The second-greatest of these is monosyllabicity

Zippy’s guide to food-buying in today’s strip: packaging, monosyllabicity (hereafter 1-icity), and collectibility, in that order:

(#1) As ever, thoroughly steeped in pop / mass culture: in the 3rd panel, not just the orange-flavored drink mix Tang, but also the astronaut allusion (“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”); it then turns out that the panel also takes us to orangutans (which are neither orange in color — ok, some reddish tones, but not orange, see #3 below — nor have a tang in their name, but but …)

Background: my biblical allusion. 1 Corinthians 13 (KJV):

And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

The greatest of these (like charity) is packaging, but the second-greatest of these (like faith) is 1-icity; as is so often the case, the visual — packaging — wins over the verbal — 1-icity.

Background: “Tang, Tang, Tang,” oh my golly. From Wikipedia:

(#2) A 20-oz. container of Tang

Tang is an American drink mix brand that was formulated by General Foods Corporation food scientist William A. Mitchell and General Foods Corporation chemist William Bruce James in 1957, and first marketed in powdered form in 1959.

… Sales of Tang were poor until NASA used it on John Glenn’s Mercury flight in February 1962, and on subsequent Gemini missions. Since then it has been closely associated with the U.S. human spaceflight program

… The creator of Tang, William A. Mitchell, also invented Pop Rocks, Cool Whip, a form of instant-set Jell-O, and other convenience foods. Chemist William Bruce James also invented several Jell-O flavors.

Tang is noted for its advertising in the 1990s and early 2000s which featured the orangutan as a recurring theme.

(#3) The 1995 orangutan spokes-character for Tang

Why an orangutan? Because of the alternative (unetymological, but very widespread) pronunciation orangutang for orangutan <  Malay orang utan ‘forest person’ — with /tæŋ/ rhyming with the earlier /ræŋ/.

Main event: the draw and delight of monosyllables. In proper names, especially trade names. Tang is a brand name, but in a not very well defined domain of products; on the one hand, there aren’t a lot of branded powdered drink mixes — Milo, Nesquik, Ovaltine — while on the other, there are a mind-boggling number of branded beverages / drinks —

(soft drinks) Coca-Cola, Sprite; (beer) Budweiser, Coors; (wine) Le Cigare Volant (from Bonny Doon), Bitch (from Hundred Acre); (coffee) Folgers, Peet’s; (tea) Lipton, Stash; (juice) Snapple, Mott’s; (bottled water) Evian, Voss

— a few with with monosyllabic names, most not.

That’s the usual situation with proper names for things: for example, there are just a few companies with names like Cray, Dell, Shell; and just a few colleges with names like Duke, Smith, Yale.

On the other hand, proper names for people, both surnames and personal names, often show associations of 1-icity with strength, significance, and masculinity — associations that show up strikingly in the choice of both FN and LN for gay porn actors’ stage names (see the handout for my presentation “Name that porn star” at the January 2005 meeting of the American Name Society); for example,

Lee West, Jon King, Jeff Quinn, Tom Steele, Shane Colt

What about other domains?

A faIr number of candy bars have punchy monosyllabic brand names, among them:

Clark, Crunch, Dove, Heath, Mars, Mounds, Skor, Twix

And a fair number of breakfast cereals, among them:

Chex, Kix, Life, Oh’s, Pep, Quake, Quisp, Start, Trix

(The 1-icity in these two cases might be conveying significance.)

And quite a lot of laundry soaps, among them:

All, Bold, Cheer, Dash, Dreft, Dropps, Duz, Fab, Fast, Force, Gain, Grove, Hex, Lux, Pride, Sopp, Surf, Top, Tide, Trend, Wisk, Zum

(#4) A supermarket display of Bold, Dash, Fab, and Wisk; 1-icity here is probably intended to convey strength: powerful detergents to conquer tough stains and bad smells

Also quite a lot of magazines (for all sorts of audiences), among them:

Bitch, Bop, BUST, Byte, Coins, Curve, D, Dime, Drum!, Dwell, Elle, Flux, Forbes, Games, Good, Guide, Health, Help!, Inc., Jet, Life, Look, O, Out, M, MAD, Moves, Muse, Plop!, Print, Pulse!, Seed, Sick!, Spin, Sport, Stars, Teen, Time, Twist, Us, Vibe, Wired, World, Z

Yes, this is a huge list, but then the domain of magazines is enormous, much larger than the domain of candy bars, breakfast cereals, or laundry soaps. My guess is that some 1-icity here is designed to be eye-catching, proclaiming significance, shouting to be noticed (note all-caps, exclamation points, and single letters); and sometimes to convey a particular sort of significance: modernity, sleekness, and/or business-like seriousness.

In any case, these are just the domains that I stumbled on, starting from the monosyllabic name Tang. No doubt there’s a lot more to be seen here.

3 Responses to “The second-greatest of these is monosyllabicity”

  1. Stephen R. Anderson Says:

    Alas, Hopalong Cassidy Cookies are not any more for sale, even in Fresno, as far as I can see. Although the panel does say it’s the BOX of cookies that’s for sale, and the boxes are indeed to be found for sale as collectors’ items. But I can find no evidence for Zippy’s carton of Sealtest chocolate milk.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Here we have to distinguish between Zippy, who just makes stuff up (and has a lot of standing joke references, of which Fresno is one) and Bill Griffith (the cartoonist, not the cartoon character Griffy), whose references to things and places are meticulously grounded in the real world (with details altered to fit the cartooning environment). If Bill Griffith recalls a Sealtest chocolate-milk carton that looks like the one in the 1st panel, you can bet that there was such a thing, even if no one is selling them on eBay.

      • Stewart Kramer Says:

        Google image results for “Sealtest chocolate-milk carton” seem heavy on Canadian sites, so I imagine it’s a thing there. I saw only one carton with the abstract smiling face (on Pintrest, so never worth clicking on), and I had to scroll down twice to find it (immediately after the first bag, rather than carton, of chocolate milk!), shortly before the dropoff where you start wondering how the algorithm decided to include so much random junk (but since nobody scrolls down very far, the algorithm can’t learn anything by the click-through rate).

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