20 August 2007

Déjà Pun

Not only did the bottle of water I bought at SFO on my way home last week tend to leak liberally all over my bag (not ideal when you write in your Moleskine in fountain pen) but it's label offended my linguistic sensibilities in at least two ways:

1. I might be a child of marketing/branding but even if I weren't "deja blue" [sic] is a terrible, terrible pun, even leaving aside the fact that water contained isn't blue (just the leaky lid and bottle).

2. Accents are generally not used on upper case letters in French.

3. Even if they were, the accents would at least be added consistently; i.e. on both the E and the A or on neither but not on the A without the E. The accent on the é in déjà signifies that the word is pronounced [day-zha] not [duh-zha].

Much as it pains me, I suppose that 2 and 3 are more forgiveable than 1; ad-(wo)men can't really be faulted for their lack of knowledge of French (though it's really not very hard to find out the correct spelling) but they should be faulted for employing a terrible pun as a brand name.

I was less irritated by an advert I saw in San Francisco for Tsingtao Beer, which was also linguistically notable and plays heavily on the idea of brand identity. Of course, if you're like me and can't read Chinese but tend to notice only the text of the advert and then want to look up the brand subsequently, you end up having to Google "Chinese beer" to find out the name of the brand. Apparently, the snowclone "Ask for X by name" hasn't caught on yet. I would have struggled in a bar, though: "Hey, I'd like a....um, well, it's Chinese and had a really cool billboard up in Chinatown... I don't actually know its name as I can't read Chinese, though."

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