God bless American language skills

Apologies for the hiatus. Getting daughter #2 into college is no less time-consuming than #1 was. Stay tuned.

So here’s something from a weekend in Ventura, California this summer:

wienerschnitzel

Crappy photography, but it’s Wienerschnitzel, “The World’s Largest Hot Dog Chain.” Ummm, isn’t Wiener Schnitzel that delicious dish of breaded and pounded veal made famous in Vienna (hence Wiener)? Why yes it is. How did we get from veal to drive-through hot dogs? Well, we borrowed wiener for hot dog long ago and its use was made ubiquitous in the Oscar Mayer Wiener jingle that pretty much anyone of a certain generation can sing start to finish. I am guessing that this is one of those situations where Americans hear a certain foreign phrase and use it irrespective of whether it means what they think it means. That is, they hear wiener and know they’ve heard wienerschnitzel so assume the two are related and why not name the wiener joint something that sounds foreign?

Well, they are related, but from a trademark perspective I actually think the name is deceptively misdescriptive! If I see a place called Wienerschnitzel, because I know what real Wiener Schnitzel is, I’m going to be disappointed when I find there’s none on the menu. But once again, I suspect I’m not the target demographic. And what those who haven’t tasted the real thing don’t know won’t hurt them.

 

Modernization is sometimes okay

Nancy Friedman has long deplored the trend of companies adopting newfangled and often ridiculous-to-pronounce or -spell names (Hello S’Moretgage). There are some companies, however, that in my humble opinion could use a bit of updating. One that comes to mind immediately is Tacoma Screw Products, long the butt of jokes from Seattle Times columnist Ron Judd (one thing I do miss about Seattle). Because, really, when your name is that hilarious the derision can far outweigh the value of the name’s communicative nature.

The same goes for this company, captured in pixels by my cousin Nancy (not to be confused with the earlier-cited Nancy):

Cleveland Vibrator

Oh dear … On the bright side, however, the first page of Google search of the company brings up only family-friendly (or I should say, “industry-friendly”) listings. I decided not to forge on, however.

You do have to feel for these companies that incorporate descriptive terms that have an unfortunate second meaning into their names – and then you can continue to laugh like you’re twelve again!

 

Destination: Denmark; or, read this!

Spotted in Denmark: Two brands that fall into the category that Nancy Friedman calls “imperative-verb business names.” I like to call them hortatory marks.

The first is the fabulous hotel we stayed in, STAY Copenhagen. No, the name wouldn’t work in the US. “Where’d you stay?” “STAY.” “No, I asked you.” You get the picture. No matter, it was a fantastic sleek, Danish modern (duh) hotel where they upgraded us to the penthouse suite for no apparent reason, and where we luxuriated in style with views of the up-and-coming neighborhood and the river. Not to mention the heartbreakingly attractive staff and the cute grocery store downstairs with fresh strawberries to die for … Okay, I digress. But STAY plays cute with its name, as you can see here on the Do Not Disturb sign:

stay copenhagen

And if you plunk around on its website, you’ll see they really leverage the “stay” wording, in a way that I’d hate for a US trademark client but can be much more permissive about where English doesn’t reign entirely supreme.

In the same imperative vein, we were exhorted to have lunch at Yo! Sushi at the Copenhagen airport:

yo sushi

My reaction? More like Yo! I’m still hungry but I have no money left!

 

 

Destination: Sweden; scatology or eschatology?

Our beloved 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Sexauer (I kid you not!) is responsible for probably fully half of my prodigious vocabulary. Every week he assigned a list of spelling and vocabulary words from the book we were reading, and we dutifully memorized those definitions verbatim.* So when I was uploading this photo and considering what to write in light of my scatology theme, I had a flashback to one of those tests:

rump lyft

Yes, that’s right: Eschatology – “the study of great ends.”

Thanks, folks, I’ll be here all week. Don’t forget to tip your server.

_______________________
* I’m really not kidding. To wit: “Epigram – witty pointed saying.” “Sophistry – unsound series of clever-sounding reasoning.” “Atavistic – return to the primitive.” Mr. S generally presented the definition of this last one by jumping down on all fours underneath an unwitting student’s desk. There truly was nothing like 10th grade honors English at Fox Lane High School back in the 70s.

 

Destination: Scandinavia. Part 1, Scatology

know, right? Not Paris, not Sicily. The Levys are branching out! We took advantage of Volvo’s spectacular overseas delivery program to visit Denmark and Sweden, and we were not disappointed. (Except by the rain and cold. If I never see a certain v-necked gray sweater of mine again, it’ll be too soon.) Great food, scenery, museums, and people. The language, not so much; devoted readers know what a language whiz kid I think I am, but Swedish and Danish? Just impenetrable.

Still, there was entertaining/scatological branding galore. First on the list? This charming hat shop in Copenhagen:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is that just like a small fart? I can’t even begin to guess, because the language, as I said, is impenetrable.

Next, also in Copenhagen, we have an impenetrable carshare slogan:

Smart i en fart

But funny, of course, because I’m twelve.

Next stop, a 7-11 at a gas station on the highway in Sweden, where we drove our new Volvo to visit my husband’s college roommate. (Think “Welcome to Sweden” but in reverse. Sort of.) And though we really had to get back on the road, I honestly could’ve spent all day savoring product names … like this one:

PLOPP

And this men’s shop was closed when we walked by, thus suggesting it didn’t live up to its name:

STAYHARD

That’s the entertaining start to our Scandinavian odyssey; more to come!

Edited to add that Funny Or Die has already made the Fart Car a reality. (H/t my friend Leslie at Blythe’s Blog!)

 

Destination: Disney World’s Wee Britain and Japan

Okay, actually it’s the UK, but really, after you’ve seen the episodes of Arrested Development that take place there, would you really call Epcot’s World Showcase land anything else?

The shopping in all of Epcot is excellent, though there’s always some product name that elicits eye-rolling or guffawing. Like this one, for example:

epcot mint balls

 

I could’ve bought some to see how, exactly, Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls would keep me all aglow, but I erred on the side of caution.

And this one, from the Mitsukoshi department store in Epcot’s Japan:

Hi-chew

Naturally, the only reply to the question “Would you like a Hi-Chew?” is “Gesundheit.”

Thanks. Don’t forget to tip your waiter.

Rocky Mountain Blah

Okay, I can understand not promoting our cannabis industry too flagrantly in tourism promotions – our appeal shouldn’t be so limited that it repels potential sectors of the market.

But this ad for Colorado tourism?

CO tourism ad

 

Apart from its calling to mind the infamous “Daisy ad” from 1964 (about which here), why does the ad show more of the cloud than of the beautiful blue sky? Why do the mountains fade and lack defined peaks? Why rely on the trite “memory-making” theme? Why couldn’t I photograph the ad without including my thumb? Listen, our never-ending cold spring ended, finally, today. The sun is shining, we may not get rain till later in the day, and people are smiling again after a month’s gloom. This ad captures little of the joy of being in Colorado. And believe me, there’s plenty to be had.

 

 

 

Destination: Aspen, and beyond

Here’s the last ad of note from Aspen Magazine:

sentient jet

Don’t get me wrong – I love the word “sentient.” (And would love the idea of private jet service, but alas, will have to resign myself to the crumbs offered by my United Premier Silver status this year.)

But do we really think that “sentient” is the easiest word to pronounce? You, my literate readers, and I, and Wordnik, all know how it’s pronounced, but the full name just doesn’t roll off the tongue all that easily – the “shint” second syllable gets jammed with the “j” of “jet,” in my humble and fussy opinion. So while I loved the Sentient Jet mark at first sight, I liked it less at first recite. [I would insert a frowning emoji here if I knew how and were cooler. But I’m not.]

 

 

Destination: Aspen

From Aspen Magazine, high society indeed:

High there

Getting in the social responsibility angle? With tasteful graphics and a non-punning name? I’ll be right over – after I’m finished at Bogner and Prada and Gucci, of course.

Destination: Aspen & Snowmass

Mr. Levy was speaking at an ABA conference this past weekend, so spousal solidarity impelled me to join him at Snowmass, where we enjoyed great skiing and dining.

Apropos of nothing trademark-related, Snowmass is a place where you can see this ad for Bogner skiwear in Aspen Magazine –

Bogner

and think “Who on earth would ever wear that?” … And then, mere hours later, you’ll see someone at the Two Creeks chairlift wearing the exact same outfit!

Said Aspen Magazine offers so much more, though, so stay tuned.

Destination: CDG; or, a total mess

I have noted in the past (sorry for the missing photo; it was of a brand called Redskins) that the French may have a bit more leeway than we do about using Native American nomenclature in their ads and products; yes, it may be culturally insensitive, but they’re an ocean away and bear less culpability for the ills inflicted on our native populace. Still, I don’t think that leeway extends as far as this company would like to take it:

sioux

This ad copy is translated as “In Sioux country, for the pretty ‘Red Skins,’ an incantation is uttered by the Shaman of the Tribe: May My Red Spots Disappear!”

First of all, “May My Red Spots Disappear”? Doesn’t really flow off the tongue as a brand name. Second, what is that photo? A winged serum bottle on a rope? Third, are these two ads for one company’s two products on one page? My middle-aged eyes are bugging out of my head! Fourth and finally, shaman? Really?

I was not surprised to find this ad in the cheap pages at the end of the magazine. That should be the most prominence it ever gets – before it hits la poubelle, that is!

 

 

Destination: CDG

Yes, though it’s been a month since we got back from Paris, it’s taken me time to get to my magazines. So here’s Exhibit A – a brand name I kind of like:

Hipanema

… even though my iPad keeps wanting to change it to Hip Anemia.

Destination: Paris

Yes, again. I needed a week of intensive walking, eating, and bus riding. Nothing suits me better. And of course there are the airport magazines and photos to share with my vast readership.

So if I haven’t mentioned the fact before, I am the daughter of a car fanatic and am also married to a car fanatic. The total number of cars my dad and husband have owned over their collective lives probably approaches 100. Naturally, some of this rubs off on me, and I’m no slouch when it comes to model recognition, for example, and of course, car names.

What a thrill then, to see that this model name has been given a new lease on life:

Duster

Yes, it’s the Duster, once a fine Plymouth model and now part of the Renault-Dacia family. Too bad they ditched the zany original Duster typeface:

plymouth-duster-logo

 

Fun facts: I learned from the Wikipedia article on the Duster that it was built on the same platform as the Plymouth Valiant and the Dodge Dart. Re the former, we owned a snazzy white Valiant convertible with turquoise vinyl interior – boy was it cute! And re the latter? Well, like the Duster, the Dart name was resuscitated by Chrysler as of 2013, long after its original 1960-1976 heyday.

I went back to Ohio

We took our eldest off to Kenyon College this past weekend. Alma mater of such luminaries as Paul Newman, E.L. Doctorow, Laura Hillenbrand, and last night’s Emmy Award winner Alison Janney, it’s a gorgeous campus on a hill in central Ohio – as picturesque an educational environment as you’re likely to find anywhere.

Kenyon’s address is Gambier, Ohio, but Gambier is really inside Kenyon – it’s just that tiny. And because it’s so tiny, commerce there is limited. How limited?

Peoples Bank

There’s just one bank, and it can’t even afford an apostrophe.

 

Destination: Germany and Lufthansa

Although our return flight from Frankfurt to Denver was unbearably crowded (how the 6’6″+ gentleman in front of us survived the legroom that crushed my 5′ frame I’ll never know), Lufthansa generally does a good job of feeding and watering its economy class passengers. And on its short hops, such as the one-hour flight from Munich to Frankfurt, you occasionally are treated to local goodies. German treats’ names can be quite entertaining – do you remember Fred Ferkel? Now meet Corny:

corny

Which name, of course, takes me, as it would, straight to Arrested Development. As usual, those who understand, will understand.

Destination: Caltagirone and Siracusa

Sometimes reality isn’t quite as poetic as I’d like. For example, this Stuffer brand yogurt that we ate in Siracusa –

stuffer

– would’ve been a perfect complement to this gut-stuffing breakfast that we ate in Caltagirone:

Caltagirone breakfast

Not that there was anything to complain about with respect to the actual content of the breakfasts!