Thursday, January 10, 2008

Inappropriate Sigmas

One of my pet peeves, long before I started studying Greek, has been the use of the capital letter sigma, &Sigma, to represent an "E" when trying to "cleverly" spell things in various logos, t-shirts, or bumper stickers (think "GRΣΣK WΣΣK" or "I'm a member of SΣΧ", both of which I have observed, and both of which compound the issue by combining non-Greek Latin characters with inappropriately-used Greek ones).

Well, I just saw what, to date, is the most atrocious use of this technique, in an ad (shamefully, over at Phi Beta Cons, who ought to know better) for cheapbooks dot com (whose URL I steadfastly refuse to reproduce here for fear of accidentally steering some traffic their way). The offense? "CΗΣΛΡβΘΘΚ".

Now, "C" and "S" are both Latin characters, but each of the rest may be represented as Greek letters, which I assume they were trying to do. Thus, one may, presumably, direct their web-browsers to for all your... ceslr-bththking needs? However it is supposed to be pronounced, even the Wee One, a month shy of her second birthday, has considerably better diction.

Oh, and not to belabor the point, but they actually hit the "Linguistic Infraction" trifecta, in that, amidst all those other capital letters they used the lower-case &beta rather than the upper-case &Beta, again presumably to accomplish that "Greek Look" -- or should I say, "GRΣΣΚ ΓΘΘΚ"?

As a final note, I am now placing "Innapropriate Sigmas" up there alongside "Süperflüoüs Ümlaüts" on my list of potential band names, should I ever decide to become a rock star.



Anonymous Marty said...

You are a geek in so many languages, Ben. Actually, I think that Cheap Books was trying to incorporate several alphabets into their ad. The ß is not a beta but a German sharfes-S, which can never occur at the beginning of a word. They knew of your aversion to umlauts, so put in the ß for sz. And the "H" is actually the Cyrillic "H", representing our "N". And the "S" is actually their best cut at representing the Thai ร, or "ro ruea", which makes a kind of "N" sound at the end of a word. Thus, you are actually being drawn to a site called

Don't go there.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

You start drinking as soon as you get home, don't you? Don't be ashamed -- embrace the drunkard!

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Marty said...

No. I usually relax over a big bowl of Häagen-Dazs.

8:35 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Nice attempt to work in an umlaut. Did you know that that particular brand of ice cream was invented by an American, who made up the words to "sound European"? True story. Sorta shattered a lot of preconceived notions on my part when I learned that.

8:42 AM  
Anonymous Marty said...

Yes, I knew that. There was, for a time in the 80s, a competitor to Häagen-Dazs that tried to cash in on the same idea. It went by the quasi-Swedish name "Frusen Glädjé", which, without the acute accent, actually means "frozen joy" in Swedish. The company made a much bigger attempt to fake people out, putting a map of Sweden on the container. It was produced at a Dairy Lea plant in the US. The brand no longer exists.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

It figures that you're an ice-cream geek too, on top of everything else.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Marty said...

How could one not be, living in this town with the PSU Creamery and Meyer Dairy. I don't like most of the super-premium national brands. Too sweet. Not a fan of Häagen-Dazs. Ben and Jerry's is overpriced and not that good. A very good, low priced brand, and I'm not sure it's national, is Turkey Hill.

9:54 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Astute observation -- both Meyer Dairy and The Creamery offer superior products to anything one could buy at a grocery store, although I find Meyer Dairy to be a touch too rich to enjoy more than once in a while. And you're right that Turkey Hill isn't a national brand, although it IS the best store-bought stuff 'round here. Back in the Pacific NW, Tillamook reigned supreme, but Turkey Hill is a reasonable substitute.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Marty said...

I don't think I ever tried. A lot of people still miss it (search down the comments). You're probably too young to remember this commercial.

10:48 AM  
Anonymous Marty said...

My bad again on the comment. I meant "I don't think I ever tried Frusen Glädjé."

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


When I created the CheapBooks logo, I did so knowing that the Greek letters do not in fact directly translate into laitn letters. I however did not know that it was unethical, offensive, or illegal to do so.

Dav1d T1b3r10

3:17 PM  

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