I’ll get to the regularly scheduled links in a bit, but I wanted to lead off with some recommendations from my 2019 media diet (a term I’ve borrowed from Jason Kottke, whose blog always makes for tasty consumption).
Mountain Dew, the neon-yellow-green soft drink brand owned by PepsiCo, evidently failed to consult anyone in Scotland before it introduced its new ad slogan, “Epic thrills start with a chug.” If it had, it would have learned that chug is Scottish slang for masturbate. (Jelisa Castrodale for Vice, via Language Log)
That word: It does not mean what you think it means. Not in Scotland, anyway. (Via @jaysebro)
Dear copywriters, editors, and reporters: Do you really think you’re being clever with your “’Tis the season” line? Trust us: you are not. I refer you to that wise man John McIntyre, of the Baltimore Sun, reminding us to beware holiday clichés:
In the 1950s, English translations of a statement by Martin Niemöller – a German Lutheran pastor who had at first supported Adolf Hitler’s rise to power but was later imprisoned for opposing the Nazi regime, and spent the last years of World War II in a concentration camp – began circulating in the United States. The statement (sometimes called a poem) was based on speeches Niemöller had begun giving in 1946. There are various versions, of which this one is perhaps the best known. All of the versions end in the same way: “Then they came for me / and there was no one left / to speak for me.”
“The quote was that rarest of things,” writes Megan Garber in The Atlantic: “a political argument grounded in religious tradition.”
In the last few weeks, Niemöller’s words have been revived and revised by people protesting the actions of the Trump/Bannon/Pence presidency – in particular, theban on Muslims entering the U.S. The new slogans begin, like the original, with “First they came,” but they end in defiance.
“First they came for the Muslims and we said, “Not this time!”
Martin O’Malley, the former Maryland governor who was a Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2016, put it slightly differently:
The text is “infinitely malleable,” writes Garber, and, despite being 70 years old, uniquely well suited to 21st-century protest:
“First They Came” … is particularly attuned to the needs of the modern protest: It offers wisdom about the evils of the past, in an attempt to prevent more evils of the future. To use its language is to claim an understanding of history—and an understanding, too, of how readily its mistakes can be repeated by those who fall victim to the luxuries of forgetfulness. It is #neveragain, and #neverforget, with the subjects added in. It is a poem made powerful by its pronouns: They-I-I, They-I-I, They-I-I, They-no one-me.
This is the 21st century, and some of the new endings would make a starchy Lutheran pastor gasp, or faint. Here’s the one that’s gotten the most play:
In the last two and a half years, Thumbtack, which matches customers with local service professionals, has raised $255 million in funding. If the company had spent the merest fraction of that sum on a professional copywriter with an elementary understanding of how advertising works, it could have come up with something more effective than this existential shrug of a billboard.
“We don’t know.” <Shrug> 8th and Harrison streets, San Francisco
It’s not that I don’t get the tiny, unconvincing joke, O Hipster Ad Agency. Nothing rhymes with orange. Haha.
Here’s the thing (and it pains me to have to point this out):
Billboards are meant to grab your attention in a split-second. They’re not supposed to be convoluted in-jokes. They’re supposed to sell.
And they’re supposed to sell your stuff. Not roses, not “this billboard,” not even florists or poets. If you’re Thumbtack, you want people who see your ad to grok the glories of Thumbtack.
At the risk of repeating myself: We don’t know? Are you effing kidding me? Your website says you’re “reshaping local economies.” You’re “getting things done.” If you don’t know, who does?
And finally: Why is the most important message – “Hire skilled pros for absolutely everything” – in the tiniest type?
A good ad should make you smile in instant recognition. It should be memorable and motivational. It should leave you with a positive impression of the advertiser.
It shouldn’t make you feel like your soul’s been sucked out of your body and sacrificed to the gods of snark.
Spotted on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland: a sign plugging the Jack in the Box Buttery Jack burger.
“Juiciest. Butteriest. Craviest.”
Sticklers will tell you that of those three adjectives, only juiciest is legit. I’m more concerned about the logical fallacy. Juicy and buttery (and their superlative forms, legit or not) describe the burger itself. But who or what is doing the craving?
.@Fritinancy@JackBox So, the burger is juicy and buttery but somehow is also animate such that it itself has cravings and is thus "cravy"?
Also defying logic: the nutritional valueof this sandwich. It contains 820 calories, 470 of them from fat. Its 1150 milligrams of sodium constitute 48 percent of the recommended daily allowance. (Hold the fries!)
Jack in the Box is also proudly serving – and coining – brunchfast, which would seem to require another superlative: brunchfastest.
I spotted the sign on Van Ness Avenue, near San Francisco’s Civic Center and some distance from Google headquarters (35 miles away), Pier 48 (four miles away and the site of the Google Cloud Platform Users Conference, which begins today), or any other relevant landmark. It’s a short stroll from the ad to the symphony hall and opera house, but I doubt music aficionados are in the target demographic.
Here, for the benefit of everyone who isn’t fluent in Techlish, is my attempt at decryption:
“When Simon Tam dropped out of college in California and moved to Portland, Ore., to become a rock star, the last tangle he imagined falling into was a multiyear battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office over his band’s name.” The trademark tussle over “The Slants,” which the USPTO has deemed “disparaging” and thus ineligible for protection. (For a more technical perspective, see this Brent Lorentz post at Duets Blog.)
The strange charm of cutthroat compounds like pickpocket, scarecrow, and, well, cutthroat: Stan Carey on these rare English words“that have a long, colourful history and constitute a very interesting category.” (I wonder how the newish fondleslab fits in?)
The 2014 Social Security Administration stats on baby names are out, and the Baby Name Wizard blog has discovered some interesting trends in the data. The biggest trend? What naming expert Laura Wattenberg calls “the great smoothing of American baby names”: goodbye “chunky” names (Jayden, Jessica), hello “silky,” vowel-rich names (Amanda, Mia, Noah, Liam).
Speaking of popular names, here’s a fun tool to discover what your “today baby name” would be, based on the ranking of your own name in the year you were born. The tools works backward too: If I’d been born in the 1890s, chances are I’d have been named Minnie. More than a time-waster, the tool can be a big help in character-naming. (May take a while for the tool to load.)
“She originally went by Flo White, then Lord of the Strings. She eventually settled on the Period Fairy. It was more straightforward.” A new ad from category-busing Hello Flo, which sells a Period Starter Kit to adolescent girls.
Don’t read “How to Name a Baby” to learn how to name a baby. Read it for insights into historical baby-naming trends and to confirm your hunches (e.g., “the popular girl name Reagan is for Republicans”). Also: charts!
Given names are “one of the last social acceptable frontiers of class war.”Also: nominative determination, implicit egotism, and how the Internet has made baby naming more difficult. Part 1 of a four-part podcast series about names from Australian radio network ABC. The presenter, Tiger Webb, has an interesting name story himself. (Hat tip: Superlinguo.)
The not-so-secret jargon of doctors is full of acronyms: a flea—fucking little esoteric asshole—is an intern, an FLK is a “funny-looking kid,” and an “SFU 50 dose” is the amount of sedative it takes for 50 percent of patients to shut the fuck up.
Ever wonder what value-creating winners do all day? Here’s Business Town to enlighten you. It’s “an ongoing project attempting to explain our highly intangible, deeply disruptive, data-driven, venture-backed, gluten-free economic meritocracy to the uninitiated. With apologies to Richard Scarry.”
“The decision is made. The name won’t be changed.” – Tim Mahoney, head of marketing for Chevy, speaking to the Detroit Free Press about the Bolt electric vehicle, whose name is strikingly similar to that of the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. In fact, a Spanish speaker would pronounce the two names identically. (Hat tip: Jonathon Owen.)