It’s hard to stay clean when you’re sleeping on the streets. A new San Francisco nonprofit, Lava Mae, has an ingenious remedy: transforming old Muni buses into mobile bathrooms, complete with stall showers and toilets, that travel to neighborhoods with the greatest need.
Lave Mae and its founder, former public-relations executive Doniece Sandoval, were featuredin the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week on the occasion of the unveiling of Bus No. 2. Sandoval’s plans include expansion throughout California.
“Delivering dignity, one shower at a time.” For more on the “One X at a Time” sloganclone, seethis 2012 post(and follow the links for more).
According to the Chronicle story:
Lava Mae’s simple solution of providing homeless people with showers and toilets has captured the attention of people around the world, many of whom have asked Sandoval to help them create a similar program.
To deal with the huge interest, Sandoval is working with the International Centre for Social Franchising, which is based in London but also has an office in San Francisco. It seeks to help organizations with a social benefit replicate their work in other places around the world.
Sandoval has decided to focus on serving 30,000 homeless people around California by 2020 — and recently met with state Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles to discuss a Lava Mae-type program there.
There’s a feel-good story behind the Lava Mae name, too. Here’s how the organization’s website tells it (verbatim):
In Spanish, “lavame” means “wash me”
In our culture, we refer to vehicles in the feminine as in, “She’s a beauty, isn’t she?”
In the South, (where our founder grew up), it’s not uncommon for people to have two first names e.g Billy Bob, Peggy Sue. Putting it all together gave birth to the name Lava Mae
OK, the copy needs some, um, cleaning up. If you want to be picky about it – hey, it’s in my job description! – it’s “lávame,” with an acute accent to mark the stress on the first syllable. And I cringed a little at the bio that reads “Brett is the principle and founder of StudioTerpeluk.”
I’ll stop quibbling now and instead reaffirm that I like the Lava Mae name: it’s friendly, personal, down-home, clever, and bilingual. (The echoes of Fannie Mae and Sallie Mae, which also aim to help people in need, may be intentional.) And I applaud the work Lava Mae is doing. In a region dominated by whiz-kid techpreneurs whose idea of “making the world a better place” is selling an app that does stuff your mom used to do for you, this is a truly creative and, yes, disruptive initiative.
The business and techbloggers who covered the episode found nothing amiss in the story. But to anyone who knows how business names work, it betrays the naïveté of the show’s creators.
The protagonist of “Silicon Valley” is a programmer, Richard, who’s inadvertently developed a file-compression algorithm. For reasons that haven’t yet been explained (and may never be), he named the algorithm—and the start-up he creates around it—“Pied Piper.”
Everyone but Richard hates the name. But that’s not his biggest headache.
Heroes:Quidsi, the parent company of a clutch of e-tailers (Diapers.com, Soap.com, Look.com, et al.), thinks very highly of its workforce and “culture.” Its employees aren’t just model citizens. They aren’t merely heroes. They’re superheroes! With … superpowers?
Food portmanteaus: Taco Bell is testing a quesarito (a hybrid quesadilla/burrito), which will come as old news to Chipotle customers. The owners of a couple of Shoprite markets in New Jersey claim to have invented the donnoli (hybrid donut/cannoli). At the Donut Fest in Chicago back in January, an NPR reporter tasted a doughscuit (“an impossible mix of doughnut-fried sweetness and crumbly biscuitness”) And the Portland, Maine, bakery Little Bigs got slapped down in its attempt to sell a cronut imitation as a crauxnut. Little Bigs asked customers to suggest a new name. The winner: C&D (for “cease and desist”).
And this just in: The New York Timesreports on the cragel (croissant + bagel), the mallomac (Mallomar + macaron), the scuffin (scone + muffin), and other hybrid baked goods.
A familiar trope (or snowclone) in new manifestations.
“Disneyland Just got Merrier.” (Billboard in Oakland, California.)
“Comfort Just Got Sleek.” Jockey print ad featuring stylist Rachel Zoe (the blonde woman). Other slogans in the campaign: “Comfort Just Got Flirty,” “Comfort Just Got Glam.”
“Winning Just Got Closer.” One of the teaser slogans for the new Graton Resort & Casino, which opened in Rohnert Park (Sonoma County, California) November 5. Never underestimate the public’s willingness to overestimate the odds: Opening-day traffic created gridlock on US 101, and “once on city streets, many motorists ditched their cars at hotels and business parks to make their way on foot, plodding across a large field toward the hulking casino like ‘zombies’,” according to a California Highway Patrol officer quoted in a Los Angeles Times report. The doors were so mobbed that the casino opened an hour ahead of schedule. The 340,000-square-foot resort is owned by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and is open 24/7.
Back in April I wrote about a popular slogan formula, or sloganclone: “Not Your Close Relative’s X.” The earliest example I knew of—the slogan that launched the trend, or so I thought—was “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile,” which the car company introduced in 1988.
But I recently learned of a much earlier example—perhaps the ur-text for this formula.
“It’s Not Your Mother’s Love Story!…” (1969). Image via DVDTalk.
I came across it in Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame(2012), by the Boston Globe’s film critic, Ty Burr. The tagline appeared in ads for John & Mary, a 1969 release starring Dustin Hoffman and Mia Farrow; it was a “diffident, diffuse” movie, according to Burr, that “sank without a trace.” (Hoffman also starred that year in Midnight Cowboy, which won Best Picture and brought Hoffman his second Oscar nomination.) The John & Mary story was “calculated to appeal to youth audiences,” Burr writes:
[A] couple meet at a bar, sleep together, then get to know each other. (“It’s not your mother’s love story,” nudged the ads in 1969; these days the same story is called Knocked Up and it’s a comedy.)
That’s 19 years before the Olds slogan! Can anyone document an earlier commercial example of “Not Your Close Relative’s X”?
I was stumped, so I played for time by tweeting back that it may reflect the linguistic influence of Smile Train, the charitable organization, founded in 1999, that provides free cleft-lip and cleft-palate surgery for poor children in developing countries. It isn’t dentistry, but it’s definitely medicine, and “smile” in the name and tagline (“Changing the World One Smile at a Time”*) accentuates the solution rather than the unattractive handicap. I speculated that Smile Train’s visibility and success—it’s the largest “cleft charity” in the world—may have led to copycatting by other mouth-centric occupations.
“Smile” as a substitute for “teeth and gums” certainly is widespread, as a quick survey of current Living Social deals indicates.
This is different from “Imagine that you’re smiling,” and it’s very different from “Imagine yourself after the Novocaine finally wears off.” It’s an example of metonymy: a figure of speech in which a thing is called by something closely associated with the thing—“Hollywood” to mean “the film industry,” or “the White House” to mean “the executive branch of the U.S. government.”
Once I began thinking about dentists and “your smile” I remembered another example of oral metonymy I’d been noticing lately. This one comes from the world of cosmetics and beauty advice, where it seems you’re never fully dressed without a sulky, puffy-lipped pout.
By the way, what first got me pondering “pout”—help! now I’m alliterating too!—was this marketing copy on a sample package of bareMinerals’ Marvelous Moxie lipstick**:
Yes, the same Marvelous Moxie responsible for “Kiss My Sass.”
The English-language copy talks about “a voluptuous, healthy-looking pout,” which is not just metonymic but also oxymoronic. But check out the French version. There’s a perfectly wonderful French word for pout, moue (pronounced “moo”), that’s also sometimes used in English. But the Marvelous Moxie copywriter didn’t use it. What do we see instead? “Un sourire voluptueux et resplendissant.” That’s right—a splendid, voluptuous smile.
I admit I don’t understand why a golf club would be called RocketBallz. (The name of another TaylorMade club, RocketBladez, makes more sense.) But that’s just one of the many, many things about golf I shall never understand. For example, who are the guys in the ad? Advertising logic tells us they are famous golfers who are instantly recognizable to fans; to this viewer, however, they’re just a bunch of bad actors in dorky outfits.
I am somewhat more clueful about the ad’s language, which riffs on the comparative suffix “-ier.” In the space of 30 seconds we’re treated to huge-ier, smash-ier, long-ier, so-sweet-ier, money-ier (that’s “money” as in “so money,” as in Swingers), nothing-on-that-ier, way-better-ier, quieter-ier, good-to-be-you-ier, and, of course, RocketBallz-ier, a play on “ballsy.”
It gets suffix-ier: TaylorMade is using the #ier hashtag to identify and, um, “socialize” the campaign. From the TaylorMade Tour blog:
To help celebrate the official Tour launch of the RBZ [RocketBallz] Stage 2 fairway woods and Rescues, every TaylorMade pro competing in this week’s WGC Cadillac Championship will be using a new special edition staff bag featuring an “IER” panel – their names, plus IER – as well as wearing hats and visors with the hashtag #IER on the front of the hats.
I’m aware of at least two other brands that have created ad campaigns built around the “-ier” suffix: Perrier and Napier. In both of those cases, the connection between the brand names and the ad copy – which used real adjectives like “riskier” and “snakier,” not invented ones – felt authentic and boosted the brands’ memorability. It’s harder to make a connection between “good-to-be-you-ier” and RocketBallz. (Commenter Steve Hall remembered the advertiser as Callaway, a TaylorMade competitor!)
TaylorMade uses a clumsy “X Just Got Y” sloganclone toward the end of the spot: “Our longest just got longest-ier.” (More “X Just Got Y” examples here, here, and here.)
According to TV Tropes, “Not Your Daddy’s X” is “an often-used stock phrase … done to ensure [sic] the intended customer that their [sic] product has evolved beyond its original form.” TVT’s examples include “This is not your father’s Autobot” (Transformers Generation 2), “These aren’t your dad’s puns” (Powerthirst), and – looping back to that original Shatner appearance – “Not your father’s Star Trek” (ad for Star Trek movie).