“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.
This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike, by Augusten Burroughs. The paperback edition (2013) bore an abbreviated subtitle: Surviving What You Think You Can't.
“The Ultimate Driving Machine” has been BMW’s tagline since 1975, when it was created by the American ad agency Ammurati & Puris; the company filed for trademark protection of the line in 1981. (In 1990, Rawlings Golf in Northridge, California, registered the identical slogan for use with golf clubs. That trademark was abandoned in 1992, possibly under pressure from Bayerische Motoren Werke Aktiengesellschaft.) Just before the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, the carmaker took a detour with a campaign called “Joy” that was supposed, according to the company’s vice president of marketing, to “warm the brand up.” BMW loyalists were not impressed, and in 2012 “The Ultimate Driving Machine” was once again in the driver’s seat.
“The Ultimate Lighting Machines” has a shorter history. (BMW has been BMW since 1916; Holtkötter Leuchten GmbH was founded in West Germany in 1964.) Holtkoetter Lighting, Holtkötter’s Minnesota-based U.S. division, was denied trademark protection of the slogan in 1997, and abandoned its claim. It tried again in May 2013 under a new dba, St. Paul Lighting, and two months ago—on February 3, 2015—the mark wasregistered. The record is mum on whether BMW USA raised any objections during the process.
Like BMW driving machines, Holtkötter/Holtkoetter lighting machines are not for bargain hunters. The slender chrome floor lamp in the ad costs almost $1,000; a starkly dramatic chandelierwill set you back more than $2,000.
The trademark database also shows that Holtkoetter has received trademark protection for at least one other “ultimate” slogan: “The Ultimate LED.” That product, a light bulb, is not to be confused with “The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience,” a tribute band.
The Seattle Seahawks lost the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. Maybe they’d have fared better under one of the other names nominated in a 1975 naming contest, including the Rainbeams, the Lumberjacks, and the Needlers. (Mental Floss)
“Check the trademark early on,” “Avoid focus groups,” and other good advice about naming from professional name developers. (Communication Arts)
“People talk about expensive meals using sex metaphors; for noodle joints and cupcake counters, they resort to drug lingo.” A visit to a London pub with linguist Dan Jurafsky, author of The Language of Food. (The New Yorker)
The Daily Brute, The London Asswipe, The Quibbler, and other fictional newspaper names. (Wikipedia)
“Be specific—but not wordy” and other tips for naming a blog. Includes a nice shoutout for Strong Language, where I publish from time to time. (The Daily Post)
Would you spend $30,000 to find “a unique name for your unborn child? A wonderful first name that sounds so good that it just had to be invented? A brand-new name with an exciting derivation and unmistakable history? “ This Swiss firm—whose own name is tough to pronounce—is banking on it. (erfolgswelle® AG)
A drugroll—um, drumroll—for the 2015 drug name awards. It’s a tough, confusing field: Zerbaxa, Zontility, Vimizin, Zykadia… (Gary Martin)
Last week North Korea’s Workers’ Party released 310 exclamatory new slogans created to mark the country’s 70th anniversary, and Western news media have been having a glorious people’s field day with them. “Even allowing that they probably come off more melodious in their original Korean,” observed NPR, “some of the commandments are so awkward that it's hard to imagine them sounding right in any language.” Some are malodorous (“Let the strong wind of fish farming blow across the country!”), while others are creepy (“Let us turn ours into a country of mushrooms by making mushroom cultivation scientific, intensive and industrialized!”) and still others could have come from an overeager U.S. marketing department (“Go beyond the cutting edge!”). Here’s the complete list on KCNA Watch, an official English-language publication of the Korean Central News Agency.
There’s something slightly bananas about this slogan:
“Taste Me Do Good” bananas.
The bananas in the boxes are grown in Ecuador following organic, fair-trade practices. That’s very commendable. But the marketing language—from that slogan to the name of the growers’ community, Interrupción—is less appealing.
Enallage: Substitution of one grammatical form for another that violates a grammatical rule. Pronounced almost exactly like analogy, but from a different Greek source, ἐναλλαγή, which means “change.” (Analogy can be traced back to ἀναλογία, which means mathematical proportion or correspondence.)
I learned enallage only recently, but it turns out I was very familiar with examples of it. Mark Forsyth (@InkyFool on Twitter) dropped the word into a recent New York Times column about the rhetoric behind successful slogans. Here’s the relevant passage:
The other day I told a friend I was writing an article on corporate slogans. He immediately told me that the one he hated, absolutely hated, was “Think different” because it should be “think differently.”
He’s right, grammatically. But the fact that he’s nursing a grudge over an ad slogan Apple hasn’t run for a dozen years proves just how memorable it was.
Same for a long-popular British slogan, “Beanz Meanz Heinz,” which grammar would have insisted on as “Beanz Mean Heinz.”
For that matter “Got milk?” is substandard speech. So is Subway’s “Eat fresh.” Probably the most memorable ad in Britain in the last few years uses the one-word tagline “Simples” — uttered by an anthroporphic Russian meerkat on behalf of an insurance website, comparethemarket.com.
It’s a trick called enallage: a slight deliberate grammatical mistake that makes a sentence stand out.
“We was robbed.” “Mistah Kurtz — he dead.” “Thunderbirds are go.” All of these stick in our minds because they’re just wrong — wrong enough to be right.
Forsyth—author of The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase—also discusses alliteration (“Famously Fresh” – Planters); diacope (“a verbal sandwich of two words or phrases with something else tucked in the middle,” as in the U.S. Army’s long-running “Be all you can be”); chiasmus (“I am stuck on Band-Aid*, ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me”); and tricolon (“Buy It. Sell It. Love It.” – eBay); and paradox (“The world’s local bank” – HSBC).
“Our Hero, Our Values.” Image from DeliveryHero.com. All web content is in English.
Last week San Francisco-based ModCloth (“democratizing fashion one indie, vintage, and retro-inspired style at a time!”1) became the first retailer to sign the Heroes [sic] Pledge for Advertisers, a promise not to digitally alter images of models. The pledge was created by the Brave Girls Alliance, which wants to give families “multi-layered, diverse, intelligent, and strong media characters to enrich their girls [sic] imaginations.” (I’m not sure what Brave Girls Alliance has against possessive apostrophes. And while abstaining from Photoshop is rare in fashion photography, I doubt that actual heroics are involved.)
1 For more “One X at a Time” slogans, see this, this, and this, for starters.
2 MX is an abbreviation for other words, too, including motocross (the sport) and Mexico (the Internet country code). My favorite Mx—brand new to me—stands for Mixter, “an uncommonly used English honorific for genderqueer. It is a gender neutral title used by few people and its use has yet to be made official in general, although Brighton and Hove city council in Sussex, England, voted in 2013 to allow its use on council forms.” (Source: Wikipedia)
3 Of course, there’s always the strong possibility of a less-elevated rationale:
Via TechCrunch, transforming nerds into heroes since 2005.
It’s a double whammy, folks! Numero uno, another candidate in the Near-Profanity Sweepstakes, F-word division. It’s a category already overpopulated with entries like Fresh ’n’ Easy’s “It’s about time life was this f’n easy” and Booking.com’s “Look at the booking view!” (For more, see my post from June 2013.)
And numero two-o, it’s another example of the funny uses of funin the language of commerce. We’ve seen comparative fun (funner), superlative fun (funnest), and even super-comparative fun (funner-er). Now Toyota has transformed fun into a reflexive imperative verb.
The Italians must think the slogan is untranslatable.
You may recall that Toyota isn’t the first mass brand to hop on the F train. Last year Jell-O verbed funin a boundary-pushing campaign called “Fun My Life.” The #FML hashtag made it clear that Jell-O knew exactly which boundaries it was pushing. Bye-bye, Bill Cosby.
Despite the boggling number of Urban Dictionary upvotes, FML does not mean “Fix My Lighthouse.”
What else can we say about Toyota’s creative effort? Well, the copy avers that “The spirit of playfulness is alive in this small car.” The spirit of punctuation, however, is on its last wobbly legs.
Sophisticated dramatically styled and compact. We’ve designed our best small car ever, now it’s time you got involved.
The idiocy of this slogan truly boggles the mind! I’m an avid user of the longer F word in the right context, but Toyota has shot itself in the foot with this one...not funny, not clever, won’t sell cars.