If you’re just a tiny bit aware of blockchain, it’s probably thanks to Bitcoin, the peer-to-peer virtual currency introduced in January 2009 and rising sensationally, if erratically, in value ever since. (On November 25 a single bitcoin was worth US$8,770.) Bitcoin was made possible through blockchain technology, which, put as simply as possible, is a linked and cryptographically secured list of transactions.
Blockchain – also known as advanced digital ledger technology, or ADLT – makes obvious sense for currency. But it’s much more than the core component of a quirky monetary system with an enigmatic inventor. “Simply put,” The Economistexplained in an October 31, 2015, article, “it is a machine for creating trust.” And that means blockchain’s potential for secure transactions of many kinds is seemingly limitless. In fact, “blockchain for X” is fast becoming the new “Uber for X.”
Recreational cannabis has been sold legally in Oregon since October 1, 2015; since January 1, 2017, dispensaries have been required to apply for and receive licenses from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. In early January, the Portland Business Journal reported* that the OLCC had received 1,907 recreational marijuana license applications in 2016, and that the total number of licensed retailers had more than doubled in 2016, from 99 to 260.**
One of those green rush beneficiaries is Serra, which opened its first store in Portland in 2016 and which now operates a second Portland store as well as one in Eugene, home of the University of Oregon.
The stores have been praised for their high-end aesthetics (“The most sophisticated cannabis dispensary in the city, if not the country: – Wallpaper. “When you leave Serra, the feeling is similar to leaving Anthropologie: slightly numbed by the curated beauty of the place, a sense of being underdressed, but without the guilt of paying too much for something you'll ruin in one smoke sesh” – the Potlander, which is not a typo). And the verbal identity is similarly bar-raising: no“leaf” pun, no 420 variation, no “green,” no “bud,” no “Mary Jane.”
But where does “Serra” come from, and what does it mean?
What’s so special about “Gateway”? Not much, at first appraisal. The word appears in more than 600 trademarks, including that of a pioneering U.S. computer company founded in 1985 in Sioux City, Iowa. (That company, whose original name was Gateway 2000, used a Holstein cow as its mascot; it was bought in 2007 by Taiwan-based Acer, which also acquired Gateway.com and which now produces computers under the Gateway brand.)
“Gateway” names abound in the San Francisco Bay Area thanks to the region’s association with the Golden Gate and the bridge that spans it. There are Gateway apartments, a Gateway Bank, a Golden Gateway hotel, and a long-planned Gateway Park at the foot of (confusingly) the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge.
But the Gateway I want to praise here is Oakland-based Gateway Incubator, which is named for a different sort of gateway.
The ABC Family network, stigmatized by that F-word in its name, now calls itself Freeform. Network president Tom Ascheim told the Television Critics Association that the new name “not only elicits the moment of transition in the medium and a sense of ‘creativity’ and ‘spontaneity’ but also evokes [a] younger 14 to 34-year-old audience, whom he’s dubbed ‘becomers’.” So much to ponder in that single sentence. (Hollywood Reporter)
As for the Freeform logo, Brand New dismisses it as “atrocious in either its stacked or horizontal form.”
This week a San Francisco startup, Marvina, launched its subscription delivery service for medical marijuana. For $95, $175, or $325 a month, San Franciscans who are qualified under California’s Compassionate Use Act can receive 7, 14, or 28 “top-shelf” grams of cannabis, tastefully packaged and delivered to their doors by an employee of a medical-marijuana dispensary.
“Co-founder Dane Pieri came up with the idea because he was intimidated and overwhelmed by the cannabis dispensaries,” writes reporter Zara Stone in OZY.* “‘It’s like when you’re in the grocery store at the wine aisle; we didn’t know what to do,’ he told OZY. He thought he’d create a service where choice wasn’t in the equation.”
Nothing. Well actually its [sic] a nod to Malvina Reynolds, one of our favorite songwriters. Her song Little Boxes was also the theme song of one of our favorite TV shows, Weeds. (Ok, when we talk about Weeds we really mean seasons 1-3 because the other seasons really don't compare to those first three. If you're a fan of the show you know what we mean.)
“Weeds,” of course, was Showtime’s long-running series about a housewife named Nancy (which also happens to be the name of Malvina Reynolds’s daughter) who starts selling marijuana after her husband’s premature death leaves her family in dire straits. The name of the fictional community in which Nancy lives, Agrestic, has been adopted by a marijuana dispensary in Corvallis, Oregon.
Marvina is an elegant portmanteau**—mar from marijuana and vina from Malvina—that stands out amid the ticky-tacky clutter of similar-sounding names in this area (see my post on 420 names). The Malvina Reynolds connection has extra resonance for a service that delivers its product in “little boxes.”
Speaking of weedy names, I’m headed to Portland, Oregon, for the next several days to attend the annual meeting of the American Name Society and sister organizations. On Saturday afternoon I’ll be giving a talk at ANS titled “Velvet Elvis at the Mary Mart: The New Normal Nomenclature of Legal Cannabis.” I hope to see some of you at my session – or maybe at the American Dialect Society’s Word of the Year vote Friday afternoon.
“There seems to be no leading candidate for Word (or Phrase) of the Year,” writes Allan Metcalf, executive director of the American Dialect Society, in the Lingua Franca blog. That lack, he maintains, “will make discussion and voting more lively” at the ADS’s annual meeting in Portland next month. No question that the discussion will be lively—it always is—but I beg to differ about “no leading candidate.” It may not be as controversial as the 2013 selection, because, or as social-media-friendly as 2012’s hashtag, but it’s still the clear front-runner.
My submissions to the ADS vote, to be held January 9:
Trimmigrant: A person who travels to a cannabis-growing region during harvest season to trim marijuana buds and get them ready for market. A blend of trim and immigrant, although the workers may be native-born Americans from outside the region.
Olivia Cuevaof Youth Radio reported on December 4, 2014:
California’s Humboldt County is known for its towering redwoods. But this region about 200 miles north of San Francisco has another claim to fame. Humboldt is to weed what Napa is to fine wine — it’s the heart of marijuana production in the U.S.
Every fall, young people, mostly in their 20s, come from all over the world to work the marijuana harvest. They come seeking jobs as “trimmers” — workers who manicure the buds to get them ready for market. The locals have a name for these young migrant workers: “trimmigrants.”
There are more than 100,000 marijuana plants growing in the hills around Humboldt, the county sheriff’s office estimates. They all need to be harvested around the same time and processed quickly to avoid mold and other problems. So from September through November, it’s all hands on deck. That’s where trimmigrants, also called scissor drifters, come in.
Trimmers are paid by the pound, Cueva reported. Fast trimmers can make $300 to $500 a day (cash only, of course).
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.