The witty and skillful Helen Zaltzman, host of The Allusionist language podcast, recently invited me on the show to talk about “novelty spellings for foods-that-aren’t-made-out-of-the-things-they-sound-like-they’re-made-out-of”—like chik’n, cheez, and mylk. The episode is now live and free for the listening here. You’ll hear me at the beginning and the end of the show (and in the coda, which Helen calls the Mini-llusionist). In between is a segment with the owner of a vegan restaurant in Ontario, Canada, who got into a bit of a bureaucratic dust-up over a menu item labeled “cheddar cheese.”
Image via The Allusionist
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I was recently interviewed about food naming for The Allusionist, the language podcast conceived and hosted by Helen Zaltzman.* Helen wanted my take on plant-based alternatives to animal-based foods, an industry that’s seen a lot of growth lately, and also a fair amount of pushback from Big Carnivore. (See the final item in my July Linkfest for a news story about Mississippi banning the use of “burger” and “hot dog” in the names of vegan substitutes. Across the Atlantic, the EU has also attempted to restrict the use of meat-associated words for vegetarian substitutes.)
The BLUF: Names of vegan foodstuffs are a lot less imaginative than the ingredients and technology that go into producing them, and generally rely on familiar terms from the world of animal protein.
“Companies change their slogans and catchphrases all the time to keep themselves fresh in customers’ minds. But DiGiorno might be the only one that has kept the same catchphrase, but changed the implication.” (Eater)
“Sometimes I look at license plates for new prefix ideas. Sometimes I borrow from the names of cats or dogs.” How two women in Chicago create all those names for generic prescription drugs. (David Lazarus for Los Angeles Times; via MJF)*
Here in the U.S. we’re headed into a long holiday weekend—a friend of mine calls it Interdependence Day, which I like a lot. If your dog hates fireworks and you’re not thrilled with the tinpot-dictator-y look of tanks at the Lincoln Memorial, perhaps you’ll enjoy spending some of your leisure time reading my newest post on Medium. It’s about how I’ve always hated my own name, and how that antipathy led to a career creating names for companies and products. It’s also a love letter to a dictionary.
It’s been almost five years since I wrote about a branding trend I’d noticed: names that began with Ever. There were the classics: Eveready batteries, Everlast sporting goods, Everclear knockout alcohol. There were the new Evers on the block: Everlane for fashion, Evercharge for EV charging (get it?), Everplans for death planning, Evernote for note-taking, Eversnap for photos, Evergage and Everspin for … something else.
Half a decade later, the trend is still trundling along. Exhibit Umpteen is a new restaurant, or restaurant concept—it won’t open till 2020—called simply Ever. Or, more precisely, “Curtis Duffy’s Ever,” Duffy being the Chicago chef who’s opening the joint with general manager Michael Muser. The New York Times food section published a breathless preview this week that included this tidbit about the name:
It would have the best china, they said, the best furniture ever. They’d use ingredients that were fresher, more seasonal than they ever had before. They’d make a meal more elaborate than anyone had ever seen.
Ever: That word just kept coming up. So, they decided, that would be the name.
“It’s this little word, this little four-letter thing that we pack into the most epic experiences of our lives,” Mr. Muser said in a phone interview. “This experience, that we’re going to put in front of everybody, this is our Ever.”
The Ever wordmark, which could be recycled into a drugstore perfume label if the whole $300-to-$500-tasting-menu thing doesn’t work out.
As others correctly pointed out, fellow here means “a person receiving a fellowship”—a financial grant. This is just one of many historical senses of fellowship; others include “companionship,” “alliance,” “spiritual communication,” “the crew of a vessel,” “trade guild,” and “sexual intercourse.”
In the title of the first volume of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, fellowship signifies a “company” or “association.”
It’s true that “man, male person” is one of the senses of fellow, but it’s not the original one. The OED includes that sense only after many others, including “partner, companion,” “accomplice,” “comrade,” “a member of a company, college, or society,” and “something that resembles another specified thing.” In Old English, as in the Scandinavian languages from which it derives, fellow meant a companion of either sex; its sources are fé (property, money; related to modern fee) and lag (that which is laid down, an arrangement; related to law). The “man” sense of fellow didn’t come along until Middle English, in the late 14th century. The casual pronunciation feller was first recorded around 1825; fellah – attested from 1864 – was eventually shortened to fella.