Douchebags and Schiit: How do they get away with it?

When Nancy Friedman, who writes about sweary brand names for Strong Language, discovered a California audio-equipment company called Schiit and a Norwegian travel-bag company called Douchebags, she couldn’t keep the story to herself. She emailed trademark lawyer Anne Gilson LaLonde, who’s written for Strong Language about “scandalous” and “offensive” marks, and asked: WTF? What follows is their online conversation, condensed and edited for clarity. Style note: We’re following the convention in trademark law to use all capital letters for trademarks. When referring to the business itself, we capitalize only the first letter of the name.

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Sweary masks

The current occupant of the White House excepted, just about everyone these days acknowledges that protective masks—or “face masks,” as they’re sometimes called, as though we might confuse them with elbow masks—are here to stay for as long as COVID-19 is uncontained, or maybe forever. (In California, where I live, they’re required attire outside the home when physical distancing isn’t possible.)

Rather than see masks as an annoyance, why not regard them as an opportunity for self-expression? Fortunately, many crafty merchants appear to know exactly the sort of self-expression we Strong Languagers prefer.

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Sweary links #26

Once upon a time, dear StrongLangers, we made a promise to keep you regularly updated with interesting sweary tidbits from the Wide World of Web. We kept that promise until we didn’t. It has been, we note with embarrassment, more than 30 months since we posted Sweary Links #25. Well, we’re going to atone for that lapse right now. Not with 30 months of links: are you fucking kidding? Baby steps. Here’s what caught our attention over the last month or so. To stay up to date, follow us on Twitter.

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Swearing in the time of coronavirus

We’re staying inside, we’re social-distancing (or, more accurately, physical-distancing), we’re washing our hands over and over, we’re inventing new corona-words, we’re choosing new email signoffs (adieu to “Cheers!”; bonjour to “Be well”).

And here in the virtual Strong Language enclave, we’re thinking about illness-inspired swearing.

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“You and Me LFG”

Senator Elizabeth Warren, the planful Massachusetts Democrat, is not the presidential candidate who comes to mind when one thinks of political potty-mouths. (See Ben Zimmer’s 2019 Tucker Awards for examples of public swearing from Beto O’Rourke and Tim Ryan, who are no longer in the race, and from Donald J. Trump, who for the time being is.) So it was a bit of a surprise when Warren’s campaign adopted “LFG” as an unofficial campaign slogan and began selling “You and Me LFG” merchandise.

The back of the shirt says “Warren 46”—as in 46th US president.

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