What's in a name? Plenty
By Janet Eldred
I have a sense of humour -- appreciate the double entendre, the suggestive
remark, and (mildly) dirty jokes. And, my ancestry is Anglo-Saxon, famed for its blunt,
descriptive vocabulary for parts of the anatomy and bodily functions. Despite this, I
have a problem with the names of certain products, services, and events. I'm referring to the
crass, vulgar, laddish names of certain pubs, beers, and beer festivals.
Case in point. July's What's Brewing ran an advert from the Great British
Beer Club (GBBC) picturing six different beers available from the club. Each label shows the
name of the beer and an illustration of a related animal, such as a menacing octopus on "Octopus
Soup" and a tiger with gleaming fangs on "Tigers Teeth". The animal shown on "Deep Throat" is
an ostrich, and had they stopped there I would have said the beer's name was a bit sly, but
Unfortunately, the description below the picture reads, "A 'Linda Lovelace'
of a beer a sensuous golden ale (4.2%), that will slip down the deepest throat". Putting aside
the fact that the text misidentifies Ms Lovelace's role in the 1970s film, this overt association
with a sexual act performed on men indicates to me that neither the GBBC nor the brewer is
interested in female customers for this particular product. (Perhaps they feel that they have
already shown more class than Steam Packet, which, according to the 1997 Good Beer Guide,
produces a beer called, "Blow Job".) It also calls into question CAMRA's judgement in
running the ad.
While I'm not the first person to comment on offensive names that alienate
potential customers, I recognise that humour is hard to define and often very personal, and that
offensiveness isn't always easy to gauge. Still, if a company truly wants to avoid offense, it
can be done. I call on breweries, pub owners, and pub management to exert extra effort, and
money, on creativity. They can certainly come up with clever, witty, original names for their
products and festivals that would be memorable, and thereby attract more customers. And after all,
isn't that their goal?
I also realise that the world of beer is not always a politically correct
one, and that overly sensitive types are well advised to don thick skins. But, we're talking
about a multi-billion pound industry here, not a collection of 20-year-old men at a college
party. The hard, cold fact is that a large proportion of beer drinkers and pub-goers are women (and the
men who care about them) and that these customers vote with their feet and their purse. It's
time the industry supported its statements about wanting to attract women and families as
customers and cleaned up its act on all fronts.
©Janet B. Eldred 1997