Over the last few weeks, I’ve been in contact with a good friend from my Inchbald Design School days. We have been organizing a trip to meet up with friends in London. While planning our itinerary, we’ve spent time stitching together memories of trips we took together in the years after school. Distance and time have left us with bits and pieces of memories, drop-kicked and scattered throughout the stories we share. It has been fun to knit together long chains of past reality, and recall how much fun it was to come upon the unexpected when we traveled. One of the favorite memories we share is from a day we spent in picturesque Rye, where the streets are steep and the cobbles treacherous. But our most vivid memory is from the drive into town. We followed a little white box truck zipping along the lower coast road. In old fashion lettering it read MR KIPLING’S EXCEEDINGLY GOOD CAKES! We followed it round and around the round-about while we tried to find something to write on in order to memorialize the name for future reference. What a brilliant name for a baking company. And what a great memory from a wonderful trip.

Of course, the napkin with the name scrawled across it is long gone, and my memories from that trip being suspect after all this time, I had to do a bit of research.  We both clearly recalled the Exceedingly Good Cakes part of the name, but for some reason Rudyard didn’t feel correct as the first part. However, the internet is a wonderful source for almost everything, and typing in Exceedingly Good Cakes yields a Wikipedia page about Mr. Kipling and his cakes. It turns out the brand has been a staple in British stores for over 75 years. And the signage is pretty much unchanged after all this time. Amazing!

While reading about Mr. Kipling’s success, I began to wonder about the obscure brand names given to new products or companies in today’s Dot Com world. At some point we seem to have abandon all descriptive nomenclature and now deal with meaningless initials and nonsense. ABC, CBS, IBM, NBC, NPR, and PBS, all of them at one time were descriptive of their purpose. Now they are only letters. And the whole streaming alphabet is beyond me. HULU? MAX? FUBU? FX? Should I care? My new bank is M&T … do you suppose it actually stands for Money and Time wasted? Oh no, I guess not, as then it would have to be M&TW. Hartford Hospital is HHC, Customer Value Stores are CVS, and when I go to have bloodwork done at Quest, I question what the name has to do with the Knights of the Round table. Perhaps because they too draw blood on the battlefield.

And just as the cyber world is obscure and irrational to those of us beyond a certain age, I suppose it is only appropriate Google is a made-up nonsense word. As for the others, Chrome, Bing, Yahoo, or the ever-popular DuckDuck, I despair.  Seriously, save me from the clever nerd-words! What does iMac really mean after all with its pretentious little i before each product? And why Microsoft rather than Bill Gate’s Exceedingly Clever Computer? Would it have made a difference to his success? Is it any wonder we can’t remember all the passwords we need to remember, when the location where we need to use them remains a moving mosh-pit of never-ending obscurity.

Amidst all this alphabet soup and cyber goulash, I am amazed when I come across a business name that is actually descriptive. They are still out there, some of them. Mostly they are older brands that have not felt the need to reinvent themselves. Foodstuffs have remained pretty constant. Bush’s Baked Beans, Gold Metal Flour, Oscar Meyer Wieners, Levy’s Jewish Rye, ironically Thomas’s English Muffins, and Martin’s Potato Bread have been around for ages. But the more recent When Pigs Fly Bread Company falls into the nonsensical category. The bread is great, but the name is a hard sell. So, kudos to Mr. Kipling who may no longer actually make his exceedingly good cakes, but was brilliant at selling them. And about those little white delivery trucks. Who Knows? Maybe when we travel later on this year, we might catch sight of one delivering fresh teacakes along with new memories.


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