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Jewish World Review Dec. 3, 2001 / 18 Kislev, 5762

Lenore Skenazy

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Consumer Reports

Altria Is Really Smokin' -- FROM prunes to pork to Puff Daddy himself, American icons are changing their names faster than you can say "Verizon."

Why? Good old-fashioned fun. And desperation.

The old names carried too much baggage. For instance, calling pork "pork" conjured up the image of porky porkers. But calling it "the other white meat" conjures up images of healthful, low-fat chicken.

With hooves.

Battling an identity problem of its own, the Prune Board recently rechristened its prunish-looking prunes "dried plums." And after his brush with the law, Puff Daddy started calling himself P. Diddy, a name so silly, you'd probably never associate it with a guy once accused of sneaking a gun into a crowded disco, firing it, fleeing the scene and subsequently trying to bribe his driver to take the rap. Right?

Anyway, now comes the biggest name change of all. After 150 years of proudly purveying emphysema and early death, cigarette giant Philip Morris has decided, for some reason, to start calling itself Altria. As in altruism + sangria. What's not to like?

Assuming this moniker modification trend can only continue, may we suggest a few more name changes where they are most needed?

Liver: Immediately conjures up a slab of slack, shiny organ meat associated with onions, cirrhosis and dismal family meals. Possible new names: Revil (liver spelled backward), paté fixin's, "The other fun organ."

The Department of Motor Vehicles: Usually invokes long lines, bored clerks, blackmail quality photos. Other possibilities: The Place for License Lovers, Lines R Us, Spa DMV.

American Airlines: Linked in the public mind to terrorism, crashes, unsatisfying "bistro snacks." Suggested new names/slogans: "F&F Airways - Forgive & Forget," "American Airlines: Safe for the past week!"

Barney: Mere mention of said dinosaur sends parents fleeing the room, finger down throat. Potential alternatives: Blarney (to capture the Irish market), Bernie (the Jewish market), Barney Noble (subliminally attracts the book-buying, cappuccino-sipping market).

Rats: Often identified with filth, gnawing, plague, etc. Alternatives: Megamouse, Squirrel with a Fade, TRFKAR (The Rodent Formerly Known As Rat).

Skyscraper: Bad press requires radical repositioning: Vertical lockbox, Tower of Power, Cloudshrouder.

Cannibals: Consider: Sapiens gourmands, humanivores, hunk-food junkies.

Sotheby's: Lingering distrust after multimillion-dollar ripoffs demands homier appellation(s): Snob Shack, Masterpiece Depot, Baubles, Botticelli & Beyond.

Osama Bin Laden: Name virtually synonymous with murder, caves, beard. Needs softening: Osamalama Ding Dong, Sammy the Laden-meister, Where's Waldosama?

JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, New York Daily News