Like the rest of the Bay Area, I’m sheltering in place, waiting out the coronavirus crisis. But I’m still open for business: in fact, I’ve had a couple of small naming jobs this week. Under SIP, we’re still allowed to go outside for essential errands and exercise, and I’ve been taking full advantage (and taking photos). I intend to continue publishing here once or twice a week, and would be interested to know what you’d like to read about.
In the meantime, here are some things I found interesting.
Now that the sale, possession, and use of recreational cannabis have been legal in California for a full year, what’s happening with weed branding? Well, cannabis ads are still outlawed on San Francisco’s Muni buses, streetcars, and cable cars. On the other hand, I’ve been noticing a lot of outdoor advertising in strategic locations around the Bay Area: big, bold billboards near freeway on-ramps and bridges. Some are for companies that were founded before full legalization took effect on January 1, 2018, like Eaze (a delivery service) and Weedmaps(“a community where businesses and consumers can search and discover cannabis products, become educated on all things cannabis, review cannabis businesses and connect with other like-minded users”).
But one new brand caught my attention when I saw it on a billboard on the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge: Blunts+Moore. Merely descriptive was my first thought. After all, blunt has been a slang term for “marijuana cigarette” for at least 30 years; the Random House Dictionary of Historical Slang connects it to Phillies Blunt*, a trademark in use since 1958 for a brand of inexpensive cigars.
The first incident that made national headlines occurred right here in Oakland, directly across Lake Merritt from where I live. On April 29, a white woman later identified as Jennifer Schulte made a 911 call to report that two African American men were barbecuing in an area not designated for charcoal grills. A woman named Michelle Snider filmed the call on her own phone; the video, posted to YouTube, has attracted more than three million views. Also viral: the “BBQ Becky” meme.*
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.
Motto: A brief statement that expresses a goal, ideal, or principle. From the Italian motto, “a saying or legend attached to a heraldic design,” and ultimately from Latin muttum (“grunt” or “word”). Related to French mot (“word”) and English mutter (“to mumble”).
I’ve written so much and for so long about slogans and taglines that I was surprised to find that I’d never written about the meaning and uses of motto. I’ll get to the distinctions between those words – motto, slogan, and tagline – in a bit. First, though, the reason to talk about motto this week.
I enjoy a little word puzzle as much as, or maybe more than, the next public-transit user. But two Bay Area bus-shelter signs, both for worthy nonprofit organizations, go beyond puzzling to confounding.
“Do You Really Want the City 7 x 7 x 7?” asks this poster. I stood in front of it for a couple of minutes, trying to stitch together “Do you really want the city” and “7 x 7 x 7.” What could it possibly mean?