In my work as a name developer I’ve yet to encounter a client who’s amused by riffs on swear words. But not all companies are taboo-averse, as I learned when I began looking into the uses of motherfucker in brand names.
OK, not literal motherfucker. (Not yet, anyway.) But close soundalikes? All over the motherfucking place. It turns out that a bunch of people in charge of brand naming have independently concluded that rhyming bowdlerizations of the mother of all taboo words are novel and distinctive and high-fucking-larious. Sometimes they’re right.
Let’s start with an old (indeed, obsolete) example: Mother Tucker’s Food Experience, a Canadian restaurant chain founded in the 1970s. (The trademark was originally registered in 1975.) The company may, as an old newspaper ad avers, have been named for a real mother, surname Tucker, who lived and cooked on an “early homestead located in the eastern part of the province [Ontario].” Regardless, I have it on good authority* that several generations of customers gleefully contorted the name into “Mother Fucker’s Rude Experience.” Around 2001 the company threw Mother from the train and changed its name to Tucker’s Marketplace.
But Mother Tucker lives on in other corners of the branding universe. There’s a Mother Tucker’s eatery and sports bar in Greensboro, North Carolina; Mother Tucker’s toffee (named for the founder’s great-grandmother, but still); and–my favorite–Mother Tucker “compression garments.”
“Don’t nip it or suck it, simply Mother Tuck-It.”
“Mother Tucker” has also been the name of two network sitcom episodes. One aired during Season 2 of “Modern Family” (it featured Barb Tucker, mother of Cameron); the other aired during Season 5 of “Family Guy” (Peter’s mother gets a divorce and dates Tom Tucker).**
F and P are similar in appearance and are, phonetically, a minimal pair (close enough in sound to be confused by some people). Thus, inevitably, we have Sexy Mother Pucker lip plumper (“a fun, fresh, fearless, fantastic British beauty brand”); Mother Pucker ale (Keegan Ales, Kingston, New York); another Mother-Pucker ale (Twin Peaks, Port Angeles, Washington); Aspen Mother Puckers, a girls’ and women’s hockey league in Aspen, Colorado, that recently celebrated its 40th anniversary; and “Crazy” Mother Pucker’s Hot Sauce (manufactured by Fudpucker Trading Company).
Crazy Mother Pucker’s Liquid Lava: “It’ll Pucker Your Pecker!”
* James Harbeck, co-founder of Strong Language.
** The American playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis gave his 2011 play the title The Motherfucker With the Hat. In promotions and reviews it was censored as The Mother… With the Hat or The Motherf**ker With the Hat, or even, in the Wall Street Journal, The Motherf**cker With the Hat, which translates, I guess, to “motherfuccker.” The Audible recording of the play uses a visual icon to blot out the u and the c in motherfucker.