By their consumer products you shall know them

The Zippy strip from two days ago (3/9) on the roadside culture of working-class (and largely white and male) North America:

(#1) By their consumer products you shall know them: gas, energy drinks, cigarettes, lottery tickets, candy, batteries, beef jerky — “everything anyone could ever need”

The strip is dominated by the Irving gas station, with its accompanying Mainway convenience store. Irving Mainway, which looks and sounds like a man’s name, and so has taken on  lives of its own. Beyond the gasoline from Irving, Mainway can offer Red Bull, motor oil, smokes, and maybe a frozen burrito.

The companies. From Wikipedia:

Irving Oil Ltd. is a Canadian gasoline, oil, and natural gas producing and exporting company. Considered part of the Irving Group of Companies, it was founded by entrepreneur Kenneth “K.C.” Irving and is privately owned by his son, Arthur, and his family.

Irving Oil operates Canada’s largest refinery, the Irving Oil Refinery, in Saint John, New Brunswick, and Ireland’s only refinery, in Whitegate, County Cork, as well as a network of gasoline stations, fleet of oil tankers, real estate and other related assets.

… Irving Oil operates bulk furnace oil and propane outlets in most major centres across Atlantic Canada, New England and Quebec as well as select locations in eastern Ontario, almost all of which are supplied from its Saint John refinery.

Irving Oil also operates over 900 gas stations in these jurisdictions.

… Most of Irving Oil’s corporate owned-and-operated stations also contain convenience stores. These locations operated as simply “Irving” stations until the late 1990s, when the “Mainway” banner (“Marché Mainway” in Quebec) was introduced; “Mainway” being a brand appropriated from one of Irving’s U.S. acquisitions.

(#2) Irving + Mainway in Bangor ME

By the early 2000s, 56 of the company’s Quebec locations had been leased to the Couche-Tard chain and rebranded accordingly, conversely 60 of Couche-Tard’s fueling stations were supplied by Irving fuels and re-branded accordingly. By the mid 2000s, Irving began to renovate and rebrand its old “Mainway” stations under the name “Bluecanoe” as part of the company’s modernization plan. The Bluecanoe brand was first introduced in New England and was introduced to some stations in eastern Ontario and the Atlantic provinces; however, many others were not upgraded and retained the older name “Mainway”.

… Irving Oil also operates several “Big Stops”, which are truck stops featuring family restaurants, facilities for truck drivers, and convenience stores. These large stations are located at strategic locations throughout New England, the Maritimes, Quebec and Newfoundland.

On the convenience store — by no means restricted to a marriage with a gas station or to North America — from Wikipedia:

A convenience store, convenience shop, or corner store is a small retail business that stocks a range of everyday items such as coffee, groceries, snack foods, confectionery, soft drinks, tobacco products, over-the-counter drugs, toiletries, newspapers, and magazines In some jurisdictions, convenience stores are licensed to sell alcohol

… A convenience store may be part of a gas/petrol station, so customers can purchase goods conveniently while filling their vehicle with fuel. It may be located alongside a busy road, in an urban area, near a railway or railroad station, or at another transport hub. In some countries, convenience stores have long shopping hours, and some remain open 24 hours.

An earlier Zippy. “For Irving Mainway” (from 5/24/14), using the same drawing as #1, but with different text, about what makes an American — lack of interest in global warming or politics, affection for high-fructose corn syrup, tacit acceptance of bad pop music, inattention to the aspect ratio of your tv pictures:


Irving Mainway on tv. The combination of names found its way onto American television in season 2 of Saturday Night Live, in the sketch “Consumer Probe: Irwin Mainway” (on 12/11/76):

(#4) Aykroyd and Bergen examine the Bag O’ Glass

In a review of holiday gifts [by consumer reporter Candice Bergen], toy company president Irwin Mainway (Dan Aykroyd) defends his company’s products, Bag O’ Glass and a teddy bear with a built-in chainsaw, then claims traditional toys are extremely dangerous. [from the YouTube notes]

You can watch the sketch on YouTube here.

Bonus: the title of this posting. A biblical allusion, to the Christian New Testament. From Matthew 7:15-18, in the KJV:

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

7:16 is frequently translated with fronting of the PP: By their fruits ye shall [or: you shall / will] know them. The sense of of in 7:16 is ‘from’: grapes from thorns, figs from thistles. Otherwise the passage is a piece of poetry, a succession of metaphors (sheep and wolves in verse 15, trees and their fruits in 16-18), each verse a pairing: a contrast in verses 15, 17, and 18; a parallel in verse 16.

The sheep and wolves in 7:15 eventually became an idiom in English. From Wikipedia:

A wolf in sheep’s clothing is an idiom of Biblical origin used to describe those playing a role contrary to their real character with whom contact is dangerous, particularly false teachers. Much later, the idiom has been applied by zoologists to varying kinds of predatory behaviour. A fable based on it has been falsely credited to Aesop and is now numbered 451 in the Perry Index. The confusion has arisen from the similarity of the theme with fables of Aesop concerning wolves that are mistakenly trusted by shepherds; the moral drawn from these is that one’s basic nature eventually shows through the disguise.


One Response to “By their consumer products you shall know them”

  1. Mitch4 Says:

    I first encountered the phrase “You shall know them” as the title of a book on my family’s bookshelf in the 1950s. It’s the title for one of the English-language editions of the 1952 novel “Les animaux dénaturés” by Vercors. Eventually I did read it and thought it very disturbing.

    The English title, though it turns out not to be a translation of the original, is pretty appropriate to the story. Though it is about animal kingdom offspring rather than plant fruits.

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