Friday, November 18, 2011

The worst (worst, worst) product name EVER

(OK, if you don't believe me about the product described below, I've seen them. They made my jaw drop. I saw them in a drug store, so I assumed they were for medicinal use only.  I didn't buy any (didn't think I could chew them) and forgot about it until I saw this article by Campbell Webster, which kind of says it all. The post-script is an ad for a related product which is probably just about as palatable.)

Last week, a bag of cookies caught me by surprise. This may seem unusual, especially considering the location was a Charlottetown grocery box store, where the most startling sight might be someone you haven't seen in a while, and you would prefer to keep it that way. Large grocery stores have been planned with the accuracy of a large-scale military invasion: their layout is designed to comfort and entice, lulling you into overconsumption. Shock is not the goal.

Still, not all plans are perfect, proof positive being the huge bags of cookies for sale, under the brand name, 'Bowel Buddy'. As you may have guessed, the Bowel Buddy cookie brand is particularly high in fibre, and therefore promises to keep your bowel moving at a pretty good clip. (An unusual need, it seems, at least taken from my three-month-old son's viewpoint, who needs no such buddy at any time of day or night).

(Editor's note. Notice subtitle: "Snack on the GO and get regular!" Yum.)

What is startling about the Bowel Buddy is that we usually don't name our foods after their last stop in our bodies; sewage being something that in many ways is the anti-thesis of food. Even more amazing is that somebody had to come up with this name, or perhaps a few people, on salary no less, delivering this brand name to the market. It stimulates the imagination, this stimulating cookie, as to how the cookie company settled on a name which is the marriage of friendship with an excrement organ.

"Marketing! Get in here! We've got a heck of a new cookie! It'll clean you out faster than a truckload of raisin bran. Need a name by Monday!"

And so the naming process may have begun, begging the question: What names finished out of the top spot? Rectal Recess? Anal Allies? Sphincter Sojourn? And did somebody shout, "Eureka!" or "Bingo - Bowel Buddy!" when the winning name for the cleaning cookie was declared?

Health claims for foods is, of course, a heated battlefield, with aisle after aisle of packaged foods screaming their benefits to your longevity, energy levels etc. Accordingly, the pursuit of your dollar can be as much about the name and the claim of the food as it is about the food itself. As a result, truth is constantly endangered with amazing product claims like Campbell's Soup products claiming to have "25 per cent less sodium". This is an accurate statement, except that it is still a very high amount of sodium, and might as well say, "25 per cent less sodium . . . than the Dead Sea."

Government regulatory bodies attempt to assist us by forcing manufacturers to be accurate in their naming strategies, leading to products such as 'grated cheese flavoured product' and 'real juice-flavoured beverage' (i.e. no cheese or juice is involved in either product.) Painfully awkward descriptions such as these no doubt sends cookie companies and other food manufacturers to break the mold, and come up with branding like the Bowel Buddy, which just seems ridiculous, and even likely to repel consumers.

Or will it? I bought two bags.

Campbell Webster is a writer and producer of entertainment events. He can be reached at

Whinny Wafer
Homemade Horse Cookies
Making homemade horse cookies, with no preservatives, or any of those items we can't pronounce

All cookies will be cooked and ready to mail to your location
Taking bulk orders as well.

You seem fine to me

I don't know when I first heard this thing, but it was probably when I was six years old and fell down in the playground and banged my knee so hard I could barely walk. Trying not to cry, I walked as normally as I could into the nurse's office. The nurse was smoking a cigarette and flipping through movie magazines.

"Whatsammater, sweetheart?" she wheezed. I almost fell through my facade of control at the "sweetheart", for no one had ever used a term of endearment on me

“I uh. . . I uh. . .” I held up the knee in question. It wasn’t bloody or bruised, or at least wouldn’t turn black-and-blue until the next day.

Then came the words I would hear for the rest of my existence.

“You seem fine to me.”

She didn’t send me home or even put on a bandaid, but pushed me back out into the playground. I walked normally until I hit the door, then staggered and limped ‘til the end of the day. Then my mother looked at me and said,

“Why didn’t you ask go to home? When are you going to learn?”

That was the first of many.

I won’t list them all because I’d be here all day. Doctor, I feel like I’m sinking into a depression. A close look, narrowed eyes, then the verdict.

“You seem fine to me.”

Doctor, I have this excruciating abdominal pain that won’t go away. It’s over here in the –

“You seem fine to me.”

I have this thing, have always had it, and I have had it so long and practiced it so well that I don’t even know I’m doing it. The mask comes up, a cool, blank mask like Mr. Sardonicus, with God-knows-what distress and anguish lurking behind it.

How did this happen? Oh, guess.

I had a friend once, and he died. The friendship lasted about three months, until he was no longer able to put a coherent sentence together. We would get together at Starbucks – both of us were wrangling problems so massive, I can’t even begin to outline them here.

“Well, Margaret, I went to the doctor yesterday. Know what he said?”

“I just can’t guess.”

“He said – “

“Don’t tell me - let me guess - "


“Yes!” Then we would both dissolve in howls of laughter – or maybe they were just howls.

“What do they expect you to do, anyway? Stagger in there like the Hunchback of Notre Dame?”

“Yes, except that they’d probably accuse you of malingering.”

Peter’s telescoping of that awful refrain into a set of initials started something. YSFTM began to take on a significance far greater than LOL, WTF, OMG, or, for that matter, SNAFU or LSMFT (hint: it has something to do with cigarettes).

So if I have a disappointment and my mood drops into my shoes, and I meet somebody who has known me for years and years, this is what I hear:


It even happened at the gastroenterologist’s (is that how it’s spelled?) who was supposed to do a bunch of x-rays of my insides. I told her I was having heart symptoms – or, at least, that’s how I interpreted the crushing pain in my chest, numbness in my left arm and thundering, unstable heartbeat I was experiencing several times a day. (My doctor claimed I had an irritated esophagus.)

She looked me up and down. She sort of turned me this way and that. She almost patted my cheek.

Then she said it.


Whenever I see those programs on TV about Your Health, they say that women having even the mildest heart symptoms should rush to their doctors immediately. OK, probably they’ll be able to do it without feeling like a total idiot because they don’t have the smooth white waxy Mr. Sardonicus mask that automatically ascends to cover me when I am in any kind of distress.

You may say, well then, just remove the mask. It’s like saying just remove every fingernail at the cuticle. Go on, just do it.

And that’s another one – perhaps I should save this for another post – the “just” syndrome. Just get over it. Just stop thinking about it. Just pull yourself together, just snap out of it.

This is allied with an even worse one, said in an edgy, judgemental tone:

“Can’t you just. . .”

Can’t you just, for God’s sake, stop wasting my time when it’s obvious that nothing is wrong with you except self-absorption?

Can’t you just do the most obvious thing to help yourself, like take a walk? (when I’ve been walking an hour a day for 25 years).

Can’t you just count your blessings instead of sheep?

There’s nothing I can do about this. It’s a defense built when I was maybe two or three years old and first discovered that I was not in a hospitable environment and never would be.

I had to hide myself, from myself. And thus I fooled the world. But there were exceptions: the time I burst into tears in the specialist’s office and was given one of those mild downers that women used to eat like candy. And then marks on my chart indicating empty histrionics.

“It’s not that I’m calling you a malingerer,” one doctor said. Oh, no, not at all. But who brought the subject up, me or you? It’s about as helpful and supportive as “Not that I think you’re ugly.” Then defending it with, “I was only trying to help you! Constructive criticism, you know.  You’re a writer, you’ve had lots of rejections, I thought you’d be used to it by now.”

Besides, they weren’t really saying it, were they?

I wonder if this is just a continuation of yesterday’s “mood”. But I have wanted to write about YSFTM for a long time now. I guess I’m not supposed to reveal myself as being this vulnerable.

Or this invincible.