Puke

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Barbara Wei told me about a kind of broad / lima bean crisps called "Only Puke."

When I tried to find out more about this unappetizing snack, I learned that it was featured earlier this year in a weblog post by that eminent linguist, Dave Barry ("Yum", 5/20/2010), following up on an article in the Daily Mail ("Fine Foods from Abroad", 5/20/2010). A bit later, Only Puke was the lead item in  an impressive catalogue of other bizarre product names  at the British web site Anorak News ("The World's Worst Product Names, Presented By Only Puke Chips", 6/21/2010):

We now continue your look at nominative determinism in consumer goods with some more Sexy Foods and products. You will learn that Terror comes in a variety of flavours, an OAP tastes better in sauce, older boys love Oily Boy, Puke is served in bags and a Double Cock is a Keeper.

Looking into the matter further, I learned that an anorak is "a person, usually male, who has a very strong interest, perhaps obsessive, in niche subjects".

The best known explanation of the term, is the use of anoraks (a type of rain jacket) by train spotters, a prototype group for interest in detailed trivia.

Although the term is often used synonymously with geek, it suggests a greater degree of social awkwardness, isolation, and obsessiveness, and may be associated by some with Asperger's Syndrome. The Japanese term otaku, or the American term, "fanboy", are probably closer synonyms.

Anorak News ("reads the tabloids so you don't have to") seems to challenge the boundaries of this stereotype, but the cited product-names post certainly gives evidence of a strong commitment to systematic exploration of what may fairly be considered to be a niche topic.

Only Puke (served with beer) leads the pack, followed by Ades (fruit juice drink), Terror (fruit juice drink), Poke-A-Bone (a game), Double Cock Keeper (seems to be a cup holder), kockt-up (soda), Fugu (puff cracker), Pou Pee (artificial fingernails), Pschitt (soda water), Fukang (a kind of health potion), Aftertaste Perfume, Oily Boy (Magazine for Elder Boys), Senior — in sauce, Ass.Hommos, Good Father Chinese Cooking Wine for Cocking Purpose, TRIP (strawberry drink), Pork Joy (Leather Gloves for Professionals), Albino Cola, Kranky (chocolate), Sainsbury's for Home — set of three mendong storage boxes, Arse (fancy wine from 2004), Gory Pizza, Sauce & Toss, Crack Free (seems to be a stiffener for collars), Instant Sex — Fruits & Vegetables (logo is a rooster), Tasty Diabetics (chocolates), Ghana Best SHITO Hot (some kind of dark sauce), Grace Instant Noodle Soup COCK Flavor, Creap (Creamy Powder), For Your Sweet Debut  RainbowPark  Shoe Cream Bar   For Dreamy Girls, Noisy — Le Beurre Gourmand, Tinkle — Women's Shaver, Pocari Sweat [VHM:  this is one of the most popular drinks in Japan and elsewhere in East Asia], Squeezee Wonder Wiener — Slides, Slips, Slithers — Try to Hold It, Placenta — Herbal Beauty Soap.



35 Comments

  1. Scott said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 6:48 am

    Fanboy does not work as a synonym; it's associated with pop culture – cultish, yes, but still in mainstream media (comic books, TV shows, films). An anorak, on the other hand, operates outside these recognized forms of entertainment.

    I would define a comic book fanboy as someone who, for example, knows the character history of The Flash; an anorak, on the other hand, would be able to tell you how much a 1973 copy of The Flash would sell for in the Stockholm collectors' market.

  2. marie-lucie said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 8:14 am

    "Pschitt" and "Noisy: le Beurre Gourmand" are fine in French. The first (starting with a cluster – not "p-shitt") is onomatopeic: Perrier, a mineral water with bubbles, used to be advertised as "L'eau qui fait pschitt", and "faire pschitt" is still used both for the sound of, for instance, a vitamin or calcium tablet releasing bubbles as it dissolves in water, and as a metaphor for the effect of a new and startling event. "Noisy" (nwazi) is the name of at three small towns in Ile-de-France (the area around Paris) (Noisy-le-Grand, Noisy-le-Roi and Noisy-le-Sec).

  3. Leonardo Boiko said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 9:06 am

    Here in Brazil Ades soy juice is particularly pun-worthy, since we pronounce both Ades and Hades exactly the same as ['a.des] (initial H is silent in Portuguese). Because of this (I suppose), TV commercials pronounce it with an un-ortographical accent ([a.'des]).

  4. Grep Agni said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 9:39 am

    Albino Cola made me laugh out loud, mostly because it is, in fact, un-colored. On the other hand, I don't understand what Fugu is doing on the list though, especially since there is a prominent puffer fish on the package. Ades doesn't bother me either, since an ade is a sweetened fruit drink at that seemed to be exactly what was in the carton.

  5. Victor Mair said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 10:32 am

    After making this post, I figured out why Only Puke is called what it is. The solution is highly philological. I've got some meetings and tons of recommendation letters to take care of today, but I'll try to turn to write a follow-up post sometime this weekend.

  6. George said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 10:52 am

    Marie-Lucie took the words right out of my fingers. There is a basic category difference between non-English product names that sound or look like English words meaning something completely different and product names which are trying to look or sound English and get it wrong.

  7. Xmun said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 10:52 am

    I remember seeing hoardings advertising Pschitt in Germany in the 1950s. Only anglophones find the name funny. As for Golden Gaytime, I've never seen it, and the style of the wrapping looks quite antiquated. According to Wikipedia, it's an Australian product and is called Cookie Crumble in New Zealand.

  8. Nicholas Waller said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 11:09 am

    When you're inside a culture you don't necessarily notice names that might cause titteration to others. Here in Somerset (in the West Country of the UK) I was recommending my favoured locally-brewed real ale Butcombe Bitter to a tourist in a pub in Cheddar. He turned out to be American, and the way he raised his eyebrows and said "Really? Butt Cum?" gave me pause for thought.

    There are plenty of "combes" in this part of the world: "a rare example of a Celtic Brythonic word adopted into Old English, cognate with Welsh Cwm meaning 'valley'", according to Wikipedia, and referring to short valleys or hollows. Pronounced "koom" when a separate word, as in Burrington Combe (where the Rev Toplady is supposed to have written the hymn Rock of Ages after sheltering in a storm), or in a name like Ilfracombe, in Butcombe the "combe" bit is more compressed, as in butk'm.

    Not far away is the village (and cave) called Wookey Hole, which can cause Star Wars fans to snort.

  9. John Cowan said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 12:08 pm

    Grep Agni: Uninstructed anglophones would tend to read Fugu as /fʌgju/ and interpret it as fugg-you.

  10. Rodger C said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 12:31 pm

    I still want to know why this snack is named after a fish that can kill you.

  11. Faldone said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

    @Rodger C.

    Because the flavor is to die for.

  12. groki said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 12:49 pm

    I got all the others, but why is "Sainsbury's for Home" on the list? what's eww / hunh-hunh about it?

  13. Clarissa at Talk to the Clouds said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 1:56 pm

    groki – I suspect it's not so much the Sainsbury's for Home brand as much as the "mendong storage boxes."

    Once I spotted a "Family Saw" for sale, which I think belongs on this list.

  14. Will said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 1:57 pm

    @Rodger, that was my first thought. And since I'm well aware of the real pronunciation, the fact that fugu can be deadly was my first reaction as to why I thought it made the bad product names list. It quickly dawned on me that this list was much too low-brow for that and then I saw the possible false pronunciation. Though even falsely pronouncing it, it's kind of a stretch. I'm going to stick with my first, incorrect reaction.

  15. marie-lucie said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 2:26 pm

    combe

    Une combe is a French word too, one of the few survivals from Gaulish, the pre-Latin Celtic language. Although it is found in general dictionaries, it seems to be particularly associated with features of the Jura region (next to Switzerland), and it is also found in French last names such as Lacombe, Delacombe or Descombes which refer to an ancestral habitat.

  16. Marc said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

    When I traveled to Japan many years ago, I was struck by Pocari Sweat. It was in the vending machines almost everywhere. I had images of vast factories with many cute, small animals running on treadmills, perspiring, to meet the sports-drink needs of a thirsty populace…

  17. naddy said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 4:14 pm

    "Only Puke" may be funny but the bag in the picture actually says Only Pukee. Am I the only one to notice this?

  18. Fluxor said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

    @naddy: I noticed that too. The last 'e' of Pukee is on clear background, thus harder to see.

  19. Victor Mair said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 5:29 pm

    @naddy & fluxor

    Bless you two! I didn't notice that either, but you've provided a key bit of evidence that will make my follow-up post (tomorrow, I hope) much easier.

  20. Nota Tirem said,

    October 8, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

    Om-Nom-Nominative determinism, indeed!

  21. maidhc said,

    October 9, 2010 @ 2:27 am

    It's not a food, but this is a favourite for tourists to bring back with them:
    http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/515750

  22. George said,

    October 9, 2010 @ 2:58 am

    Maidhc, that reminds me of a wonderfully colourful phrase once used by a friend of mine: "Twelve pints and it was Winter in the fuckin' Zagros".

  23. Adrian Bailey said,

    October 9, 2010 @ 4:51 am

    I see a suggestion on the internet that there is also a t on the clear background, so that the product is actally called Only Pukeet.

  24. Dick Margulis said,

    October 9, 2010 @ 9:12 am

    Perhaps we should forward the Only Puke[e][t?] image to a blog that focuses on package design fails.

  25. un malpaso said,

    October 9, 2010 @ 10:07 am

    Barf was sold widely in the Republic of Georgia when I was there a few years ago… In a market there, I also saw that favorite of Chinese women's stockings, the "Lousy" brand.

  26. Sir K said,

    October 9, 2010 @ 12:42 pm

    In Denmark (and other Nordic countries) you can buy liquorice & winegums in cute little boxes that bear the name "Spunk" – named after a word that the Swedish children's book character Pippi Longstocking invented.

  27. David Curry said,

    October 10, 2010 @ 1:51 am

    Then there's fanny (US) and fanny (British /Australian). See: http://adstories.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/oh-my-aching-fanny/

  28. groki said,

    October 10, 2010 @ 3:26 am

    @Clarissa at Talk to the Clouds: thanks for the elucidation. (durr, I shoulda seen that.)

    re "Family Saw": divorce court? :)

  29. panoptical said,

    October 10, 2010 @ 6:58 pm

    "Barf" is still on the market here in Georgia – to clarify, it's a laundry detergent from Iran. Apparently it is Farsi for "snow."

  30. dan bloom said,

    October 11, 2010 @ 10:28 pm

    Pocari Sweat, energy drink in Japan

  31. Janice Byer said,

    October 12, 2010 @ 9:44 am

    Nicholas, to the delight of visiting Americans. Britain appears to be a treasure trove of double entendre place names. The NY Times last year reported on the phenomenon of naughty-sounding British street names:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/23/world/europe/23crapstone.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=%22street%20names%22%20britain&st=cse

  32. marie-lucie said,

    October 12, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

    Newfoundland is also famous for its naughty-sounding place-names.

  33. Boris said,

    October 13, 2010 @ 1:31 pm

    Don't forget Pennsylvania:
    Beaverdale, PA
    Big Beaver, PA
    Bird-in-Hand, PA
    Blue Ball, PA
    Bottom, PA
    Climax, PA
    Coplay, PA
    Hellam, PA
    Intercourse, PA
    Jugtown, PA
    Lick Run, PA
    Lover, PA

  34. kevincrumbs said,

    October 15, 2010 @ 3:09 am

    Not a brand name, of course, but the British food faggots surely raises eyebrows outside of its home country. Sir K's mention of unfortunately named licorice in Denmark reminded me of the Danish energy company, DONG.

  35. Explaining Stuff « Lexicon Blog said,

    October 21, 2010 @ 7:55 pm

    […] and again will have a post particularly apropos to the naming and branding industry. For example, Puke is about products from other countries whose names mean extremely inappropriate things in English, […]

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