“Spelled in either direction, this white bone china by Fitz and Floyd® is pure heaven.”
“Nevaeh” is an ananym: heaven spelled backward. In 2006, the New York Times reported on “the spectacular rise of Nevaeh” as a girl’s name in the United States: it had broken into the top 1,000 baby names in 2001 at No. 266, “the third-highest debut ever.” In 2005, Nevaeh “was the 70th-most-popular name for baby girls, ahead of Sara, Vanessa and Amanda.” From the Times story:
The name has hit a cultural nerve with its religious overtones, creative twist and fashionable final "ah" sound. It has risen most quickly among blacks but is also popular with evangelical Christians, who have helped propel other religious names like Grace (ranked 14th) up the charts, experts say. By contrast, the name Heaven is ranked 245th.
Nevaeh continued to rise in popularity over the next few years, reaching 25th (according to Social Security Administration statistics) in 2010 before falling off slightly.
Nevaeh’s surge, the Times observed, “can be traced to a single event: the appearance of a Christian rock star, Sonny Sandoval of P.O.D., on MTV in 2000 with his baby daughter, Nevaeh. ‘Heaven spelled backwards,’ he said.”
But there was trouble in paradise.
In 2011, the Baby Name Wizard blog reported that an online survey had identified Nevaeh as “the most-hated name in America.” “Grounds for objection included look, sound and origin, the whole package,” commented blog author and name expert Laura Wattenberg.
I haven’t been able to find out how long ago Fitz and Floyd (“for half a century … synonymous with excellence in design, quality and style”) introduced the Nevaeh line, which is sold exclusively on the Bed Bath & Beyond website and in BB&B stores.
I was meandering through Costco, looking for some yummy tofu-skin noodles I’d sampled during a store demo a few weeks earlier. I never found the the noodles—Costco can be like that—but I did spot True Story, a new-to-me brand of organic meat products.
Hmm. You can tell a story, hear a story, read a story, or film a story. But can you taste a story?
Hue and cry first appeared in English in the late 13th century “as an Anglo-French legal term meaning ‘outcry calling for pursuit of a felon’,” according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, which adds that “the extended sense of ‘cry of alarm’ is 1580s.” It’s a short, distinctive, and perfectly evocative name for a security company.
The hue in hue and cry is an Old French word meaning “outcry, noise, war or hunting cry” (“probably of imitative origin,” says the Online Etymology Dictionary). It’s unrelated to the hue that means “color,” which comes from Old English hiw (“color, appearance”).
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.”
In the more than seven years since I worked with Tria’s creators (a company then called SpectraGenics, later renamed Tria Beauty) on the naming project, the brand has flourished. The company originally produced a single device, the first clinically proven laser hair-removal device for home use. It was sold through doctors’ offices. Now the Tria name is also found on two brand extensions: the Age-Defying Laserand the Blue Light, an acne treatment. And in addition to Bloomingdale’s stores across the U.S., the devices are sold onlineat TriaBeauty.com and in specialty beauty stores.
I looked it up, and it turns out the original quote is a little different, although it’s frequently misrepresented: It has to do with “the mills of the gods” rather than “the wheels of justice,” and it goes all the way back to ancient Greece. In his poem “Retribution,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow singularized the deity:
Though the mills of God grind slowly; Yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience he stands waiting, With exactness grinds he all
But guess what? This is totally beside the point! Because the name of the shop has nothing to do with Longfellow or the Greek Skeptics. It’s an eponym. The owner’s name is—wait for it—Justice Baxter.
Also in the 1980s, “Justice” began showing up as a girls’ name. It hasn’t been as popular for girls, but that graph line is still rising.
Baby-name experts have categorized Justice among the new “virtue names”—21st-century counterparts to the Faith, Hope, Charity, Patience, and Comfort so popular with the Puritans. Other “new virtue names” include Logic, Rhyme, Reason, Destiny, Curiosity, Savvy, and, yes, Virtue.
A female Justice—17-year-old Justice Toliver—was in the news last week because of a tragedy: She was the victim of a fatal shooting in her Oakland, California, apartment. The prime suspect, her 14-year-old brother, turned himself in to police yesterday.
A word of warning: Don’t even think about naming a child of either sex “Justice” if you live in New Zealand. Since 2001, according to Harper’s Index (August 2013), New Zealand’s Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages has rejected baby names 311 times. Sixty-two of those rejections have been for the name “Justice.”
Yes, that headline would read “Justice Denied in New Zealand.”
Spenders of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your change.
A Bitcoin billboard in my neighborhood (Grand Avenue, Oakland), January 12. Yes, that’s a QR code. (Keep reading.)
The organization behind the sign, Arise Bitcoin, says its mission is “to start, support, and execute projects that promote the awareness of bitcoin to the general public.” It claims to have posted more than 40 billboardsthroughout the Bay Area since December 27, 2013. (According to Arise Bitcoin’s Twitter bio, the organization is based in Cleveland, Ohio.)
Another organization, BitcoinBillboards, has posted billboards in Los Angeles. According to the BitcoinBillboards website, “QR codes do work on billboards! And … QR codes do work to send Bitcoins. PLEASE use common sense and do not attempt to scan while driving!”
Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. Image from BitcoinBillboards.
Bitcoin, in case you haven’t beenreading my blog, is the virtual currency (or cryptocurrency, or altcoin) invented in 2009 by the pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto. The value of one bitcoin was about $900 yesterday.
Bitcoin’s popularity has inspired as many as 70 rival altcoins, according to a Bloomberg.com report. They include Coinye(named for singer Kanye West), Dogecoin (named for the doge meme), and RonPaulCoin, named for the libertarian former presidential candidate.
Have you seen any bitcoin billboards in your area?
There’s always something peculiar, and peculiarly gratifying, to see at Pharmaca, the Western U.S. alt-pharmacy chain. This is, after all, a store that stocks Fruitrients, W3LL PEOPLE [sic], Topricin*, Alaffia (ha ha!), Cowgirl Skincare, and GladRags (“eco-friendly menstruation support made simple”).
But if I had to pick a current favorite from the Pharmaca shelves, it would be Mandelay “climax control gel.”
Man … delay.
I’m tickled that it’s a man-word I hadn’t yet encountered. I’m amused by the punctuation after the name (a full stop, really?). And I can’t resist a name that has me Kipling—you’ve Kippled, haven’t you?—all the way home.
As for the product itself, here’s what a reviewer said on the CVS site: “It works, but a little too well.”