In the lead-up to last week’s midterm elections, a friend of mine was sending as many as 1,500 texts a day to likely voters in swing districts: areas that had a better than 50 percent chance of switching from Republican to Democrat. I was hugely impressed until I read about Oliver Butler, a New York theater director who teaches a class on text activism, or textavism. “On a good day,” wrote Anna Russell in “The Rules of Textavism,” in the November 12 issue of the New Yorker, “Butler will send nearly three thousand texts; on an exceptional day, he will send ten thousand.” Recently, wrote Russell, “in the course of twenty-four hours, texters from MoveOn, where Butler volunteers, sent more than two million messages urging registered Democrats to vote in November.”
Oliver Butler’s Twitter avatar. His bio describes him as a “Theater Director and Hat Baron.”
Cablevision Shutting Down OMGFAST Wireless Broadband Service
Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) said Tuesday that it is shutting down its OMGFAST wireless broadband service in Florida next month. …
“OMGFAST will be discontinuing its voice and broadband services. We are in the process of notifying existing customers so they can identify alternative services,” Cablevision told FierceCable in a statement late Tuesday. While Cablevision didn't announce a specific shutdown date for OMGFAST, a recorded message on its customer service line Tuesday said that service in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and 10 other cities would be discontinued on Aug. 19.
OMGPOP Team Tried to Buy Back Its Site, but Zynga Killed It Instead
OMGPOP almost got an extra life, but Zynga said ‘game over’. Zynga just finalized plans to shut down OMGPOP, the game developer of Draw My Thing it acquired for $200 million in March 2012. But multiple sources familiar with Zynga tell TechCrunch the OMGPOP team was in direct contact with Zynga leadership in an attempt to buy back the site or continue operating it, yet Zynga refused.
Another sadder-but-wiser tale: How not to name your restaurant. Author David Lizerbram, a trademark lawyer, leads off the story by observing: “It’s always astonishing to me that businesses will invest countless dollars in every aspect of their operations while relying on a name that will only bring legal issues.” Hear, hear!
If you’re launching a fashion brand, should you follow the traditional route and name it after yourself (which worked fine for Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, and Betsey Johnson)? Or should you follow the lead of some younger designers and choose a quirky name like Creatures of the Wind? Mark Prus, guest-blogging for Duets Blog, weighs the costs and benefits of “strange” as a naming strategy.
The Atlas of True Names “reveals the etymological roots, or original meanings, of the familiar terms on today's maps of the World, Europe, the British Isles and the United States. For instance, where you would normally expect to see the Sahara indicated, the Atlas gives you ‘The Tawny One’, derived from Arab. es-sahra “the fawn coloured, desert’.”
Evvvvverywherrrre, from instant messages to texts to tweets and even e‑mails, I see examples of what language watchers call “word lengthening.” The habit began among teens and 20-somethings, but it is no longer limited to them. Adults are adding o’s to their no’s, s’s to their yes’es, and i’s to their hi’s, to say nothing of a glut of exclamation points. In response to some recent news, my 60-something mom wrote, “LOVE IT AND YOU TOO!!!!” What is going on?
Doll got answers from linguists: Elongation is an attempt to convey emotional nuance in short messages. It occurs frequently in instant messaging and texting, less so in email. It’s a way to foster a sense of shared identity.
Fair enough. But how to explain word-lengthening in business names, like the two I spotted recently?
Pizzahhh!, in Berkeley’s Hearst Food Court, caters to the university crowd.
PHHHOTOtransforms photo-booth photos into animated GIFs for party souvenirs.
Warning: website may induce seizures.
The creators of these names may think they’re being clever. Or they may have just futzed around, adding letters until they found available domain names.
I have two cautionary comments for them:
1. How many H’s did you say there were? Three? Four? (I forgot numerous times as I was writing this post.) Do you expect your customers to say “I’ll meet you at Pizza with some extra H’s on the end, no, not Pizza Hut, more like what you say at the doctor’s, only with an exclamation mark”? Do you want them to say “It’s that photo-GIF thing with the funny spelling”?
Earlier this month, the company changed its name to OMGFAST, incorporating the slang abbreviation for “oh my god” that is often used in text messages. On July 3, Cablevision subsidiary Rainbow MVDDS Company filed a trademark application for the brand “OMGFAST,” which the company said would be used to provide “Internet access via wireless broadband,” according to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. RMVDDS listed the address of Cablevision’s corporate headquarters in Bethpage, N.Y., in the filing.
(Hat tip: MJF.)
Exhibit B: The controversial diet book Six Weeks to OMG, was published in the US earlier this month. The author is Venice A. Fulton—the nom d’OMG of Paul Khanna—who, according to the blurb, is “a nutrition expert and personal trainer” who designed the regimen for “his A-list clients.” Fulton/Khanna originally self-published Six Weeks in the UK.
Bus-shelter ad, New York City. Tweeted by Grand Central Publishing, the book’s US publisher.
An excerpt from the hilarious reviewby John Crace in the Guardian (UK):
Let’s go. But before we do, I should just mention the A and B words. And now I have mentioned anorexia and bulimia, let’s forget about them. Because the first thing you are going to do is skip breakfast, do an hour of exercise – just thinking will probably be exhausting enough for some of you – and drink five double espressos. Can’t you just feel all that fat being purged? Nice feeling! Now I want you to have an ice-cold bath. Stay in as long as you can manage. Those doing the Quake [the most challenging version of the diet] should aim for two hours. That way your legs will get frostbite and have to be amputated. OMG. No more cellulite dimples for you, babykins!
Exhibit C: Venice/Paul had better watch out: “Celebrity doctor” Marc Lawrence, in Southern California, is promising OMG Fat Loss in four minutes.
Exhibit D: A sign in one of the front windows of Euromix, an international food shop in my Oakland neighborhood. I wrote about Euromix in 2008.
I think they mean “toothsome,” but I still want to turn it into an imperative: “Eat our beans and toot home!”
I can’t resist sharing a photo of the sign on the other side of the door:
In Part 1 of Building a Better Tagline I gave some examples of effective taglines and listed the ways in which a tagline can support your brand. I also analyzed the elements of tagline style, including rhyme, parallel contrast, and positive ambiguity.
Now it’s time to build your better tagline. Here are my guidelines:
Where does a style-savvy girl have to shop to buy a vowel nowadays? I’m looking at you, BLK DNM, the newish anti-fashion fashion boutique in downtown Manhattan that the New York Timesprofiled last week. (Reporter Jon Caramanica called BLK DNM “in essence an aggressively priced Uniqlo or Gap for the upper echelon of the invisible.”)
Is BLK DNM texting shorthand for “black denim”? Maybe. Maybe not. Urban Dictionary says “d’n’m” stands for “deep and meaningful.” Perhaps BLK stands for “bulk.” Or “blerk.” Or “bollocks.”
I’d dismiss BLK DNM as a pretentious anomaly if I hadn’t seen evidence that it is in fact part of an annoying trendlet. Let’s take a look:
BHLDN, which I wrote about a year ago, is Anthropologie’s entry into the wedding-fashion market. As I said in the post, it begs to be backronymed. (“Beware Hardly Literate Dumb Names”?)
Asmbly Hall, a new boutique on San Francisco’s Fillmore Street, scrounged up enough cash to buy a couple of A’s, but had to cut the E (and an S) out of the budget.
JNSQ, “the first independent, multimedia style magazine for iPad,” takes its name for French texting shorthand for “je ne sais quoi,” which means “I don’t know what.” How we’re supposed to pronounce the name? Moi, je ne sais pas. The online version of the company, according to a TechCrunch post, is called Jenesqua. Gen-ess-kwa? Donnez-moi un break.
The Gap is catching the consonantal drift, too. Its new online catalog, Styld.by, “taps fashion bloggers from popular sites including FabSugar, Lookbook.nu, and Refinery29, to style and showcase pieces of Gap clothing,” according to a post on Co.Create, Fast Company’s branding/entertainment/tech blog. (The “by” in the name looks like a country code, but isn’t: the URL is www.styld-by.com. There is no .by country code … yet.) Styld.by was created by a San Francisco agency called AKQA. AKQA doesn’t stand for anything except a certain JNSQ.
Of course, the whole thing started several years ago when tech companies like Flickr, Plnnr, and Dlvr.it (RIP) eliminated vowels to obtain short domain names. It sends one message when a scrappy startup cheats on spelling and quite another when the vowelless name belongs to an image-conscious fashion brand. By belatedly jumping on the bndwgn, are retailers trying to sell us austerity? Or are they just moving too fast to vowel up?
Emoji: Cartoonish icons used to communicate emotion in email and texting. From the Japanese; a blend of “e” (Japanese for “picture”) + “moji” (“letter”).
Some of the emoji icons available on Apple devices.
Think of emoji as the lazy person’s emoticons: no careful combinations of parentheses, semicolons, and carats; no tilting your head to puzzle them out. Or think of them as hieroglyphics for the global postliterate era.
Emoji have long been popular among cellphone users in Asia. They first emerged in Japan in the 1990s, said Mimi Ito, a cultural anthropologist at the University of California, Irvine, who studies how young people use digital media in Japan and the United States. Cellphone carriers first added the images to differentiate their phones from those of rivals, and they caught on as an efficient way to quickly convey a specific thought, mood or joke.
Since so many of our daily interactions are happening over mobile phones, it makes sense that people would crave new ways to convey meaning other than plain text, said S. Shyam Sundar, co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University.
“Text as a medium is particularly dull when it comes to expressing emotions,” Professor Sundar said. “Emoticons open the door a little, but emoji opens it even further. They play the role that nonverbal communication, like hand gestures, does in conversation but on a cellphone.”
Emoji are now standard on Apple devices running iOS 5. For the iPhone-deprived (or resistant), Gmail also offers an emoji keyboard in which some of the characters are animated. I’m still trying to figure out the context in which a pincer-wiggling lobster would express le mot juste.
Are you wondering what those dadburn whippersnappersare forever typing into their electronic gizmos? Well, R U? Wonder no longer: there's new hope for old farts. A neat-o translation tool called TransL8IT! helps you make sense of text lingo. Just type in any standard English phrase (e.g., "The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plain") and TransL8IT! instantly renders it into something suitable for texting ("d rain n Spain falLz mAnlE n d pln"). Works in reverse (text-to-English), too.