Friday, February 15, 2008

Midwest versus East Coast: Naming Conventions.

Those who know me bemoan my frequent outbursts of culture shock. I’m not talking about inane pop v. soda dithering, but the cold smack of stark realization—the East Coast is Different. The Thai restaurant on the corner is open on Thanksgiving. Where I am from, it’s impolite to ask how much you pay for housing. Manicures are really cheap. I digress…

In the Midwest, our “cutesy” names cluster around two areas of commerce: dairy and gas. In Iowa, we might frequent the “Dari Barn” for milkshakes, or the “Kum and Go” for unleaded. It’s true, branding can be hokey in general, but Central time seems to relish “olde” “cheez” and “lite” a degree further than either coast.

The East Coast has its own versions, and those are bagels and futons. Here chewy carbs and spoiled posture translate to vile iterations of the English tongue.

On my way to my first Brooklyn apartment from LaGuardia, I noticed a particularly dreary “World of Futons” next to the BQE, shortly thereafter purchased my own futon from “Futonland” and on my new commute to New Jersey I pass the “Futon Express.” In the Midwest we don’t compromise on relaxation—hence the ‘luxe’ l-shaped couches. Who knew the East Coast clamored so for discomfort? It’s hard to imagine demand being so high, especially with the cheery name that mocks the product. Something about the “pep” doesn’t compute.

Bizarrely, a similar strain runs through bagel retail.

When I was working on a campaign in New Jersey, we recommended that the candidates—I kid you not—do meet and greets on the bagel circuit. I begrudgingly suggested the following route:
• Bagelword
• The Bagelry
• Once Upon a Bagel
• Hole Lot of Bagels (grimace)
• Bagelicious
• Bagels and Cream
• Bagel Talk
Linguistically, bagels have the flexibility of Nickelodeon Gak. Is it because they are the edible version of a toy? Do bagels need to corner the market with their respective “personalities”?

Yes the wordplay is irritating, but I also find the items they modify an odd selection. I’ll be on the lookout for industries that make too much precious, and examining what they have in common. At least these avoid the stomach-churning effect of the Christian coffee shop –“Higher Grounds.”

2 comments:

Brian said...

Higher Grounds is good. Right now, I live down the street from a place called True Grounds. It's not run by God, as far as I can tell -- unless you consider vegans, lesbians and hipsters god.

Now that I think about it, the coffee is really good.

Paul said...

Found your blog through StumbleUpon and the Grapple post - I just wanted to comment, if you haven't seen it, on a Chinese restaurant chain "Wok and Roll".