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)
Last week wine distributor Lot18 and MGM – producer of the Hulu streaming series The Handmaid’s Tale – announced one of the more harebrained merchandising collabs of recent years: three wines named after the show’s most prominent characters, Offred, Ofglen, and Serena Joy. It went about as badly as you might expect, and within 24 hours the wines had disappeared from the Lot18 website.
“Most verbs stay basically the same in different grammatical roles. ‘Walk’ looks like ‘walks’ and ‘walked.’ But the word ‘be’ looks nothing like the word ‘am,’ which looks nothing like the word ‘were.’” (Arika Okrent for Curiosity.)
When I wrote about mansplain, in September 2010, the earliest citation I found for the word was from an April 2009 Urban Dictionary entry. Now lexicographers at the OED have antedated mansplaining to a May 2008 comment about the TV show “Supernatural.”Katherine Connor Martin, Oxford University Press’s head of US dictionaries, says the OED usually waits a decade or so before adding new words, but makes exceptions when a word “is deemed important enough.” (Quartz)
Years ago, I named the world’s first “bidirectional” condom, so this story really spoke to me:
Diverse & Resilient, an LGBTQ organization in Milwaukee, decided to do something about the bland branding of free condoms. So it partnered with a local marekting agency, Cramer Krasselt, to create Naughty Bags, condoms designed by teens for teens. According to Adweek, the condoms are made “to be sex-positive, humorous, and cool” and feature “witty names like Pork Parka, Pelvic Poncho, Scuba Gear, Surge Protector and—our favorite—Papa Stopper.” Brilliant – in every sense.
Should you spend $1.5 million on a domain? Almost certainly not. As A Hundred Monkeys puts it: “While your emotions should guide you in naming dogs, kids, and boats, they need to take a back seat while you mull over dropping seven figures on a domain.”
Hoist the bare aluminum pole, my friends: today is Festivus, which means it’s time once again for my favorite holiday tradition, The Airing of Grievances.
For this year’s A of G—the sixth in a series—I’ve gathered some of the worst offenders from the world of marketing: the gaffes, goofs, and boneheaded blunders that we’ll recall for as long as schadenfreude remains in season.
“Years ago, I asked one of my mentors what he thought was the hardest part of designing a typeface. I was expecting ‘the cap S’ or ‘the italic lowercase’ or something like that. But he answered without hesitation: the name. Finding the name is the hardest part.” (Tobias Frere-Joneson the names of typefaces, via Michael Bierut)
“Can I stipulate the awesomeness of a lawsuit based on parts of speech?” Ben Yagoda on the trademark dispute between management consultant Dov Seidman and yogurt maker Chobani over the slogan “How Matters.” (Lingua Franca)
In a tribute to Hayao Miyazaki, director of My Neighbor Totoro and many other brilliant animated films, a new species of velvet worm has been namedEoperipatus totoro. (Via Tom Moultrie)
Eoperipatus totoro. Catbus in My Neighbor Totoro.
“Foodster,” “chefstaurateur,” “drool-worthy”: the food site Eater would very much like to ban their use forever. Not sure what “kerfuffle” is doing on that list—it’s a perfectly cromulent word! (Eater, via Lisa Newman-Wise)
“Crone”? “UAV”? “RPA”? A lot of people in the drone industry hate the word “drone,” but they can’t agree on a replacement. (Wall Street Journal)
I’ve been interested for years in advertisers’ penchant for turning adjectives into nouns and nouns into verbs. In his regular column for The Week, James Harbeck, a linguistics-trained editor, looks at why these switches—collectively known as anthimeria—work. It’s all about bisociation: “You have two things operating on two different planes or according to two different scripts, and at the point where the two meet, you jump from one to the other. … Bisociation tickles your brain, and that’s just what marketers want to do.”
Here’s something lovely: Vernacular Typography, “dedicated to the documentation and preservation of vanishing examples of lettering in the everyday environment.” A project of the New York Foundation for the Arts, it catalogs ghost signs, Coney Island signs, no-parking signs, subway signs, grammatical-error signs, and much more.
Reason #46,313: The best worst names in superhero comics, compiled with frightening thoroughness by Drew G. Mackie of Back of the Cereal Box. A few of my favorites: Egg Fu, Microwavebelle, Flemgem, and Rice O’Rooney (the San Francisco Threat). If you don’t know why the last one is so bad it’s good, watch this.
On April 22 the New York Times launched The Upshot, an online section that focuses on politics and policy. The name was chosen over 45 also-rans, including Crux, Kernel, Sherpa, and Uncharted. Why did The Upshot prevail? “It’s simple and straightforward,” the editors write, “and there’s no inside joke or historical reference you’ll need to understand what it’s about: a clear analysis of the news, in a conversational tone.”
Now that Pied Piper, the fictional startup in HBO’s “Silicon Valley” series, has an official logo, how well does it stack up?
In November 2012, voters in Washington State legalized marijuana use and authorized the licensing of retail outlets to sell cannabis. (Voter turnout, Wikipedia notes with no apparent irony, was 81 percent, “the highest in the nation.”) Now that Seattle’s first pot stores have been chosen by lottery, let’s take a look at their names. Lots of greens (Greenjuana, Evergreen, Street of Greens, Green Vision, Greenco, Behind the Green Door), quite a bit of 420 (Seattle 420, 420 PM Corp, Highway 420, 420-911), and a few whose owners appear to be fans of “The Wire” (Bellinghamsterdam, Vansterdam, Hamsterdam, New Vansterdam). Kinda meh, if you ask me, but hey—it’s still a budding industry. (Hat tip: Benjamin Lukoff.)
In related news, Fast Company’s Co.Design blog talks to four cannabis-industry experts about “how to brand a high-demand, once-illegal product.” Cherchez les femmes, says Cheryl Shuman, who points to “stiletto stoners”—successful working women who smoke pot—as a key demographic. (Hat tip: Irene Nelson.)
Manicule: A punctuation symbol resembling a pointing hand. From Latin manicula, “little hand.” Also known as a printer’s fist, index, bishop’s fist, digit, mutton-fist, hand, hand director, pointer, and pointing hand.
Manicules (“indexes” here) from a book of type specimens published in San Francisco in 1887. Via Feuilleton.
In his 2005 essay “Towards a History of the Manicule,” Professor William H. Sherman—the sole historian of this idiosyncratic mark—wrote that, between at least the twelfth and eighteenth centuries, the manicule was possibly “the most common symbol produced both for and by readers in the margins of manuscripts and printed books.” First recorded in the “Domesday Book” of 1086, the manicule—taken from the Latinmaniculum, or “little hand”—was a mark that readers drew to call out points of interest. For the next several hundred years, scholars marked up the margins of their classical texts, law manuals, and notebooks with manicules drawn in a wide variety of styles. But, as was the case with many other marks, the arrival of printing in the fifteenth century triggered a crisis for the manicule: with printed versions of the symbol—and of other reference marks such as * and †—now available to writers, “authorized” notes began to spring up in the margins, encroaching upon the space once available to the reader. The printed ☞—sometimes called a “mutton fist” in Old English slang—overtook its handwritten counterpart, and was overtaken in turn by the numbered footnote. Today, the manicule is used only rarely in printed works, often to lend texts a vintage flavor, but it still appears on thereturned-to-sender stampsof the United States Postal Service.
The manicule’s digital descendant is the pointing hand that appears your computer screen when you place your cursor over an web image or HTML link.