Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Weirding Words

It doesn't really count as an abuse of the language, but there's something very strange about the way common English words are appropriated for product names. What can it possibly mean to call a car the "Echo"? Or the "Element"? Or even the "Focus"? A name like the "Voyager" makes a certain bit of sense and seems to hearken back to the practice of naming ships. But what in the world is the "Yaris"? I drive one and I don't know what the hell it is!

Hip restaurants seem to be named the same way- an indifference to the meaning of words is supposed to imply some sort of sophistication I guess. So there's probably something appetizing about eating at a place called "Canoe", but I don't know what it is. In Toronto, you can also eat at a place called "Tundra", which is supposed to indicate that they have air conditioning, I suppose. In Chicago, you can eat at a place called "Chalkboard", which makes my mouth dry. In Los Angeles, you can eat at "Cicada", although I have no idea if they serve insects. In San Francisco, you can eat at "Brick" and in Baltimore, you can eat at the "Bicycle". Basic English nouns are very popular.

I don't think the weird branding of common words is much of a threat to the language. I can't see the word "echo" taking on a new meaning, or someone getting confused when I say that I'd like to buy a bicycle. Most of these names just seem silly to me. And I guess there have always been those who thought it was clever to give words new meanings...

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

`The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master -- that's all.'

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