Word Maven Patricia T. O’Conner's Brand New

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Our word maven, Patricia T. O’Conner, talks about the word "brand" and the ways it's evolved. She’ll also answer questions about language and grammar. An updated and expanded third edition of O’Conner’s book, Woe is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English, is available in paperback, as is  Origins of the Specious, written with Stewart Kellerman.

If you have a question about language and grammar, leave a comment or call us at 212-433-9692!


Patricia T. O'Conner

Comments [35]


This segment was bearable only because I kept looking forward to mispronunciations and misunderstandings BY the 'word maven'. What a joke.

Jan. 13 2014 08:31 PM
brian from midtown

from Dickens's Christmas Carol:

"...he instantly began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home, exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish."

Dec. 12 2013 10:48 AM
Patriot from 1776

matt from brooklyn - Americans see a negative connotations because they learned around the time of the Revolution that British "schemes" were to the colonists' detriment.
After 80 years of dumbing down by public education, the Americans fell for another Bank of England type scheme in the form of the Federal Reserve Act.
But "scheme" kept its American negative connotation.
The clever English also drew negative opinions about British schemes. See Gilbert & Sullivan: "It's a scheme of devices..." from "The Dream" of "Iolanthe".

Nov. 21 2013 02:53 AM
Chris Garvey

zoester re: tow head - Because she thought her son was being called toe-headed, I'm not sure the dictionary would have helped her.

Nov. 21 2013 01:33 AM

I always like it when Patricia T. O'Conner is on, but you WNYC listeners who think so highly of yourselves need to buy dictionaries. "I was discussing with my friends what 'towheaded' means. We came up with some wacky ideas that I thought I'd share on the radio." Seriously? If you can't invest in a dictionary, how about the Google? And if one more person calls in complaining about the use of adverbs that don't end in -ly--again without consulting a dictionary--I'm going to throw the radio out the window. Again, I love these segments, but maybe the screeners could to do a better job. I guess it's what makes it entertaining--people are kind of dumb--but most questions could be easily resolved by a dictionary.

Nov. 20 2013 11:00 PM
Jen in Jersey from summit

The first time I ever heard "brand" in reference to an individual was Martha Stewart. At the time, I was an art student studying graphic design. I thought then how perfect the use of that term was to explain how her lifestyle and taste has become an entire multimedia empire.

Nov. 20 2013 05:09 PM
art525 from park Slope

WHen I worked in advertising we used a magnifying lens called a loupe to look at photos. Any chance that it has a common origin with loop and loophole as you described. Probably not since it has a different spelling.

Nov. 20 2013 04:12 PM
matt from brooklyn

the word "optics" has taken on new life as an alternative to "visuals" of an event. As in, the optics of that play were really great.

Nov. 20 2013 02:07 PM
Hilary from Brooklyn

I agree with the caller who points out that people are using "more x" instead of comparative word forms, even those with the easy-to-form "-er" or "-est" endings, and have really noticed this growing in the last few years. I am hearing it all the time on WNYC and NPR; one of WNYC's spots refers to something being "more pure." I wonder if it's on the rise because people are uncertain whether the plain -er is appropriate -- maybe they want to say someone is stupider than another, but are suddenly unsure whether that's the correct form, and don't want to sound stupid...

Nov. 20 2013 02:07 PM
art525 from Park Slope

I was in an art supply store in Portland Maine where they were selling a brand of paint called Brooklyn. It was not made in Brooklyn and doesn't seem to be sold in Brooklyn and is actually made by another paint company. It is indeed a trendy word. Amazing.

Nov. 20 2013 01:59 PM
judy from nyc

Many people use "entitled" to mean that a person feels that something which they haven't earned is owed to them.

Nov. 20 2013 01:57 PM
art525 from Park Slope

@truth from Becky- Many of us find the use of the word brand in this way pretentious, annoying and really warn out. Another thing I personally find pretentious, annoying and really warn out is sticking the word much on the end of a thought- ie. "Jealous much."

"I'm just sayin' ".

Nov. 20 2013 01:53 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

By using "Brand" instead of image, the adviser can command a higher fee.

All part of the ongoing and growing trend of self-inflation and self-aggrandizement.

Nov. 20 2013 01:52 PM
Chris Garvey from Nolte & Hunter, in Roslyn

Tow - Flax
The process of heckling involves pulling the flax through several different sized heckling combs (or hackles),[3] progressing from coarser combs with only a few prongs or nails per inch, to finer combs with more nails per inch. Generally around three heckling combs are used, although many more can be used. The finer the final heckling comb, the finer the yarn spun from that flax can be. An example of a progression of five combs is first using a heckling comb with 4 nails per square inch, then one with 12 per inch, then 25, next 48, and finally 80 nails per inch. The first three remove the straw, and the last two split and polish the fibers. The finer, shorter fibers that come off in the last hackles is called tow. Tow can be carded like wool and spun, or spun like the other flax fibers. Tow produces a coarser yarn than the fibers pulled through the heckles because it will still have some straw in it. While this yarn is not suitable for fine linens, it can be used for bagging, rough sheets, cords or ropes.[2]

Nov. 20 2013 01:51 PM
David from Montclair

The term "brand" is business and marketing argot. It has always been used to coincide the essence of the product and the name. The term has entered general use and now you are just discovering it. It nevertheless has validity in marketing plans.

Nov. 20 2013 01:47 PM

At a recent symposium of new entrepreneurs in Brooklyn, they spoke of the increased viability of promoting their products because the Brooklyn brand is now recognized both nationally and worldwide.

Nov. 20 2013 01:46 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Tobi, Louis Vuitton & Calvin Klein are the names of companies as well as people. I wouldn't apply "brand" to the names of the people.

Nov. 20 2013 01:46 PM

As a branding consultant for companies I would agree with Patricia about the overuse of the term brand especially as it relates to celebrities. The legitimate extension of a corporate brand is that it now also embraces a desirable and identifiable set of social behaviors and communications by employees, customers and other stakeholders.

Nov. 20 2013 01:46 PM
The Truth from Becky

"Brand" is perfectly acceptable for celebrities selling products with their name on it...stop with the hateration! How about THAT or a word?!!

Nov. 20 2013 01:44 PM
Chris Garvey from Roslyn, Nolte & Hunter

As a trademark Attorney, I'm glad that people are aware of the value of the good will associated with their names and reputations, services, performances, works, etc.
The Word Maven Patricia T. O’Conner's Brand causes me to keep listening to this show.
I have even attached secondary meaning to the song "3 Little Words".

Nov. 20 2013 01:42 PM
Amy from Manhattan

There's a reference in Zechariah to someone as "a brand plucked from the fire."

Nov. 20 2013 01:40 PM
amy from Bergen County

And then there's Russell Brand......

Nov. 20 2013 01:38 PM
Zach from Brooklyn

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West both have clothing BRANDs.

Nov. 20 2013 01:37 PM
matt from brooklyn

I have always wanted to know why the word a"scheme" has a very negative meaning in american english and in the UK, etc. it is a rather innocuous term, pretty much meaning "plan". Here there is something devious behind a scheme. I the UK you buy and insurance "scheme" or the government offers a new scheme to deal with an issue. When, why, how did this divergence happen.


Nov. 20 2013 01:37 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I haven't heard people talking about *being* a brand but about *having* one--it's usually used w/the possessive.

Nov. 20 2013 01:37 PM
Emily from Queens

At retail stores now, instead of saying "next customer" they say "following guest" when calling the next person in line to the register. It sounds off to me. Is it incorrect?
Thank you!

Nov. 20 2013 01:36 PM
art525 from Park Slope

I am with you on the word brand. It is one of those words that is fashionable or trendy in the worst sense, annoying and very overused. A word I hear on NPR way to often that I find really annoying is unpack in trying to analyze some story. Drill down too. Brian Lehrer is very guilty of this.

Nov. 20 2013 01:35 PM
Tobi from Brooklyn

Is Louis Vuitton a brand? Is Calvin Klein a brand? If so, then why aren't Beyonce and Oprah brands? They have products they sell just like Louis...

Nov. 20 2013 01:35 PM
Joe from nearby

Patricia's brand totally rocks!

Nov. 20 2013 01:33 PM
Brian from Brooklyn, NY

Thank you! This infuriates me. Brands are corporate concoctions to make products seem like people. Now people themselves are being made into products! That people are beginning to refer to themselves as brands seems to be bad consciousness at its most quintessential.

Nov. 20 2013 01:33 PM
The Truth from Becky

Jealous much?

Nov. 20 2013 01:33 PM
Katherine from Brooklyn, NY

Why do historians use the present tense when discussing persons and events in the past? This makes me a little crazy. And what makes me even crazier, is that they often switch back and forth between present and past tense! I say, use one or the other, but preferably the past tense.

Nov. 20 2013 01:32 PM
Gary from Port Washington, NY

The prior guest, Victoria Loustalot, described herself as a "goodie two shoes," where did that term emanate from?

Nov. 20 2013 01:24 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

One who is considered an EXpert, is exPERT in his (or her) work.

Nov. 20 2013 09:58 AM
Mark from Mount Vernon

In high school I learned that a person can be an EX-pert, but ex-PERT in his field. When I've mentioned to this to friends, they've never heard ex-PERT.

Nov. 20 2013 08:13 AM

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