Oh My Fuckin God, I am dying.
Surely this guy has one Scottish friend who should have told him? pic.twitter.com/9A9wO8kynF
— iRoy, still spreading SHYTE (@Roy_Isserlis) April 19, 2018
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?
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 post, shite 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.