After the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, ending federal protections for abortion, American women showed their disapproval in many ways: by publicly protesting, by publishing opinion pieces, and by registering to vote in often unprecedented numbers. The collective impact of these actions may result in what is optimistically being called Roevember: a rejection in the November 8 state and federal election of elected officials who opposed women’s right to privacy and autonomy.
I haven’t been able to pinpoint the precise origin of “Roevember,” a portmanteau of Roe and November. The earliest usages I’ve found are from early August 2022 (let me know if you’ve found earlier examples!).
On August 1, Insider New Jerseyreported on sightings of “See You in ROEvember” T-shirts at a Democratic gathering in Morris County.
“See You in Roevember” throw pillow, $29.99 at Fed Up Frannie’s
A penumbra is a partially shaded area, in particular “that of the shadow cast by the moon on the earth in a solar eclipse, or by the earth on the moon in a lunar eclipse, resulting in an area that experiences only a partial eclipse” (OED). The word comes from Latin pen- (“almost”) and umbra (“shadow”); that pen- is the same “almost” we see in penultimate: the almost-last thing in a series.
But I’m not here to talk about astronomy or Latin or second-to-last things. I’m here to talk about abortion, the US Supreme Court, the US Constitution, and a thrilling theatrical performance I urge you to see.
Earth’s umbra (central shadow) and penumbra (extended shadow) during a lunar eclipse. Via NASA.gov.
Because that’s what we’re talking about this week. Don’t worry, though: I’m going to stay in my lane. Mostly.
In case you’ve been tuning out the news, and who could blame you: On Monday, a leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito for the majority in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, confirmed what many of us have been gloomily anticipating for years: that the precedents established in Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), long considered settled law, are about to be jettisoned. “The immediate impact of the ruling as drafted in February would be to end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion,” wrote Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward for Politico.
I believe abortion is health care. I support abortion access for anyone who needs it. But I’m not a lawyer or a legislator, so I’m using this platform to share some resources about my own specialty: language, messaging, and branding, all of which have played, and continue to play, outsize roles in the ongoing fight for safe and legal abortions.
It’s Week Eleventy-Kajillion of the COVID pandemic and we’re headed into the long Labor Day weekend here, and then the Jewish New Year. I have no amusing stories about names and brands today; instead, here are a few things I’ve been reading (and stewing over) that you may find interesting.
There’s lower-case nil, a contraction of Latin nihil, which means “nothing,” especially in British and Commonwealth sports scores and doctor’s orders (“nil by mouth,” also the title of a 1987 British film directed by Gary Oldman).
Then there’s the acronym NIL, which in the world of U.S. collegiate athletics stands for “name, image, likeness.” And that NIL is a very big something.
Until recently, college athletes in the U.S. were prohibited by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from cashing in on their names, images, and likenesses—their NIL. On July 1, 2021, new laws went into effect in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and New Mexico that allow athletes at those states’ universities to “monetize their individual rights,” as a June 15 story in Sports Business Journal put it.
Earlier this month, the US Supreme Court heard arguments (by telephone, because of the COVID-19 pandemic) in a case with special interest for those of us who follow developments in naming and trademark law. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office vs. Booking.com, the case argued on May 4, is the culmination of eight years of efforts by Booking.com, which calls itself “the world’s #1 choice for booking hotel accommodations,” to register its full name, including the .com, as a US trademark. My latest column for the Visual Thesaurus gives you a sense of what’s at stake by examining some key terms, including generic, domain, and, yes, booking.
The Booking.com wordmark
Full access to the column is restricted to subscribers (still just $19.95 a year!). Here’s an excerpt:
How much are you suffering under your locality’s COVID-19 restrictions? If you’re reading this, I assume you aren’t running a fever or hooked up to a ventilator but are instead working from home or, if you’re fortunate, collecting unemployment. (Or, if you’re not fortunate, not collecting unemployment because you were self-employed or minimally employed.) Your gym/golf course/favorite restaurant has been closed for weeks; graduations, proms, and sports have been canceled; you can shop only for essentials, you’ve learned how to create makeshift face masks; and you’re washing your hands more than you’d ever dreamed possible.
Maybe you’d call this situation inconvenient. Or stressful. Or tough but necessary if we’re going to flatten the curve and save the lives of our fellow citizens.
On the other hand, maybe you self-identify as a member of the hard-core-individualist, expert-scorning, no-patience-with-patience slice of the Don’t-Tread-on-Me American populace. In that case, maybe you’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take any more government interference in your God-given liberties, not for any damn virus, nosiree. You’re calling the situation draconian.
October 2019 marks the centenary of the Volstead Act, the federal legislation that led to the passage of the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution—and to the misguided 13-year social experiment known as Prohibition. From January 1, 1920, until Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inauguration in March 1933, the manufacture, sale, and importation of “intoxicating liquors” were officially outlawed. As everyone knows, all of those activities flourished illicitly.