Maybe it’s because I was reading The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis’s 2018 book about how the current administration in Washington is “government led by the uninterested,” as NPR put it, but my first response to the announcement last week of the Fifth City makeup brand was: What are the first, second, third, and fourth cities?
It could have been worse: They could have called it Fifth Place.
Women’s-wear retailer Anthropologie is launchinga new “inclusively sized” (women’s 16 to 26) collection today. The collection’s name is clear, simple, and elegant: APlus.
Anthropologie’s last foray into fashion sub-branding was the misbegotten BHLDN, which I wrote about in 2011. I am happy to report that APlus is a vast improvement: The capital A evokes the parent brand, and the “plus” in this context is positive rather than pejorative. My favorite label for this category remains Alexander McCall Smith’s “traditionally sized,” but APlus gets a high grade from me, too.
(For more on the use of “plus” in retail – you may be interested to know that at one time in U.S. history the category was called “stout” – see my 2015 post “Plus Is Equal.”)
No, notthat “lit.” These brand names are inspired by literature and borrowed from the language of … well, language. Why? I can only guess. Maybe they want to communicate something about creativity and inspiration, but who knows? The names appear literary, but the stories their owners are telling are mysteries. And sometimes, as Dr. Freud might have said, a trend is just a trend.
Some names I’ve noticed lately, for better or for worse, on my travels in the real and virtual worlds.
I spent a few days in Chicago in late April, where I spotted these Ostrim “sports nutrition meat snacks” on display at a Freshii quick-serve “wellness” restaurant. (Freshii is worth a brief sidebar. The company, which was founded in 2005 and is based in Toronto, has a peppy online presence and a brand-enforcing fondness for double-i’s: A limited-time menu special is called Biiblos – no, I don’t know what that means – and the store payment card is called Monii. “Let’s transfer energii!” chirps the copy.)
As for Ostrim, as far as I can tell, the product name is a blend of ostrich and trim, probably because the original “meat snacks” were made from ostrich. Today, though – 22 years after the company’s founding in Greensburg, Pennsylvania – Ostrim snacks are equally as likely to contain beef, elk, chicken, or turkey. Moral: Don’t box yourself in with a name that can’t grow with your company.
Also: Consider how your name might be misinterpreted.
Sounds like bone support and weight loss all in one - with surprise ostrich.
Course description: “Founded in Wayne, Pennsylvania in the autumn of 1992, Anthropologie remains a destination for women wanting a curated mix of clothing, accessories, gifts and home décor that reflects their personal style and fuels their lives' passions, from fashion to art to entertaining.”
Extra credit: Anthropologie has a charitable division called Philanthropie.
For more than five years I’ve kept a tally of mister brand names—Mr. Tea, Mr. Bra, Mr. Noodle, Mr. Handyman, et al. Lately, I’ve discovered that “mister” is démodé: all the cool generic brands have gone to grad school and earned doctorates.
Dr. Fone calls itself “the world’s #1 iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch data recovery software to recover lost contacts, text messages, pictures, notes, and much more.” This doctor has a devious side. In “The Adultery Arms Race,” published in the November Atlantic, Michelle Cottle writes that Dr. Fone allows suspicious spouses to moonlight as private eyes:
Jay spent a few days researching surveillance tools before buying a program called Dr. Fone, which enabled him to remotely recover text messages from Ann’s phone. Late one night, he downloaded her texts onto his work laptop. He spent the next day reading through them at the office. Turns out, his wife had become involved with a co-worker.
Dr. Smog N Lube in Burbank, California, sounds like a shop that sells just two things, but in fact it “offers comprehensive auto services.”
Tip: “Doctor” names work best (if they work at all) with a single descriptor, not two. “N” as an abbreviation for “and” is ill advised at all times. And the “Dr.” abbreviation is used only in a title—not in a sentence like “Go to the doctor.”
(Hat tip: brother Michael.)
Dr. Sponge(“sustainable cleaning for your skin”) sells “a revolutionary skin cleansing tool that serves as an all-in-one solution for various skincare concerns.” The sponges come in several colors and formulas.
Dr. Sponge Lycopene Body Cleansing Konjac Sponge, $11.50. Konjac, “an exotic plant native to Eastern Asia,” is further defined as “glucommnnan,” which is a misspelling. Hardly spongeworthy!
Dr. Lipp is the “original nipple balm for lips.” Yes, you read that correctly.
Why they didn’t go with “Dr. Nipp” is a mystery.
The company is based in London; the product is sold at Sephora, Bloomingdale’s, and other retailers for $15 a tube.
Dr. Dewyis another lip doctor. This one’s in Southern California.
“Dr. Dewy” is the nom de balm of Dr. Edward Akkaway, who is “inspired by nature’s unlimited bounty of remedies that help heal the body and mind, as well as enrich the soul.”
I wrote about Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School for the Visual Thesaurus in 2011. (No longer paywalled.) The name is a double entendre, I wrote; it refers both to the activity of sketching or drawing and to something more sinister:
Google “sketchy neighborhood” and you get more than 67,000 results. “Sketchy area” yields more than 70,000. Both references are to what Urban Dictionary’s contributors agree is a synonym for “unsafe,” “creepy,” “not kosher,” or “someone or something that gives off a bad feeling.”
Want to be a doctor yourself? No problem! Just ask Dr. Science, the world’s foremost authoritarian. He’ll sell you a credential.
“We’re excited for you to take the One Shower Challenge!”
“Excited for you to take” is one of the newish “excited for __” constructions that I’ve been noticing in speech and writing. The Dove copy was my first encounter with the phrase in a commercial context, but it turns out to be more common than I’d thought. (See below.) Indeed, it represents a convergence of two hot lingua-trends: preposition creep—a term I’m borrowing from English professor and language writer Ben Yagoda—and, more generally, excitement overload.
The skincare brand Vichywas new to me when I spotted it at Walgreen’s last weekend.
Vichy display at Walgreen’s.The headline strikes me as not quite idiomatic: “transforms” generally doesn’t take “to.”
But Vichy is not a new brand: it was born in 1931, when a Parisian cosmetics manufacturer, George Guérin, was treated by Dr. Prosper Haller, at the spa in Vichy, France. The two men then created a line of skincare products that used water from the famous Vichy spring. In 1955, the company was bought by L’Oréal, which still owns the brand and which in 2014 is the world’s largest cosmetics company. (L’Oréal brands include Lancôme, Maybelline, Kiehl’s, Garnier, and Clarisonic.)
Here’s where we take a detour into 20th-century European history.
For students of World War II, or for anyone who’s watched Casablanca or Marcel Ophüls’s The Sorrow and the Pity, “Vichy” is not a neutral place name.* Beginning with the French surrender in June 1940, Vichy was the administrative center of German-occupied France and became shorthand for the pro-Nazi French regime. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “While officially neutral in the war, Vichy actively collaborated with the Nazis, including, to some degree, with their racial policies.”
Bygones, you say? Not so fast.
The founder of L’Oréal, Eugène Schueller (1881-1957), provided financial support for a violent French fascist group, La Cagoule (“the hood”). After the war, one member of the group, Jacques Correze, became chairman of L’Oréal’s U.S. marketing arm. Another member of the group, André Bettencourt, married Schueller’s daughter, Liliane. (Their daughter married a Jew, and a son from that marriage, Jean-Victor Meyers, now sits on L’Oréal’s board.) Nor did L’Oréal make public amends after the war: In Bitter Scent: The Case of L’Oréal, Nazis, and the Arab Boycott (1996), the Israeli historian Michael Bar-Zohar tells the story of how company director Jean Frydman**, a Jew and a hero of the French Resistance, was forced off L’Oréal’s board in 1989 to satisfy demands by the Arab League.
And, of course, L’Oréal keeps the Vichy name alive on its high-priced (for a drugstore brand) skincare products.
One has to assume that L’Oréal thinks the upside of the name (brand equity, pleasant sonic qualities) outweighs the downside (unsavory history, the effort and expense of a name change).*** As for me, I’m with Captain Renault.
Vichy? Absolument non!
* Also see L'Œil de Vichy (“The Eye of Vichy”), Claude Chabrol’s 1993 documentary made up of pro-Nazi propaganda produced by the Vichy regime between 1940 and 1944. You can watch the film in its entirety on YouTube.
** Not related to your author, as far as I know.
*** May a more appropriate tagline than “Your Ideal Skin” would help. How about “Your Beauty Collaborator”? Or “Surrender to Beautiful Skin”? Or even—cue the Marseillaise and the fog-shrouded black-and-white airport scene!—“This Could Be the Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship.”