Archive for the ‘Trade names’ Category

Ditto ditto my song

November 17, 2023

A serenade on my Apple Music in the dark night of 10/13, Danny Kaye singing Gilbert & Sullivan patter songs, with warmth rather than the sharp edges of the D’Oyly Carte patter specialists; at my 2 am whizz break, he had arrived at the Lord Chancellor’s “Nightmare Song”, from G&S’s Iolanthe, with its concluding:

the night has been long —
ditto ditto my song —
and thank goodness
they’re both of them over!

Being (more or less relentlessly) a linguist, I asked myself, not for the first time: What kind of word is ditto? It looks a lot like some kind of adverb here, with the crucial line paraphrasable as (awkward) thus thus my song, or (better) also also my song, or (even better) so too my song. (Although you might argue that ditto‘s a special kind of noun, since it’s paraphrasable as the same.) And, while we’re on the subject: Where on earth does it come from? I entertained speculations about some connection to double, maybe Greek di– ‘two’, or possibly to dot, given ditto marks.

My etymological speculations are provably off-base; the closest English words are diction and dictate, from the Latin stem dict– ‘say’. Meanwhile, my off-the-cuff part-of-speech assignment is flatly contradicted by the authority I look at first, NOAD (a lexicographically respectable dictionary of manageable size, and — unlike AHD or the M-W dictionaries — one accessible directly from my browser). NOAD is based on the resources of the OED, and the OED (which I can access on-line) on ditto classifies the word as a noun — but in an entry from well over a century ago, so we need to look critically at its evidence for this classification. Which shows that in the 18th century the word was incontestably a noun (with a plural dittoes). That usage, however, is long dead. The question is what to say about modern usage, and there my adverb idea has a lot going for it (and is also the classification given in Merriam-Webster’s word history for modern ditto).

So we’re in for a bumpy ride, much like the Lord Chancellor’s, with possibly more questions than answers. Hang on.



August 15, 2023

Provoked by the Merriam-Webster site‘s “Words We’re Watching: ‘Nibling’: An efficient word for your sibling’s kids”: some reflections on the portmanteauing that gives rise to nibling ‘niece or nephew, sibling’s child’; on “having a word for X in language L”; and on neologism and its discontents.

First, the fun. There’s a book for kids, and there’s a t-shirt for kids, too.


Donut burgers by another name

August 14, 2023

In response to my “DONUT BURGER” posting yesterday, Kyle Wohlmut wrote on Facebook:

Isn’t that “just” a Lutherburger? (with a Wikipedia link)

Well, screw you, Snark Boy; if I’d known about Lutherburgers / Luther Burgers I would have posted about them, so your slagging me for not mentioning them is just gratuitous assholery. I think you need a humongous sticky donut burger stuffed up your raggedy butt.

The Wikipedia article does make it clear that the donut burger has spread much further than I’d realized in my posting — something I’d contemplated there. But I had no idea …

So here’s all the stuff from Wikipedia (where I learned that, whew, Martin Luther had nothing to do with Luther Burgers; who could possibly want a burger designed by a humorless, pleasure-wary, fiercely dedicated Protestant reformer?). We don’t need the pictures, though; no one needs more pictures of, omigod, bacon cheeseburgers crammed between two glazed donuts.


The commonification of Magic Shell

August 10, 2023

A comment from Bill Stewart this morning on my posting from yesterday, “The states of matter: coconut X”, with reference to the third of the  (temperature-sensitive) states of coconut X considered there: not the free-flowing oil nor the spreadable semi-solid fat / cream, but a firm solid:

You remind me that I can take advantage of this unwanted by you hardening to make our own Magic Shell. Not that we need the ice cream anyway, or even the decadent indulgence of Magic Shell, which we’ll impose upon our grandson.

What caught my eye was the treatment of Magic Shell, obviously a proper noun (and a brand name), as a common noun (and a generic name): you can make your own.

But then I had to face up to the hard truth that I was utterly ignorant of what (commercial) Magic Shell or (homemade) magic shell might be. From Bill’s context, some sort of killer dessert, with coconut X as an ingredient.

So, the first order of business was to learn about Magic Shell. Then some recipes for making your own stuff. Then some comments about the generification / genericization of brand names, and the commonification (my term) of proper nouns.


You put it in your mouth and suck on it

August 2, 2023

Another chapter in the annals of phallicity. From Owen Campbell on Facebook yesterday:

(#1) Owen sucking on an Otter Pop

Owen’s comment:

At my job, teenagers deliver freezies [AZ: freezies ‘Otter Pops’]

otter pops (often no longer understood as a brand name) are also known as freeze pops or ice pops; freezies might be a regional term, but I’ve been unable to get information about it in any of the likely lexicographic sources: the OED, GDoS, and DARE. For what it’s worth, Owen’s in Winnipeg MB.

Now, two things: about Otter Pops; and (very briefly) about Owen.


The Belgian beer glass

July 1, 2023

More backlog, this time from Ernesto Cuba posting from Toronto on May 27, with this glass he was served beer in at the Prenup Pub there:

A beer glass from the Delirium Taproom in Brussels, Belgium; note the pink elephants

From my 5/27/23 posting “Puer mingens at the Prenup Pub”, about the pissing boy statue there:

the pissing boy is a replica of the famous Manneken Pis statue in Brussels, Belgium, and the Prenup Pub specializes in Belgian and German beers and food, so the statue fits right in at the pub, even though the pub’s in Toronto (ca. 6100 km or 3800 mi from Brussels, across the Atlantic).

So: not just the Manneken Pis statue replicating the Brussels original, but also the actual glassware from the Delirium Taproom there.

Thai Tanic restaurants

March 2, 2023

From the annals of goofy commercial names, in this case a Thai restaurant name that seems to be intended to project both playfulness — the name is a pun — and power, as in the model for the pun, the adjective titanic ‘of exceptional strength, size, or power’ (NOAD). Thai food that will blow you away.

What makes it goofy is the unfortunate echo of the proper noun Titanic; from NOAD:

a British passenger liner, the largest ship in the world when it was built and supposedly unsinkable, that struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic on its maiden voyage in April 1912 and sank with the loss of 1,490 lives.

I was made aware of the restaurant name by a Susan Fischer Facebook posting yesterday; she was passing on, from others on the net, this restaurant image:

(#1) Not identified in its net appearances, but this is a real Thai restaurant, not a piece of digital art or photoshopping: Thai Tanic at 1326 14th St NW, Washington DC (near Logan Circle)

Commenter on this image, someone who got the ship echo: This restaurant is going down.


Bizarro orientations

February 12, 2023

Two Bizarro cartoons from 2021, touching on questions of sexual orientation:

(#1) A Piraro Bizarro from 11/7/21: imperfect pun on sexual (orientation): sectional, as in sectional furniture ‘furniture made in sections’ — combined with a (perfect) pun on orientation ‘the relative physical position or direction of something’ (NOAD) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are, wow, 12 in this strip — see this Page.)

#1 raises the question of how labile sexual orientation might be: easily changed, like the arrangement of furniture in a room, just a matter of style, fashion, or whim; or more enduring and resistant to change.


(#2) A Wayno / Piraro Bizarro from 12/2/21:  a complex (but perfect) pun,  turning primarily on turn on ‘start, cause to operate’ vs. ‘arouse (sexually)’, but secondarily involving connection in both electrical and emotional senses (Dan Piraro says there are 5 of his symbols in this strip)

#2 is also a joke about visual pornography: the artwork depicts a 9v female connector, so it appeals to the 9v battery, but not to an AA battery, which needs a different sort of connective hardware.

Then there are the brand names: Enervator, a play on the brand name Energizer; and Zap, possibly a play on the Energizer MAX family of alkaline batteries, more likely just the vivid verb zap used for lightning strikes and the like.

Finally, #2 evokes two senses of hard-wired: in computers, ‘permanent, inalterable’; in behavior, ‘inborn, instinctive’. (The connecting idea is that what’s built-in can’t be changed.)


Team X

January 28, 2023

The Zippy strip of 7/27/22:

(#1) At the Pig ‘N Whistle Diner in Brighton MA, immersed in the Team X snowclonelet

Two things here: the Team X snowclonelet; and Pig ‘N Whistle as the name of an eating establishment. Let’s dive right in with Team X, and look at Pig ‘N Whistle afterwards.


Dotty Zippy

November 16, 2022

The Zippy strip of 9/10, in which our Pinhead, anticipating little balls of flash-frozen ice cream, embraces dot dot dot in two ways at once:

(#1) Ellipsis dots meet Dippin’ Dots at the carnival

Two very different uses of NOAD‘s noun dot-1 ‘a small round mark or spot’ (dot-2 is an archaic noun referring to a dowry):