Canadian retailer Kit and Ace – see my post about the company name here – is adding coffee shops to its boutiques: The first Sorry Coffee opens tomorrow in Toronto. “Sorry” can mean “worthless” or “inferior,” but here it’s “an attempt to poke fun at Canadians — a winking nod to the quick-to-apologize stereotype,” co-founder J.J. Wilson toldthe Star. Be sure to pronounce it the Canadian way: SORE-ee.
“When Simon Tam dropped out of college in California and moved to Portland, Ore., to become a rock star, the last tangle he imagined falling into was a multiyear battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over his band’s name.” The trademark tussle over “The Slants,” which the USPTO has deemed “disparaging” and thus ineligible for protection. (For a more technical perspective, see this Brent Lorentz post at Duets Blog.)
The strange charm of cutthroat compounds like pickpocket, scarecrow, and, well, cutthroat: Stan Carey on these rare English words“that have a long, colourful history and constitute a very interesting category.” (I wonder how the newish fondleslab fits in?)
The 2014 Social Security Administration stats on baby names are out, and the Baby Name Wizard blog has discovered some interesting trends in the data. The biggest trend? What naming expert Laura Wattenberg calls “the great smoothing of American baby names”: goodbye “chunky” names (Jayden, Jessica), hello “silky,” vowel-rich names (Amanda, Mia, Noah, Liam).
Speaking of popular names, here’s a fun tool to discover what your “today baby name” would be, based on the ranking of your own name in the year you were born. The tools works backward too: If I’d been born in the 1890s, chances are I’d have been named Minnie. More than a time-waster, the tool can be a big help in character-naming. (May take a while for the tool to load.)
“She originally went by Flo White, then Lord of the Strings. She eventually settled on the Period Fairy. It was more straightforward.” A new ad from category-busing Hello Flo, which sells a Period Starter Kit to adolescent girls.
The Politico story that Drew—a veteran political journalist and contributor to the New York Review of Books—links to does not contain a single mention of hokey. It does, however, quote a number of “GOP insiders” who called Hillary Clinton’s campaign-announcement video “contrived” and “phony”—and also “savvy” and “effective.”
Drew’s tweet wasn’t the first linkage of hokey with Hillary Rodham Clinton. In 1995, during Bill Clinton’s first term, Washington Post reporter David Maraniss—who would go on to publish biographies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—wrote about Ms. Clinton’s “contradictory personality.” Her “predominantly female” staffers “adore” her, he wrote:
The notion that she is cold and self-righteous, they say, is utterly foreign to their experience with her. When she does something to raise their eyebrows, it is more likely with her hokey form of humor, often expressed in simple rhyming schemes that Maggie Williams, her chief of staff, says come from "another era, if not another century." It is not unusual for Hillary Clinton to end a conversation with a staff member by uttering, "Okey-dokey, artichokey." To her scheduler, Patty Solis, she has been heard to say, "Miss Patty, you're as cute as a bug in a rug today."
Kipe (also kype): To pilfer or steal; to swipe. North American slang (20th century).
Kipe is a word I associate with my childhood—it was a word used only by kids—but have heard only rarely since. Indeed, I’d have laid odds that the word was as dead as gadzooks or prithee. Then, just last week, I stumbled upon “The Revolution Will Probably Wear Mom Jeans,” by Eugenia A. Williamson, which was published this year in Issue No. 27 of The Baffler. The story is about the fashion trend called normcore, a subject in which I have more than a passing interest: I made normcorea word of the week in March 2014, and I am proud that that post is the first citation in the Wikipedia entry on normcore.
About halfway into the Baffler piece I saw this:
“…a retail label whose name kipes the year of the Bill of Rights’ signing…”
Whoa! Kipes right out there in the open, with no parenthetical definition or footnote, in a semi-scholarly essay! In 2015! I was transported back to John Burroughs Junior High School in Los Angeles, which is where I learned to say kipe from friends who’d probably learned it from their larcenous older siblings. That was a long time ago. In fact, I can’t remember hearing any form of to kipe since, oh, 1975. And I don’t recall ever seeing it on page or screen until I read the Baffler story—whose author, it seems relevant to add, appears to be a youngish person.
Driven by equal parts nostalgia and etymological curiosity, I decided to investigate.
Shipping: “A fandom practice that involves imagining relationships between two fictional characters from a show, movie, or book series.” (Source: Know Your Meme.) The TV Tropes site notes that the word “ostensibly derives from ‘Relationship’ (though it might as well be ‘Worship’; in some fandoms, it's Serious Business).” TV Tropes traces the origin of the term to fans of The X-Files, “who were divided between ‘relationshippers’ pushing for romance and ‘noromos’ [from no romance] who would rather have No Hugging and No Kissing.” The X-Files ran from 1993 to 2002; an early use of relationshippers appeared in 1996 in an X-Files newsgroup. The earliest Urban Dictionary definition for shipping(“A term used to describe fan fictions that take previously created characters and put them as a pair. It usually refers to romantic relationships, but it can refer platonic ones as well”) was entered on March 6, 2005. Blogs and Tumblrs devoted to shipper fiction have been published since 2004, if not earlier, according to Know Your Meme.
In the February 22, 2015, issue of the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Jenna Wortham wrote about the shipping subset occupied by “online superfans of the BBC show ‘Sherlock’” (2010-), who perceived a love that dared not speak its name between Sherlock and Watson:
These fans wring meaning out of every lingering glance and anguished expression that crosses Cumberbatch’s impressively dimensioned face and superimpose their own dialogue atop these moments, amassing a trove of erotic imaginings that is in some respects more compelling than the canon, at least in the unpredictability of the plot twists. For example, one offshoot of Johnlock, known as Fawnlock, imagines Cumberbatch as an ethereal deer, complete with graceful antlers and a speckled coat — and of course his lover, Watson, cradled in his forelimbs.
Wortham’s story includes a slide show of Sherlock-Watson fan art and a brief glossary of shipper lingo, including crack pairings (“a coupling that is considered bizarre by the standards of shipping, often for mixing universes [e.g., Shrek and Sonic the Hedgehog]”).
Names in shipper fiction follow intricate conventions, according to the TV Tropes entry:
There’s a whole nomenclature dedicated to Quick, Easy and Idiosyncratic Ship Naming, often varying from fandom to fandom. The most basic tool of communication here is the slash — if you wanted Alice and Bob to get together you could always say you shipped Alice/Bob. However, for most fandoms that's just not exotic enough. They will not be content with anything less than a short, sweet and catchy brand name — the more Incredibly Lame the Pun, the better (Harry Potter fandom actually named ships the “HMS this-and-that”). Shipping culture has also imported the Portmanteau Couple Name from Japanese Anime fandom; apart from its infamous usage in the gossip industry (“Brangelina”, “Bennifer”, “TomKat”) you can find people online declaring themselves fans of “Pepperony”, “Wuffara”, “NaruHina”, “Sheelos”, “Applepie”, and “Jam”. Yes, Jam.
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.
Speaking of specialized lexicons, check out The D.C. Manual of Style and Usage, Washington City Paper’s entertainingly written and copiously illustrated guide. One of my favorite entries: “Blelvis: A portmanteau of ‘black’ and ‘Elvis.’ Refers exclusively to D.C.’s mostly elusive, semifamous busker; he likely never uses the words ‘portmanteau’ and ‘busker,’ but he can sing every song in the Elvis Presley catalog.” Also: “Hipster. A term that is somehow both loaded and meaningless. If you feel compelled to use it, talk to an editor.”
The new first-person-shooter game Destiny, released in September, features a huge arsenal of weapons, and I can only imagine the brainstorming sessions that produced names like Praedyth’s Revenge, Pocket Infinity, Strange Suspect, and the excellent Doctor Nope. The Australian game-review site Kotaku provides a ranking of all 74 names. (Via Our Bold Hero.) IGN lists the weapons by category(pulse rifles, fusion rifles, rocket launchers, etc.).
An “ally” is what British soldiers in Afghanistan call “a battlefield fashionista--desirables include having a beard, using a different rifle, carrying vast amounts of ammunition, being dusty and having obscene amounts of tattoos and hair.” A “crow” is a new soldier recently out of training. From a guide to Afghanistan battlefield slang published by BBC News. (Via Language Hat.)
If you’re curious about the origins of Toyota model names, this CarScoops explainer is a reasonable starting point. The Camry got its name from Japanese kanmuri, meaning “crown”; the Supra is a direct borrowing from Latin (“above”). But this story about the Yaris made me wonder: “Yaris is an amalgamation of words from Greek mythology and German. In Greek mythology, ‘Charis’ was a symbol of beauty and elegance. Toyota swapped the ‘Ch’ with ‘Ya’ – German for ‘yes’ – to symbolise the perceived reaction of European markets to the car’s styling.”
Tom Magliozzi, co-host of NPR’s long-running “Car Talk,” died November 3 at 77. In his honor, here’s a link to one of my favorite features of the show: the punny staff credits, from sculling coach Rose Dior to assistant disciplinarian Joaquin D’Planque. (Via Henry Fuhrmann.)
And speaking of novels: “Can’t get a deal for that novel manuscript? Try ad agencies. Young & Rubicam commissioned Booker award-nominated novelist William Boyd to tell any story he wanted as long as it featured a Land Rover vehicle.” By Ad Broad, who calls herself “the oldest working writer in advertising.”
From veteran name developer David Placek, founder of Lexicon Branding, some tips to help startups avoid making naming mistakes. First piece of advice: The name “doesn’t have to be clever. It just has to communicate.” And, adds Placek, stop it already with the -ly names. Yep.
Last week voters in Alaska and Oregon legalized the sale and use of marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes. Pending Congressional review, the District of Columbia will soon legalize limited possession and cultivation of marijuana. That means nearly half of the 50 states have decriminalized some form of the sale and possession of cannabis.*
It also means that in places where marijuana is legal, so is branding and marketing of dispensaries, retail stories, products, and services.
This legitimate market may be new, but some naming themes have already emerged. One of the most conspicuous is the numeral 420, which has a long history in cannabis culture.
420 Carpenter, “Thurston County’s first recreational marijuana store” (Lacey, Washington). The store’s actual street address is 422 Carpenter Road.
Where did “420” come from, and what does it signify? Legends about the number abound; here’s the true story as verified by Snopes:
‘420’ began its sub-rosa linguistic career in 1971 as a bit of slang casually used by a group of high school kids at San Rafael High School in California. ‘420’ (always pronounced “four-twenty,” never “four hundred and twenty”) came to be an accepted part of the argot within that group of about a dozen pot smokers, beginning as a reminder of the time they planned to meet to light up, 4:20 p.m. Keep in mind this wasn’t a general call to all dope smokers everywhere to toke up at twenty past four every day; it was twelve kids who’d made a date to meet near a certain statue.
“420” entered the slang lexicon as code (“420-friendly household seeks roommate”), and later, according to Snopes, “slipped into semi-respectability”:
Various free-wheeling cities annually celebrate “hemp fests” on April 20. There’s a 4:20 record label in California, and a band called 4:20. Atlanta’s Sweetwater Brewing Co. sells its 420 Pale Ale in supermarkets and opens its doors to the public at 4:20 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. New York’s 420 Tours sells low-cost travel packages to the Netherlands and Jamaica. Highway 420 Radio broadcasts “music for the chemically enhanced.” And in 2001, the forReal.org web site of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Substance Abuse Prevention put out a public service document titled, “It’s 4:20 — Do You Know Where Your Teen Is?”