Archives for posts with tag: alphanumeric

…three if by iceberg.

I recently read a food-writing classic on the stories and history behind nine of the world’s most common foods. Want to know more about corn, salt, butter, chicken, rice, lettuce, olive oil, lemon juice or ice cream? Thanks to Margaret Visser, you can…in her 1986 Much Depends on Dinner. Each chapter is either a dish or garnish; in their totality, they make for a meal and some full-course reading.

I enjoyed learning how Iceberg lettuce landed its name. The miniature bowling ball-sized “heads” we now know as such were originally called Imperial, from the namesake California valley in which they (and other hybrids) were first concocted by R&D labs set on turning out lettuce to compete against the then popular New York varietal.

Lettuce was and is subject to militant-sounding perishability. According to Visser, these include brown blight, downy mildew, cabbage loopers, fleabeetles, thrips and armyworms (none of which I’d like to share my sleeping bag with). Add to those hazards the “field-to-table” distance factor that brings on rotting in transit and wilting while waiting, and you can see that “Imperial” was not combat-ready for the war on spoilage. As well, given that this research was taking place from the late 1920’s to the 1940’s, nor was the name (even with its alphanumeric versions) culturally suitable to a relatively young, heavily first-generation, immigrant nation.

What to do? Reach back to another American variety (a red-tinged leaf) called Iceberg that had initially been dismissed for its lack of commercial value. Nothing like repurposing an underutilized verbal asset. “Green” at its freshest, creative best. The name stuck like a wet tongue on a wintry metal pole.


Saw this ad/coupon for I guess what is a new orange juice beverage. It made me think that I had not seen too much alphanumeric food/drink naming. My curiosity took me on reconnaissance, where I made some interesting finds:

100% Grape
100 Grand
3 Musketeers
5th Season
8th Continent
Basic 4
Ezekiel 4:9
Fruit 66
Nabisco 100cal
Product 19

And then the almost alphanumeric:

Eight O’Clock Coffee
Ichiban (mean “#1” or “first” in Japanese)

You can see images of some of these at

I like the use of alphanumerics in names if they are sufficiently merited. It can help when you must work within the sometimes narrow confines of packaging.

Back to the tropics and this brand. The name works for me. From a visual perspective, the round characters give you a sense that this will be filling… fulfilling not fattening. (You would not get the same effect if the drink were called, say, Trop42.) The “op50” — or 67% of the name — visually does that, which is interesting since normally the vowels “a,” “o” and “u,” as they are formed more towards the front or middle of the mouth, linguistically sound symbolize largeness or robustness or in the case of food, rich and caloric. Since the “50” aligns with offering you 50% less sugar and calories, this is good suggestive messaging. I also like the closeness of “trop” to the “drop.” A drop of something is small, appropriately sufficient. “Trop —” like “drop” —sounds quick and mobile, suggesting you can indulge without it costing you too much time or effort.

I was curious as to whether or not the naming was driven by the desire to secure a .com domain name. I don’t know Tropicana’s naming strategy as it relates to domains, but sure enough, the drink has its own:

I’m not crazy about the pseudo diacritical “leaf” over the “0” in 50. I know it is a nod to the “dotted i leaf” in the master brand name (which, by the way, waves at you on their site), but it detracts more than it adds. And more so on the packaging, since the “accent” bumps up to the horizontal “Tropicana.” The purpose of diacritics (cedillas, accent marks, tildes, umlauts, etc.) is to set apart or distinguish; such marks indicate a different phonetic value. This leaf is not phonetic; it is phony.

On a lighter note, something that came to mind (don’t ask me how)…a “rock steady” cheer:

Trop 50,
Trop 50 ifty ifty,
Shake your bottle, get ready.
Drink on up, yeah.
And drink up. Hmm!

Louder now!

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