ZYTARUK: What’s in a name? Plenty, it would seem

Think about it. What would you be more likely to buy, a product called Mommy's Yummy Soup, or one called Big Factory Soup?

Brand branding versus calling it like it is


So let it be written…


How I yearn for the good old days, as I tip probably too much Mother Parker’s coffee whitener into my mug.

I’m old enough to remember milk being delivered to our door in thick glass bottles by a guy in a funny hat who drove an even funnier looking van. I think back then the product was just called milk, and man, was it good.

I’m in a rare mood. I turned 50 last week and have therefore earned my crotchety wings. What’s got me harrumphing today — that’s what happens sometimes, I’m learning, after you’ve sprouted crotchety wings — is how words and phrases from the Era of the Old and Quaint, aka, “my time,” are being re-purposed today to describe things that are clearly not from the Era of the Old and Quaint, but rather from the Mindless Junkscape of the Here-and-Now.

Take, for example, how a land developer might raze an entire forest to the ground, slap up a 9,027-unit townhouse complex in its stead, plant a sprig of bracken somewhere on site, and then name the whole unholy mess something like Sweet Garden of Eden with Lush Leafy Trees Estates.

Or something like that.

Did a sweet elderly mum named Mother Parker lovingly prepare that coffee whitener, with a pinch of dipotassium phosphate, a tender sprinkle of hexametaphosphate,  and a kiss  of silicon dioxide?

I sincerely doubt it, unless Mother Parker is the head chemist, or maybe CEO, of some huge company somewhere.

Cozy sells, I guess.

Aunt Jemima’s buttermilk pancakes?

That’s the Quaker Oats Company of Chicago. Dad’s Rootbeer? Hedding Brands, LLC, of Jasper Indiana.

Uncle Ben’s Rice? Mars Food North America of McLean, Virginia. Grandma’s Molasses? B&G Foods, Inc., of Parsippany, New Jersey.


It’s true some of these brand names were already a raging success long before young Tommy’s eyes were glued to Sesame Street as he rocked his teeter horse. But, I wonder, to what extent is the proven longevity of these products owing to their comforting labels?

Think about it. What would you be more likely to buy, a product called Mommy’s Yummy Soup, or one called Big Factory Soup?


Speaking of soup, another thing I’ve noticed while growing longer in the tooth is that while the grocery stores of today are so much larger than those of decades past, the cans on their shelves are so very much smaller. In the spirit of truth in advertising, they really should be called canettes, you know.

People are funny. We like some of our products to be zippy, space age, chrome and futuristic, but we apparently also like our food to be prepared to the specifications of some supposed magical scratch recipe harkening back to simpler times and days of yore.

I wonder if the same concept applied hundreds or even thousands of years ago. I wonder if

in ancient Egypt they sold products with names like “Mummy’s Ye Olde Fashioned Embalming Linens.” The label would be in hieroglyphics, of course.

Would the discerning ancient Egyptian consumer from, say, the Tenth Dynasty of 2,160 to 2025 B.C. prefer his or her mummy linens to be prepared old school like they did back in the good old days of the Fourth Dynasty circa 2,613 to 2,494 B.C. (?)

You know, back in simpler, better times when craftsmanship really counted.

Would he or she be more inclined to buy a pot of crocodile soup if it was Mama Nile’s brand?

I think probably. That said, I imagine they’d also like their chariot to be the most technologically advanced, shiniest ride on the market. There’s irony there.

I guess some things never change.


So let it be done.

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