There’s an old expression, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” It’s often attributed to P.T. Barnum, but there’s no proof that he ever said it. A more interesting way of stating it was very definitely Oscar Wilde’s: “(T)here is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about,” which appears in the first chapter of The Picture of Dorian Gray.
A better version of the saying (because it has two interpretations) has been attested to about 1931 and that version is “No publicity is bad publicity.” One reading is that all publicity is good, and there’s no such thing as bad publicity because the important part is getting your name out there. The other reading is that not having any publicity is bad because it doesn’t get your name out there.
It’s the same thing Wilde said, mostly, just in a more American, less eloquent way. But that brings us to the subject of this article: Really unfortunate product names. They could be bad publicity by turning people off and making them ignore them. Or they could be good publicity by making people take notice and decide, “Hell, I’ll buy that just because the name is so bad.”
Now, I’m not going to be including things like products with names that are not dirty in their native tongue but sound nasty to English speakers, so don’t look for Finland’s Megapussi, which is just their term for “big bag” that they slap on a lot of different brands of potato chips.
I’m also not including the infamous penisland.com website because it’s obviously a parody, and not an unfortunate choice by the company Pen Island. Although why no one started a business with two of those letters moved to the left is beyond me. That place would make a fortune.
Also excluded: Cock Flavored Soup, because I think that it might be a leg-pull by GraceKennedy designed to lead to all kinds of immature humor. While the product is legit — the company exists and is Caribbean — I can’t find any reference to this being a legitimate Jamaican dish, and Cock Flavored Soup doesn’t have any cock in it. There never was, unless the chef got sketchy in the kitchen. Still, if Jamaican Cock Soup does exist, I bet that it goes great with a little Jamaican jerk seasoning.
But, without further ado, here are five product names that could have taken another pass through the marketing committee.
- From Greece, welcome to Vergina Beer. As if that’s not bad enough, it’s the name of the city in Greece it comes from, and compound that with that city’s Vergina Beach hotel. All right, technically it’s one of those words that’s not dirty in its native Greek, but it was too good to pass up. I mean, just think of all the awkward conversations, especially in a British accent.
“So what did you do all summer, chap?”
“Oh, I stayed in Vergina.”
“Lucky bastard… I was stuck in Manchester the whole time.”
- Actually courtesy of Britain, be sure to stick some spotted dick in your mouth. It’s not a brand name, but the name is bad enough. Basically, it’s a “pudding” with currants and other fruits and veggies in it, and these are what give it its spots. I put “pudding” in quotes because what they call pudding in Britain is what Americans would think of as a really awful hybrid of failed French toast and a stale muffin slammed into a mold (or mould) and then dried out enough to be, well, British cuisine. Basically, if the only thing you taste isn’t egg and stale bread, it’s not really pudding over there.
- What should you get once you’ve had your spotted dick? A Wunder Boner might be in order. Note, though, it’s not a new brand name for sildenafil or tadalafil, which are the generics for Viagra and Cialis. Ironically, while a Wunder Boner sounds like it would give one wood, it sort of does the opposite, and it will allegedly make your fish limp in two seconds, or one quick motion of your hand.
- From the land down under, probably the appropriate place to use this, we get Wack Off insect repellent. Okay, to be charitable, maybe they were referring to the action of whacking insects off of one’s self. But probably not. Remember, Australia is also the home of Golden Gaytime ice cream, but I’m not going to call that one unfortunately named because, honestly, it sounds like fun.
- The most heinous one, though, is probably the newest. What do you get when you cross a brownie with a donut? Sane minds would have come up with the donie, but oh, no. This one had to go in the worst possible direction, and so behold the Bronut. I can only imagine the conversations this one starts.
“Bro, I’m Chase. What can I get you?”
“I’d like half a dozen bronuts, please.”
“Cool, okay. Chad, Brent, Kyle, get out here.”
“Six bronuts, three dudes, right?”
“Um, no. I meant the… that pastry thing. The one you’ve been advertising everywhere?”
“Bro, these guys are pretty pasty. I mean, could they be any whiter?”
“Bronuts, bro. Like it says here, look at the picture, hell, look at the article on my phone. These ones even have Pop Rocks in them— “
“Heh heh heh. Pop rocks.”
“Dude. Bronuts. Brownie, donut. Do you have any of those?”
“Oh. Oh, sorry. You want the shop across the street, man.”
“Oh, right, got it. Sorry. Sorry, my bad. Hey. What do you sell here, anyway?”
“Chad, Brent, and Kyle.”
“Ah. How late are you open?”
“Great. Maybe I’ll come back… Chase.” (Pause) “No homo.”
“We’ll be here. Ten bronuts, then?”
“If I find someone to bring back, let’s make it a dozen.”
(They fistbump. Customer exits. Fade out. THE END.)
Then again, maybe the people who named these things knew exactly what they were doing. After all, I’m writing about them now, and a lot of them show up in searches for “Worst product names.”‘ It might be genius.