SHYTE storm

 

Let’s get one thing out of the way: Kevin Richards, the Canadian chocolatier who founded SHYTE Chocolate in May 2017, is in on the joke.

Yes, he created a backronym for the company name: “Seriously Helps You To Energize.” (Seriously?) But, as he told the (Canadian) National Post, in an interview published April 20, his choice was intentional:

I was talking to this woman who was doing some marketing stuff for other companies and I said, “I’m having a hard time. I want to call it C4.” We both agreed C4 was too scientific sounding and I said “I really should just name it SHYTE.” And she laughed. I said, “If we can figure out a acronym for this, I can make this work.” And she said, “Oh my god, you’re serious.” So her eyes lit up and she goes, “Let’s make this work.” So I came up with “Seriously Helps You To Energize” — because it does. And I just started thinking, “Eat SHYTE.” How fun is that?

 

Way fun.

Besides, Richards has a bit of a libertarian streak, and the boundary-pushing (if not queasy-making) name suited him just fine. He told the Huffington Post (Canada) that he’s “sick of ‘governments and everyone [online] saying we’re offended.’ He loved the idea of ‘just telling people to eat Shyte.’”

Indeed, #EatShyte is the company’s official hashtag. The website’s About Us page is called “Know Your SHYTE.” Demonstrations and industry events are called SHYTE Shows; they’re “where the SHYTE hits the fans.”

This is an admirable level of commitment to the brand.

From a branding perspective, I’ll grant that SHYTE rises to the desired standard of distinctiveness. The gourmet-chocolate field is filled with brands that play on variations of chocolate (TCHO, Schoc, Kakao) and theobromine, an alkaloid component of the cacao plant (Theo, Broma, Theobroma). In that landscape, SHYTE stands out.

And the free PR Richards is getting? Priceless. And probably a good thing, too, given that the product sells for C$10 for a 100g bag of chocolate “bark,” putting it close to the price range of that other shit, cannabis. (Shit has been a slang term for marijuana since at least the 1940s; capital-S Shit is also the name of a commercial cannabis strain.)

SHYTE is, of course, a variation on shite that uses the Y-for-an-I substitution that’s beloved in brand-land. (I’ve devoted a Pinterest board to examples.) As Stan Carey explained here in a 2015 postshite is “often but not always a direct variant of shit in the Hiberno-English profanilect,” and is also used in Scotland, Australia, and other regional dialects; to Stan’s western-Irish ears, shite “is generally more expressive … and usually comes more naturally as an interjection.” James Joyce loved his shite, as does Roddy Doyle, the author of The Commitments (“Tha’ was a shite film, said Derek”) and Snapper (“His shoulders were at him. He felt shite. He wanted to go home”); a November 2017 essay about Doyle in the New York Review of Books is titled “All That Shite.”

The tweet I reproduced at the top of this post prompted a raft of replies, some of which pointed out other scatological, or scatological-seeming, brand names: Krap, a slushy drink sold in Iceland, simply means slush in Icelandic; Jobbie nut butter, sold in Malaysia, evokes snickers in Scotland, where jobbie means shit. (I can only imagine the jokes about Jobbio, an online jobs marketplace headquartered in Dublin. Plenty of shitty job listings?)

My quick-and-dirty name review: For those who know what it means and who crave some edginess with their chocolate fix, SHYTE may appeal; the quirky spelling and pronunciation make it slightly more playful than, say, short-vowel SHYT, and thus more … well, palatable. In the U.S., I’d bet that the name will be meaningless — an empty vessel — to many customers. The bigger drawback of the SHYTE name, as I see it, is that it gives no hint of the product’s purported benefit: the infusion with “100% New Zealand Whey Protein Isolate (micro-filtered & grass-fed, NOT grain-fed).”

Has anyone eaten SHYTE? Speaking only for myself, I’ll wait until the company develops a new flavor, SHYTE and onions, or offers the perfectly appropriate brand extension: fudge.

_

Thanks to Strong Language contributor Iva Cheung for the Twitter link that originally piqued my interest.

5 thoughts on “SHYTE storm

  1. Patrick Collins April 22, 2018 / 4:32 pm

    A tiny correction. The alkaloid theobromine is named after the botanical name for the genus of chocolate Theobroma, derived from the old Greek θεός god + βρώμά food. So those brand names almost certainly came from the generic name rather than the alkaloid. In modern Greek βρώμά appears to mean “stink”.

    The family of plants that cocoa is in used to be called Sterculiaceae after the Roman god of the manure heap Sterculius. This is probably due to the shitty smell of many of the flowers of the genus Sterculia such as Sterculia foetida. Unfortunately the advances in DNA analysis have inclined botanists to put cocoa with many other plants in the boringly-named Malvaceae, the mallow family. Though they are still in the Sterculioideae.

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    • Nancy Friedman April 22, 2018 / 8:56 pm

      Thanks for the correction, Patrick! The Romans really did have gods for everything, didn’t they?

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  2. Patrick Collins April 22, 2018 / 4:50 pm

    Does the Whey All-Natural Concentrate come from a Protein-producing Herd Untainted by Cereal? Is it presented in a Chocolate Universal Nutrition Tablet?

    As a vegan I can’t attest to it but I have read that some people get terrible digestive upsets from whey protein. Pea protein is more widely tolerated.

    So the vegan alternative could be Protein Extra Enhancement Sweet?

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  3. Stephan Zielinski (@szielins) May 3, 2018 / 6:24 pm

    Re: “. . . C$10 for a 100g bag of chocolate “bark,” putting it close to the price range of that other shit, cannabis.”: cannabis is running maybe $7.58 – $18.08 per gram. Cannabis at US$11.71 / g versus SHYTE at US$7.80 / 100 g is thus about a factor of a hundred and fifty more expensive.

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  4. Victor Pulver June 20, 2018 / 6:37 am

    I did some consulting in Finland starting around 1977. We were going to a restaurant for lunch one day and passed an automotive store which had a bottles of “Super Piss” (windshield washer fluid) n the window. I stifled a laugh and then felt I had to explain to my hosts that in English that would be somewhat rude. They told me that it was also rude in Finnish. I Googled it just now, and one site, http://marketingshmarketing.net/post/121512671921/11-brand-names-that-sound-really-wrong-in-foreign, said that it was perfectly ok in Finnish, since pissapoika is the Finnish name for the windshield washer jets. EXCEPT – my rudimentary knowledge of Finnish told me that “poika” is “boy”, so I Googled the term. And the etymology of pissapoika is pissa (“pee”) + poika (“boy”)

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