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.
Leafly, which calls itself “the world’s largest cannabis information resource”—and which Business Insider has called “Yelp for weed”—took out a full-page ad in Sunday’s New York Times to congratulate New York State for passing the Compassionate Care Act, which legalizes the medical use of marijuana. The ad ran on Page 19 of the main news section.
Back in the 1980s, when he was a reporter for an alternative weekly in Minneapolis and later for a local business monthly, Carr had a cocaine problem that spiraled downward from snorting to smoking to injecting. He also drank too much, did some low-level dealing and was arrested innumerable times.
Of course, the ad placement could be a coincidence.
The Leafly ad works on several levels. It depicts smartly attired, purposeful-seeming young adults who, we’re told, have fought serious illnesses. (Marijuana: It’s not just for stoners!) It strikes a serious, science-y tone with those faux periodic-table abbreviations for cannabis strains. (The tamer ones, to be sure. You’ll have to visit the Leafly website to read up on Matanuska Thunder Fuck, Jack the Ripper, or AK-48.)
And it puns effectively on “Just Say No,” the much-trumpeted (and mocked) slogan—inspired by a comment by Nancy Reagan, wife of the president—of the U.S. War on Drugs* campaign of the 1980s and 1990s.
“Just Say Know” is appropriate to Leafly’s “knowledge is power” brand. Here’s an excerpt from the company’s press release about the Times ad:
We want to help New York patients learn about cannabis and make responsible and informed consumer choices about the product best suited for their medical conditions. Patients need a reliable, mainstream information portal about cannabis that is free of classic stoner stereotypes, and we truly believe that Leafly is the resource for them.
Note the language:
Responsible. Choices.Information. Medical conditions.Resource.
Very earnest. Very judicious. Very smart.
Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the Leafly name, one of the dozens and dozens of Names That End in -ly—apps, startup companies, news organizations, and more—that are so very popular at the moment. It’s a name that blends into the brand landscape so predictably, so boringly, that you’re hardly aware that it represents a substance that will still get you prison time in a majority of jurisdictions. (To date, only 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of marijuana commerce.)
Indeed, almost everything about the ad and the company speaks in reassuring tones and mainstream tropes. The only suggestion of rule-breaking—and it’s a faint one—appears in the tiny type under the #justsayknow hashtag: “A Privateer Holdings company.” Privateer—“a private equity firm shaping the future of the legal cannabis industry”—takes its name from a seventeenth-century term for an armed, privately owned vessel commissioned for war service by a government.
In short, the ad seems to be signaling a new era in legal, mainstream marijuana marketing.
The most striking thing about the ad is that it isn’t striking at all. It would be easy to flip past this quickly without recognizing that it's about cannabis—and even if you do pause long enough to see what's being advertised, the idea of an ad for a marijuana review site in The New York Times just doesn't sound all that bizarre anymore. That’s when you know a social revolution is succeeding: when it starts to feel banal.
Twenty-four-hour classical-music radio stations are a dwindling breed, hit hard by competition from online music-streaming services like Pandora and by the stark realities of a graying audience. All the more reason to cheer a healthy and good-humored survivor.
“Sanity Now!” KDFC outdoor ad, San Francisco. Love the script typeface.
Perhaps your first association, like mine, was the Seinfeldian rallying cry, “Serenity now!”
But KDFC has an independent claim on the slogan. The station, which was founded in 1946 and has stuck to classical programming ever since, has had five owners during the last 20 years. Before the station went nonprofitin 2011, it was owned by the Mormon-controlled Bonneville International Corporation, which promoted middle-of-the-road programming, refused to sell ads for a gay dating service, and pulled an ad for a book critical of the Christian Right. During the Bonneville era, KDFC produced a series of CDs called “Islands of Sanity,” with Classics Top 40 tracks like “Clair de Lune” and “Moonlight Sonata.”
Today, in addition to regular San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera broadcasts, the station broadcasts a daily “Island of Sanity” program hosted by Rik Malone. If you need a more immediate sanity fix, try the on-demand “instant island of sanity”: click the button, turn up your speakers, and bathe your ears in soothing strains.
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.
When I was a kid we called them “thongs” or “zoris.”
What exactly can you expect when you commission a $5 logo from Fiverr? To find out, Sacha Greif invented a company (“SkyStats”) and tested the waters. Among his conclusions: “Fiverr apparently sees nothing wrong with designers appropriating other people’s work. And not only do they tolerate it, they even directly profit from it since they feature these fake work samples prominently.”
Cherevin may be the evil aggressors of economic warfare, but I’d love to have them as a client. They could teach me about propping up housing markets, and I might be able to offer them a nugget or two about reducing security breaches through better interaction design. Plus, I bet it’s fun to get a project brief with the objective of ‘instilling fear and obedience.’
UPDATE: This morning (June 18), the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, an independent tribunal of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, recommended that the federal registrations for “Redskins” trademarks be cancelled. Read the TTAB fact sheet.
Power Vocab Tweet was invented by the creator of Everyword, which recently completed its mission to tweet every word in the English language.From the blog:
On the surface, Power Vocab Tweet is a parody of “word-of-the-day”blogs and Twitteraccounts. My real inspiration, though, comes from the novel Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin. In that book, a group of underground linguists invent a language (Láadan) that “encodes” in its lexicon concepts that aren’t otherwise assigned to words in human languages. …
The definitions are generated via Markov chain from the definition database in WordNet. The words themselves are generated from a simple “portmanteau” algorithm; each word is a combination of two “real” English words of the appropriate part of speech. (The forms of the words and text used to generate the associated definition aren’t related.)