Thursday, August 19, 2010

Y Not?

The Young Men’s Christian Association, commonly known as the Y.M.C.A., has let it be known that henceforth it wishes to be called simply “The Y.”  Irrespective of the fact that most people already refer to it that way, this re-branding fails to take into account several contraindications.  In New York especially, “the Y” more often than not refers to the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, specifically the one on 92nd Street, which has already beaten the Christians in the abbreviated name game by calling itself simply “92Y.”

Then there’s the matter of women.  “Y” could also mean the Young Women’s Christian Association or the Young Women’s Hebrew Association.  But maybe the Young Men think they have a chromosomal claim to the “Y.”

Finally, there’s the problem of the Village People’s song “Y.M.C.A.”  Change it to “Y” and you’re going to be short three syllables, and a melisma can carry you only so far.

The Y’s decision reflects a trend toward shorter and shorter commercial names.  It probably started with IBM, which does not like to be called International Business Machines any more, or with KLM, which realized early in the game that it wouldn’t attract many English-speaking passengers as Koninklije Luchtvaart Maatschappij.  Nowadays the single letter “E,” embellished with an exclamation point, is a television network, “V” is a perfume, and versatile “W” is a hotel chain, a fashion magazine, and a former president.

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou, whose sobriquet is far too long, has decided to join the trend.

            YMCA is now the Y,
            The Entertainment Network’s E!
            Someone, somewhere, is surely π,
            And Valentino’s perfume’s V.
            If Bush is W, then I
            Think it’s O.K. if I am B.

1 comment:

  1. This reminds me of the recent stir caused by GM management when they asked employees not to use the nickname for Chevrolet, at least in the global market. There are a number of songs with "Chevy" in them, but I am still trying to make the substitution work for one of my favorites.
    "Bye Bye Miss American Pie,
    Drove my Chevrolet to the levrolet,
    But the levrolet was dry..."