Happy Bloggiversary to Moi! (or, Destination: France)

It’s that time of year again, and it almost passed me by. I’ll blame jet lag – we just got back from two weeks in France, and boy are my arms tired. Yeah, that one never gets old.

So yes, there was blog fodder: I also never tire of the French talent for punny shop names (as I’ve already shown you). Condrieu, in the Northern Rhone, offered up this gem:

A courant d’air is an air current; courant also means “current,” so this is a clever name for a hair salon that’s not catering to the blue-haired set.

Condrieu also offered up a zippy wine-tasting machine in a much less cleverly-named shop called La Bouteillerie, but since the thermometer was showing body temperature and the shop was climatis

é, we chose wine-tasting over getting trendy haircuts.

Anyway, I cannot believe I’ve been doing this for four years. It is, as we say in France, dingue. I am lucky that the branding world keeps providing me with ample subjects for commentary.

Destination: San Juan

A Royal Caribbean cruise in December to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary provided less blog fodder than I’d anticipated.  Still, a shore excursion to San Juan, PR, provided just the chuckle I was looking for:

Going green

Just a quick post to placate my impatient readership (hi again, Dad!).  I am not normally a fan of using “green” to convey the eco-friendliness of a product.  I think it can be overused and thus not distinctive.  I’ll make exceptions, however, and I just drank one this weekend:

This amber ale from the Deschutes Brewery was the perfect refresher after a morning on the slopes at Vail yesterday.  Of course, the fact that it accompanied some amazing dishes from the bar at Larkspur Restaurant didn’t hurt.

But back to the trademark: I think “Green Lakes” is a great mark that enables Deschutes to both suggest the organic nature and other attributes of its beer and also evoke an appealing image.


Photo from Deschutes Brewery website.


Destination: Kent

I could try to be all hoity-toity and call it Seattle, but this item is pure Kent.  We just came back from a few jam-packed and fun-filled days visiting friends and family in Seattle.  It’s fun to dine down memory lane there, and a key stopping point was dim sum in Kent at the renowned Imperial Garden Seafood Restaurant.  While the dim sum was top-notch, the decor never fails to provide some kind of amusement.

This time we experienced their new widescreen monitor advertising items we could be eating if we weren’t eating what was already on our plates:

We spent much of the meal wondering what “Associated appetizer” could mean.  Then, a trip to the ladies’ room offered another mystery:

While My Shaldan has a Facebook page, they’ve yet to let the public in on the creative process that brought us the magic of their name.  So if anyone has any clues, I’m all ears!

Apologies for the blogging inundation; I figured you needed something to chew on in advance of what will likely be a bit of a hiatus while I get this bad back fixed.  I hope to come back fixed, full of hospital-related brand trivia, and a half inch taller.  

Destination: Our Nation’s Capital

According to Wordnik, a nebbish is a Yiddish term for a “timid unfortunate simpleton.”  In my sojourns among the nebbishy, I’ve also heard the term abbreviated to “neb” or “nebby,” as in “He’s such a neb.”

That’s why I was kind of stunned to see this sign at 2nd and Massachusetts on Capitol Hill in DC recently:

Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: The place styles itself a “caffe 4 friends” and anyone who would find that cute or appealing must be a nebbish?

Once again, I find myself repeating the immortal words of Inigo Montoya : I do not think it means what you think it means. 

Destination: Maui

A brief but enjoyable visit to Maui before the kids get back from camp provided not only relaxation but also some excellent blog fodder.

Did you know that wine is made in every state in the US?  Well, it is, and we certainly weren’t about to miss Maui’s Tedeschi Vineyards, despite a drive that had me closing my eyes and popping ginger candies along the way.  We learned about Hawaiian agricultural history from our engaging guide Nani, and tasted some surprisingly delightful wines, particularly the sparkling pineapple wine:

Marc is pictured here holding a bottle of it.  The sparkler bears the charming moniker “Hula O’Maui.” We couldn’t resist bringing a bottle home in the suitcase.

What else?  Well, one of my betes noires as a trademark attorney is the continuing ability of the National Association of Realtors to be able to convince relevant adjudicative bodies that the term “realtor” is indeed a trademark despite clear evidence that the non-real-estate-professional public uses the term generically.  Apparently the fact of the term’s coinage back in 1916 wasn’t even enough to convince the TTAB in the linked opinion.  Well, I was able to locate some more evidence of that genericness – in a ladies’ room stall at Mama’s Fish House outside of Paia:

The photo was from a 1938 Honolulu newspaper.  And I merely affected an air of supreme confidence when the other woman in the bathroom looked at me quizzically when I exited the stall.  Not everyone is a trademark geek like I am, alas.

I loved the name of this store – Endangered Pieces – but even a brief glance while stopped at a traffic light assured me that there was a reason these pieces were endangered!

On our last day, we strolled Front Street in Lahaina desperately looking for somewhere decent for lunch.  We couldn’t locate our first choice, so we gave in to thirst, heat and exhaustion and plopped ourselves down at the Hard Rock Cafe.  In our defense, they were advertising ono tacos as their catch of the day special, and they were just delicious, as was the Maui Brewing Co. Bikini Blonde Lager. The hostess was kind enough to drop off this flyer advertising the logowear we could purchase there:

The oxymoronic nature of the phrase “Hard Rock Couture” was nowhere more evident than on that same hostess, who was lavishly face-painted, tattooed and pierced.  But she did carry her pen in her more than ample cleavage, which I did find quite resourceful.  I’ll store that tidbit away for that day when I have my hands literally full and stowing a pen behind my ear just won’t work!

Finally, a tribute to my early legal career in Seattle:

And so castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually.  And so do vacations come to an end and kids come back from camp.  But it was a lovely stay and we’ll dream of returning.  I leave you with the trip’s beautiful earworm: Over the Rainbow, by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwoʻole – which we now own on CD, thanks to Marc’s winning answer in the “Guess the Midpoint of the Flight” contest on our LAX-OGG flight.


Destination: Mt. Kisco

The coincidence of spring break and Passover brought us home to Mt. Kisco, NY for a few days.

(Mt. Kisco town hall on a much sunnier day than when we were there; photo thanks to Google Maps).

While we were there the girls went to their grandma’s hair salon for trims;  next door is a doggie day care called “Reining Cats and Dogs.”  And that was quite an apt name, as the rain was relentless. 

A grand time was nonetheless had by all; best wishes for a happy Pesach.  We will finish the break in New Mexico, thus having covered three “New” states (York, Jersey and Mexico) in one vacation, an accomplishment only a geek could love.

Destination: Todos Santos, Mexico

We had the great fortune to join our friend Bert and some 30 of his nearest and dearest to celebrate his 50th birthday at the remote, secluded but spectacular Rancho Pescadero on the Baja Peninsula near Los Cabos.  Good food, luxurious lodging, and margaritas galore to keep the conversations lively.

But a jaunt over to the small village of Todos Santos a few miles away provided just a tiny bit of trademark amusement, to wit:

Not sure what its official status refers to, but hey, it’s Mexico.  Have a margarita and go with it.

Have it at the Hotel California, in fact, with Hotel California tequila:

And oh yes, they played the song.  My theory, never refuted, is that no matter where you go on this planet, you will hear that song

And wholly off topic but just for fun anyway, is this to commemorate Milli Vanilli?

Hasta luego, Todos Santos.

Destination: The darker side of Disney?

A visit to Disney World would not be complete without numerous unnecessary purchases.  Let’s just say that we narrowly escaped coming home with a pith helmet in tow (and you know I’m using the term “we” generously).  One of Disney’s more charming inducements to purchase is its ten-year tradition of pin trading.  You buy a lanyard and a character or attraction-themed pin, and the World is your trading oyster.  Our oldest had started a lanyard on an earlier visit, and both girls were eager to acquire and trade pins this time, especially after I’d bribed them with the promise of a pin for each book completed by the end of the trip.

Disney’s always busy cross-marketing, and this time there was a lot of Tinkerbell merchandise to be found in the stores – apparently Tinkerbell is the new “hot” character being promoted in her own movie and all over a wide variety of clothing and accessories

Apparently Tink has undergone a metamorphosis to become less mute and decorative and more sassy and empowered.  While in theory that’s a laudable goal, the Tinkerbell pin I found suggests that she might have gone a bit overboard with the sassy.  Yes, I think Disney’s moved into at least the PG-13 realm with this one – Introducing Truckstop Hooker Tink:

Well, at least that’s what we called her for the duration of the trip.  But Morning-after Tink would work, don’t you think?  How about Amsterdam Red-light Tink (my precocious 13 year-old’s suggestion)? Place Pigalle Tink?

For my money, she’s way more fun than a pith helmet.  But seriously, Disney, did you think about this?  Did you look at her?  If this is sassy, I don’t think sassy means what you think it means.

Destination: Norway (actually, Epcot at Disney World)

So this year’s fall break took us to Disney World.  With the opportunity to sample food and wine from around the world at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, I couldn’t object. It was indeed an excellent trip, with a few trademark-related items of note.

Having a few languages besides English under my belt can be a blessing and a curse, I sometimes find.  My mind twists the meaning of words, brands, and names among the languages in which I call myself a dilettante, until there’s a veritable cacophony going on inside my head.  So when we visited the Norway pavilion at Epcot (herring! herring!), I saw this candy bar and cacophony erupted:

I don’t speak Swedish (turns out the shop does not discriminate among Scandinavian companies and their products), but I do speak French, and in French, “daim” means “suede.”  So I’m thinking the name either sounds like “damn” or means “suede,” and I get so confused and then it’s time for our dinner reservation and I didn’t buy the daim thing and apparently, according to my food guru David Lebovitz, I’ve made a big mistake because this candy is just delicious.

Oh well, when Ikea opens here in a few years, I’ll have my chance again.  I’ll just be prepared for the cerebral onslaught the name triggers. 

Destination: Vermont

Apologies for the blogging drought – it’s been a busy end of summer and the kids are already back in school.  But don’t despair, I’ve got something to tide you over until I actually do a bit more work:

Now that’s an evocative and whimsical name.  FYI, in our never-ending quest to experience the oenological bounty of every state we visit, we did indeed taste Vermont wine; not bad considering the grapes don’t get a lot of warmth.  Whites were better than reds, but we applaud the effort and enthusiasm.  The Vermont microbrews we tasted were uniformly outstanding, particularly those from Otter Creek.  So bravo to drinking in Vermont, which I know my Middlebury friends will agree with.  But I think I’ll keep my skiing to the Rockies; the thought of those narrow slopes covered with ice strikes fear in my aging bones!

Destination: Costco

I’m not sure I get this one.  Is it deceptively misdescriptive to have a brand of poultry jerky that incorporates the word “bovine”?  Does “It’s gobblelicious” make any sense alongside the DIVINE BOVINE brand?  What does “quick dipped” mean?  Do I want to know?  I think I’ll follow my practice in every jerky-related purchasing opportunity I’ve ever encountered and once again, pass.   

Destination: New York

Summer’s here and the time is right for dancin’ in the streets . . . or at least for some vacation.  The third bat mitzvah in our family this year took us to New Jersey, so we figured why not take the family en masse, and then leave the kids for quality time with the grandparents while we took advantage of increased proximity to Europe, specifically the Cote d’Azur?  It proved to be a great idea indeed, and I’ll be posting more on the sunny south of France shortly. 

But first, what I’m sure is a completely unoriginal observation:

Irrespective of the financial woes Citicorp is sustaining now, I always think it’s a bad idea to select a name that immediately suggests its derogatory version to the public.  Even the kids figured this one out. 

More fun on the way! 

Destination: Seattle

A whirlwind trip back to Seattle for a bar mitzvah enabled us to stroll and drive down memory lane, and see much-missed friends and family.  It also took us past a restaurant whose name I’ve long meant to report in this blog – yet another name that my girls love shouting at the top of their lungs.  It’s a Vietnamese restaurant, and the name is What the Pho?  I can’t vouch for its quality – our destination straight from the plane was Sushiland and its conveyor belt sushi – but the name is gold.  Reminds me of the name I’ve always hoped to see for a Thai restaurant: Nice Thai.  One day I’m sure someone will pick it up . . .

The bar mitzvah celebration was fantastic, and was held at the catering facility of Herban Feast.  While I normally love a name with a good spelling pun, this one kind of bothers me.  Perhaps its the vast spelling difference between “herb” and “urban”; perhaps it’s just that I am remembering what I think was the old Herbal Essence (that’s before Clairol made the name plural) that had a woman saying something like “That’s herbal, Herb” – but pronouncing Herb without the “h”.  You had to live through that 70s TV commercial humor, what can I say?  In any event, I solicit others’ thoughts on the Herban Feast name, while at the same time recommending it highly!

Destination: Paris et les jeux de mots

I love wordplay.  I wouldn’t call myself a master, but dilettante? Sure.  So one thing I enjoyed observing in Paris was how the French employ multi-layered and even multilingual wordplay to create product and business names.  This shop was on our way to the bus:

Took me two days to figure it out: Harry Cover?  Well, if you pronounce it with a French accent, it’s haricots verts, or green beans.  Great name for a produce shop, and the figues were delicious.

Then there’s my kids’ favorite non-patisserie snack – Pom’Potes.  Where do I begin?  Well, there’s pomme, which means apple, compote which is the same in English, and pote, which is slang for “pal.”  Put it all together and you get a name that’s cute and catchy.

Not a play on words, but a product name in which my daughters reveled?  Pschitt, a light and refreshing lemon-lime soda.  Click on that link and you’ll see that its makers realize what an entertaining name it is too.

Destination: Paris

I just spent a delightful week in Paris with my parents and daughters, and spent time with old friends and family there too.  Lots of fun brand-spotting, car-spotting, and wining and dining. 

For years I enjoyed coming to Paris and shopping at a store called Jess (no link, it’s not there anymore).  Now, having given my daughters more or less French names, we enjoy spotting souvenir items like keychains bearing their names, and shops with names like “Romeo et Juliet” and the like, in a country where their names are more common than theirs are here in the US. 

However, this one just, shall we say, blew us away:

That’s the sniffer for a perfume called Juliette Has a Gun.  Lovely, no?  According to the website, the English version of which is rather incoherent, several perfumes are planned under the brand.  Miss Charming, for example, is “the perfume of a virgin witch, docile and provocative . . . One instant, holding up the pressures of the world and the next, crying hot tears over the death of Enzo, her bowl fish!”  (I did not make this up.)  Citizen Queen, another of the fragrances, is “not only this edgy lady, or the most glamorous, or the most intimidating, she’s just all that at the same time, a Beauty on her own.” 

I don’t know, when I think of major French perfume houses, I think of “la maison de Guerlain” or “la maison de Dior.”  I just don’t think la maison de Juliette Has a Gun really rolls off the tongue.  Once again, however, I fear I am not the target demographic . . . tant pis alors.

More from Paris tout a l’heure.

Planning Fall Break

Fall break is fast upon us, so the logistics of our upcoming trip to Paris with the grandparents (yes, we are extremely lucky) are occupying my time.  I was trying to figure out how best to get us from the airport to our apartment, and this slogan caught my fancy:

Translation: “The whole world is our guest.”  Génial!

Turns out my favorite museum, the Jacquemart-André (love the café), has a “buy three, get one kid’s admission free” plan.  That will work!

Stay tuned . . .