an online publication “about the intersection of writing and money,” celebrates its first anniversary. In “Scratch,” founder and publisher Jane Friedman (to whom I’m not related) nailed the perfect dual-meaning title: scratch has been an informal synonym for write since at least the early 19th century, and it’s been a slang term for “money” (especially paper currency) in the U.S. since the early 20th century.
Cornell University, in addition to asking for the slow dance music proviso, forced an agency to include a clause which would prohibit the ork [orchestra] from smoking on the bandstand.
Bracketed definition supplied by the author.
Curious about the term, which was new to me, I emailed Ben Yagoda* and asked him whether it was a Billboard coinage. He replied that he thought it came from Variety, the daily paper, founded in 1905, that coined or popularized a lot of show-biz lingo, including B.O. (box office), cleffer (songwriter, from musical clef), and biopic (biographical picture). But when I did a little independent digging, I was unable to find a link between ork and Variety. Instead, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, ork first appeared in print not in an industry journal but in a New York scandal rag called Brevities;the magazine favored illustrations of what were probably called scantily clad cuties and headlines like “Fair Gals Grab Stiffs!” The OED’s earliest citation for ork is from the April 24, 1933, issue of Brevities: “Joe Haymes’ Nut Club ork..has been compelled to take on a few Noo Yawk musicians.” The other citations are from the American jazz magazine Down Beat (1935) and Billboard (1949), and from a couple of British sources: Colin MacInnes’s 1959 novel Absolute Beginners and a 1988 article in the UK jazz magazine Wire.
Ork is also, of course, the home planet of TV’s Mork, played by the late Robin Williams. And orc is either “any of various whales, such as the killer or grampus,” or “one of an imaginary race of evil goblins, esp in the fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien.”
The pluralized form of ork has a separate history in British slang. The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, published in 2005, gives orks as a truncation of orchestra stalls, rhyming slang for “balls” (testicles). (“Orchestra stalls,” often shortened to “stalls,” are what American theatergoers would call “orchestra seats”—that is, seats not in the mezzanine or balcony.)
If you know your botanical etymology, you’re probably thinking what I thought: Wait a minute, doesn’t orchid mean testes? (Yes, it does, from the Greek orkhis.) So couldn’t orks = balls have a Greek source? Well … maybe. The OED gives separate etymologies for orchestra (from orkheisthai, to dance) and orchid. But in A Garden of Words, published in 2005, Martha Barnette, co-host of public radio’s “A Way with Words,” notes that orkhis—or orchis—comes from the Indo-European root ERGH- (“to mount”), and that “some scholars link orchis and ERGH- to the Greek word orkhein, which means “to dance” … the orchestra in an ancient Greek theater being the area where the chorus danced.”
And that’s as far as I got – I never located those mysterious orchestra-orchid scholars.
In Fort Collins, Colorado, a Mexican restaurant chain called Illegal Pete’sis being targeted by immigrant-rights groups that say the name is derogatory and offensive because of “the i word,” as in “illegal immigrant.” The chain’s owner, Pete Turner, opened the first Illegal Pete’s in 1995; he told the New York Times the name “was inspired by the name of a bar in a novel and by his late father, also named Pete, who had a rebellious streak.” “I never intended it to be about undocumented immigrants,” Turner told the Times. “Never. Not once.” Turner, who calls himself a pro-immigrant liberal, says he gave serious consideration to a name change. But in early November he announced, in a long letter on the company website, that he’d decided against it. Readers’ comments have been almost unanimously supportive.
This week Toyota announced that it would start selling a hydrogen fuel cell sedan in 2015 (sticker price: $57,500). The futuristic car has a name to match: Mirai, which means “future” in Japanese.
The name sounds good to non-Japanese ears, too. Mira means “look” in Spanish, “aim” or “objective” in Italian, and “watch intensely” in French. In Sanskrit it means “ocean,” a fitting association with hydrogen. And in the Slavic languages mir means peace.
[O]ur English word “future” is firmly rooted in an Indo-European belief that it will come to pass / be / exist. The Sinitic term, in contrast, is more skeptical, and indicates an uncertainty about the very possibility of that which has not yet arrived. It seems to me that, if we accept the philosophical implications of the term, mirai / wèilái will keep receding and never quite arrive.
Print magazines, once dismissed as dead-tree relics, are proving to be pretty hardy after all. California Sunday, an independent monthly (for now) that’s distributed with the state’s biggest newspapers, made a splashy debut October 5. Now Airbnb, the lodging-rental company that’s out to disrupt the hospitality industry, has launched Pineapple, a quarterly publication for hosts (who may choose to share it with their paying guests). According to a New York Times article, the 128-page winter 2014 issue carries no advertising and contains features on San Francisco (where Airbnb is headquartered), London, and Seoul.
Why Pineapple? For centuries—since Columbus’s second voyage, according to some accounts—the fruit has symbolized hospitality and luxury. Pineapple names and images are common in the hospitality industry, and pineapple tchotchkes abound.
“It Couldn’t Please Me More” (The Pineapple Song) from the stage version of Cabaret (cut, sadly, from the movie). So rare! So costly! So luxurious! I searched in vain for a clip from the original Broadway show, in which the immortal Lotte Lenya played Fraulein Schneider.
The leaves of Citrus hystrix are used in many South and Southeast Asian cuisines; they’re sometimes called by their Thai name, makrut, but in many English-speaking countries they’ve long been called kaffir lime.That’s changing thanks to a protest “against the racial and religious slur of ‘kaffir’,” writes Tiffany Do in SF Weekly(“Citrus-Based Racism Leads Market to Change Product Names”). “Kaffir,” which comes from an Arabic word meaning “unbeliever,” was appropriated by English colonizers in South Africa, where it was used as a slur and a term of abuse against blacks. “What’s most surprising in this whole controversy is that the issue hasn't been addressed – and remedied – before now,” writes SF Weekly’s Do. Most markets are switching to the neutral “lime leaves.”
Who decides what makes a word “real”? Anne Curzan, a language historian and member of the American Heritage Dictionary’s usage panel, explains why she finds language change “not worrisome but fun and fascinating.” (TEDxUofM talk; video and transcript.)
We say: meet (not ‘meet with’),consult (not ‘consult with’), talk to (not ‘talk with’), protest against a decision (not ‘protest a decision’), appeal against a verdict (not ‘appeal a verdict’).
And, n.b., the BBC does not punctuate the abbreviations i.e. or e.g.
In the early to mid-1960s, Mad magazine carried on a “glorious” and “fearless” anti-smoking campaign through parody ads that “closely resembled the real ones that ran on television and in magazines,” writes David Margolick in the New Yorker’s Culture Desk blog. The ads attacked tobacco companies, ad agencies, and smokers with equal-opportunity opprobrium. Mad has always been ad-free, and—unusual for the 1960s—its offices were “largely smoke free” as well: the magazine’s publisher, William Gaines, “was fanatically opposed to the habit,” writes Margolick.
It’s not every day that a name developer has the chance to name a radically new technology. Anthony Shore had such a chance when the makers of a “cinematic virtual reality” device hired him. Read about how Jaunt got its name.
“Machines don't need names, but we feel the need to name them,” writes Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic (“Why People Give Human Names to Machines”). The urge has long been with us, or at least some of us: a siege engine was named “Domina Gunilda” (“Lady Gunild”) in an Anglo-Norman document of 1330-1.
(My favorite submission comes from Erica Friedman, who once worked for an ad agency whose conference rooms were named Ideation, Creation, Dream, Coopetition [sic], and Resonate. “It was horrible and miserable and it still makes me shudder,” she writes. Erica and I are not related, but we are definitely soulmates.)
A few years ago I began noticing a trend in print advertising: the intentional deletion of a word or words. (Original post here; more examples here.) The trend turns out to have staying power, as several recent examples demonstrate.
Working with design agency Pentagram, the venture capital firm First Round recently updated its logo, website, and print collateral. Shown here are two examples of what the design-critique blog Brand New called “poster kind of things” that were created for the relaunch.
The strikeouts appear to say “We don’t do that, we do this.”
Hofstra University, on Long Island, uses the strikeout to suggest something about destiny being preferable to desire (I think).
Full-page ad (New York Times): “What I want I’m meant to be.”
To illustrate a story about the Republican Party’s “reformicons,” the New York Times Sunday Magazine produced a cover that could read either as a nearly completed to-do list or a record of vacillation.
“The Party of Family Values Tax Cuts National Security Reform?”
Here’s how the Times’s 6th Floor blog explained the design:
Bichler started by picking out words from the article that had been previously associated with the G.O.P., then played with scale and spacing until the whole felt ‘‘punchy and bold.’’ Originally she used vector lines to strike through the G.O.P.’s discarded ideas — the article focuses on the so-called reformicons, who are trying to move the party away from its obstructionist identity — but she soon realized that hand-drawn lines had more energy.
Hand-drawn lines may have more energy, but HP, whose latest tagline is “Make It Matter,” takes a more precisely engineered approach to crossing out the “un” in “uncertain.”
Full-page ad, New York Times, July 10: “The future is uncertain.” Cropped out at the top: a banner reading “An open conversation about shifts in the x86 server market.”
I’ve come to think of this deletion phenomenon as “Schrödinger’s ads.” Like the famous thought experimentinvolving a cat that may be both alive and dead, these blue-penciled statements have it both ways: thesis and antithesis, error and correction, covering all the bases while also striking out. Are they a reflection of some deeper cultural ambivalence? YesNo Maybe.
In “The Book Refuge” (paywalled), published in the June 23 issue of The New Yorker, Janet Malcolm profiles the Argosy Bookshop on East 59th Street in Manhattan. Founded by Louis Cohen, “the seventh child of a Lower East Side immigrant family,” and run since 1991 by Cohen’s three daughters, the shop is a New York institution, selling old and rare books as well as autographs, maps, prints, and paintings.
Why “Argosy”? Malcolm tells the story:
In 1925, Cohen borrowed five hundred dollars from an uncle and opened his own bookstore, on Fourth Avenue (then the heart of the city’s second-hand-book business), filling it with the books he had accumulated. In his autobiography, he explains how he chose the name Argosy. First, he wanted a name that started with the letter “A,” “as it might appear foremost on any list of bookstores.” That crass criterion done with, “ I ran through some reference books, and selected ‘Argosy’ as my choice, as it had romance attached to it. It symbolized treasure and rarities carried by old Spanish galleons.”
I wrote about another institution with the same name—Argosy University—in 2011. From my post:
I’d always thought “argosy” was related to “Argonaut,” literally “a sailor on the Argo”—the ship in which Jason and his crewmates sought the Golden Fleece. (California Gold Rush adventurers were also called “argonauts” because they pursued a type of Golden Fleece; in fact, that’s the context in which I first learned that word.) Argo means “the swift” in Greek, but argosy has a different and much later etymology: it came into English in the 1570s from Italian Ragusea, “a vessel of Ragusa.” Ragusa, a port on the Adriatic, is the modern-day Dubrovnik.
The line was created by the UK’s biggest ad agency, Abbott Mead Vickers(now part of BBDO), for a much-lauded campaign that began in the mid-1980s and ran for at least 20 years. (It may still be running somewhere.) Other word-playful lines in the campaign included “Trump Donald,” “Pressure peers,” and “Think someone under the table.” (See Jarrett Lambert’s Pinterest board of Economist ads.)
In appropriating the “great minds” line, One Day University may have violated copyright law, but not trademark. As far as I can tell, The Economist doesn’t have trademark protection for the tagline. [UPDATE: But see comment below from Jessica, a trademark lawyer.]
Nevertheless, when a line is that distinctive, and that closelyassociatedwith a single globally recognized company (founded 1843), it seems shabby, derivative, and even larcenous when another advertiser “borrows” it.
This isn’t the first time The Economist’s famous ads have been plagiarized. Back in 2003, the British budget airline easyJetran ads with a quote from “George Smith, management trainee, aged 47”:
The Economist has complained to the advertising watchdog about Easyjet, accusing the budget airline of copying its hugely successful black-on-red advertising campaign. …
The Economist is claiming the advert breaches the copyright on its famous “management trainee” poster campaign, which ran in the mind-1980s [sic] and was voted among the top 10 posters of the century by Campaign magazine.
EasyJet may have assumed it was in the clear because it changed the verb tense and “trainee” age in the copy. One Day University, in contrast, didn’t make even the feeblest attempt at originality. It may have another think coming.