Take the Man’s Name

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for some years.  When we first moved to Canada, we laughed at the number of companies that called themselves “Mister” so-and-so.  I spend a lot of time thinking about what people call themselves; for librarians, it’s practically a sport.  As immigrants, it was striking how many businesses followed this very odd pattern.

Odd because we were familiar with the Acmes and the AA Services, who were trying to move up the ranks by goosing their phone book listings.  And because using “Mister” as a business name has a very 1950s feel to it.  Like Mr. Clean.  Or Mr. Christie, a Canadian cookie company bought by Nabisco.  And, in these inclusive times, a gendered feel that seems out of step on the part of people building a brand.

My favorite was that, in Mr. Sub, you could buy a cup of Mrs. Soup.  But there doesn’t seem to be any broad adoption of Mrs. services as far as I can see.  The all-time family favorite, after “Mister Safety Shoes” was “Mister Janitorial Supplies”.  They’re certainly descriptive and oddly specific but every time I see one, I think about how odd they are.  And I’ve never visited or used any of their services.

There’s no real point to this post other than to make that observation.

I care about names (like people being called what they want to be called) although I don’t have the same hang up about titles (job or otherwise).  The companies using “Mister” make me wonder whether they’ve tapped into something memorable or just chosen an easy option in solving their branding.  And, like librarians, at some point will they need to consider renaming and realigning with what they do or are perceived to do.

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