watching the wheels

I got this idea at Column Shanty's

By Wayne Wood

We are moving into the holiday gift giving season, when visions of sugarplums dance in our heads, provided our eyes are open and our heads are looking up at the Traditional Holiday Special showing on the Brobdingnagian large-screen HDTV currently dominating the den like Michael Jackson used to dominate MTV.
Around Christmas retailers are always trying to entice you into their stores with snappy commercials and rare bargains. I am, of course, puzzled. When my mind ranges across the world of retail, I am left many questions about the names some businesses have selected for their stores. Well, one question, mainly: when you guys chose this name, were you drunk?
For example, Radio Shack. I understand that they really don’t sell that many radios any more, but that’s not a real naming fiasco, that’s just the passage of time changing the nature of the business. But why shack? Why was it considered a good idea to emblazon the business with one of the lowest insults that a human can hurl at a building? When you look at a structure and say, “This place is a shack,” it is not a compliment.
Maybe “Dismal Radio Hovel” was already taken.
So, here’s another retail-oriented question. What woman would want
—actually want—to wear a garment purchased at an establishment called “Dress Barn?”
A barn has hay and cows and farm implements. It has connotations of manure and dirt and early morning chores. It has no connection with style, elegance, femininity or anything else that I would think a potential purchaser of a dress would find desirable. You don’t see men flocking to buy clothes at some joint called Suit Silo.
There is another chain store for women’s clothes called Fashion Bug, which I can only assume they chose after eliminating the equally alluring Fashion Rodent and Fashion Arachnid.
Pizza Hut may be questionable, but I kind-of get it. “Hut” is another name for a small dwelling, but it doesn’t seem to have the obviously negative connotations as “shack” and “barn.” Maybe the name was supposed to call up images of a small, friendly gathering place. I’m OK with “hut.” But there is a naming convention in restaurants that I find distracting and annoying: naming places by making random nouns possessive.
Here’s what I’m talking about. Say your name is Joe, and you open a restaurant. It would be a natural thing to name the place Joe’s. Nothing wrong with that. Say your name is Joe Smith and you call your restaurant Smith’s. Nothing wrong with that, either. The apostrophe and “s” at the end of the name signals possession. It’s a way of indicating that this is your restaurant.
The most popular restaurant chain in the world was named this way. In the 1950s, brothers Mac and Dick McDonald called their place in San Bernardino, Calif., after their name. (And when time came for the company to name their signature sandwich, they picked Mac’s name to go on it. Go figure.)
Anyway, somewhere the idea came along that restaurant names could keep the apostrophe and “s”, but the noun that precedes it would not be the owner’s name, or really any name at all, but simply some random noun.
This is how we’ve ended up with restaurants named Chili’s, Domino’s and TGI Friday’s—possessives attached to things that are clearly not names.
Some businesses have found a middle ground—they use the possessive with a name, it just happens to be a fictitious name. While I seriously doubt that there is a Logan somewhere in background of the Logan’s Roadhouse division of the corporate entity known as the CBRL Group, I do give them credit for at least using the possessive with a real name, not a random noun. Similarly, despite the fact that, in the Rolling Stones song “Ruby Tuesday,” Ruby was a person, I doubt that, given her standing as a fictitious character, she was involved in the founding of the fern bar chain.
Still, I think it should be a rule that you can’t name a business with a possessive unless somebody by that name is actually involved in the business. If you are going to name the place after Logan, show me Logan. This follows a great tradition in retailing: the founder of Penney’s was actually named James Cash Penney, the founder of Westinghouse was George Westinghouse, the founder of Ford was Henry Ford and the founder of Chevrolet was Louis Chevrolet. See a pattern here?
This is clearly not a huge problem, such as, say, global warming—if it were, Al Gore would have a movie out called “An Inconvenient Apostrophe”—but somehow I am bothered by this way more than I probably should be. Maybe I’ll calm down and meet some friends later at TGI Friday’s..

(Wood is editor of House Organ, Director of Publications for VUMC, and author of Watching the Wheels: Cheap Irony, Righetous Indignation, and Semi-Enlighted Opinion, which is a collection of past columns.)


December 2006


VUMC 101
It’s historical. It’s hysterical.
It’s weird. A quick read on the institutional memory of the Medical Center.

Children's Art
Cards and tags are available to brighten up the holidays and support Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Still time for flu shots

by Wayne Wood

Flu season is coming, and the staff at the Occupational Health Clinic (OHC) is urging staff and faculty to get the potentially life-saving immunization.
Vaccines are provided by Vanderbilt free of charge to all staff, faculty, volunteers and second- and third- year medical students. Nursing students and first- and second-year medical students also may get free vaccines, as can other students, at the Student Health Clinic.
Vaccines are available at the Occupational Health Clinic, 640 Medical Arts Building. The clinic hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. A Vanderbilt ID is required for everybody getting a flu shot.
And while the flu shot is a good idea for everybody, health care workers are especially targeted for immunizations because sick care partners, physicians or nurses also put patients at risk.
“It’s not just for you; it’s for your patients,” said Melanie Swift, M.D., medical director of the Occupational Health Clinic. “You are contagious before you even know you’re sick.”
“We want to encourage all health care workers to get the vaccine,” said Valerie Thayer, R.N., who heads up Vanderbilt’s flu vaccine program. “The CDC, along with other national organizations, strongly recommends that health care workers get flu shots. Health care workers sometimes forget that influenza can be a life threatening illness to their patients.”
Despite that push, nationally, only 36 percent of all health care workers get flu shots, Swift said. Vanderbilt’s high point in participation was 54 percent, reached in 2003, a year of early availability and ample vaccine supply. Last year, it was 45 percent overall for health care workers, with M.D.s having the highest vaccine rate at 51 percent. R.N.s had a rate of 45 percent, while care partners had 37 percent.
“We would like to see nurses and care partners have participation rates at least as high as that of physicians,” Swift said.
Information on the vaccines is available at the the OHC Web site:

Vanderbilt Medical Center | Eskind Main | Eskind Digital Library | VUMC Search | VUMC Help | VU
Copyright © 2003, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Editorial tool created by the Eskind Biomedical Library Web Team © 2002