Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ovum for Poultry

click photo to enlarge
When, in the nineteenth century and first seventy five years or so of the twentieth century, manufacturers came to name a new product they frequently delved into Latin or Greek for their inspiration. From these ancient languages they would take a whole word, a part word or a combination of these and from them coin a new word that had a bearing on what it was that they wanted to name. Examples are many:
  • automobile - from Greek autos (self) and Latin mobilis (to move)
  • submarine - from Latin sub meaning "under" and marinus meaning "of the sea"
  • Volvo - from Latin volvere (I roll) - the parent SFK company also made ball-bearings
  • Sony - based on the Latin sonus (sound)
  • Nike - from the name of the Greek goddess of victory
  • Xerox - from xerography which uses the Greek xeros (dry) and graphos (writing)
One occasionally comes across odd hybrids such as Bovril, a British yeast extract and beef stock. This is a combination of the Latin bos (ox or cow) and vril, an invented word that comes from Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1870 novel, "The Coming Race". The Vril-ya were a superior race whose power derived from a substance called "Vril"!

Today's photograph shows an enamelled metal advertisement that probably dates from the first half of the last century. It is fixed to an old agricultural building and advertises Joseph Thorley's feed for hens. This was called, appropriately, "Ovum", from the Latin for "egg". Knowing that, what do you imagine the company called the food they sold for rabbits? Here's a clue: the Latin name for the common rabbit is Oryctolagus cuniculus. Bearing that in mind they very sensibly called their rabbit food "Rabbitum"!

These days, of course, names are plucked from the fevered imagination of a twenty something advertising or marketing executive. You want to name a bookseller? Call it Amazon. How about a bank? Goldfish or Egg will do. A telecoms company? What about Everything Everywhere, surely one of the most ludicrous formulations of recent years, or perhaps any year! Today it sometimes seems that it's a virtue to make the company name have absolutely nothing to do with the organisation that it stands for. That being the case one wonders why brand names aren't chosen by opening the dictionary at random and selecting the first noun on the page. But then again, perhaps they are.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 8.8mm (41mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.5
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On