Monday, July 17, 2006

How Do You Spell Pretentious?

Like Brenda Spencer, I don't like Mondays (or rainy days, for that matter, as they always get me down) and as a result it's my designated day to be crabby and vent my rage against things that annoy me. Like pretentious spellings.

Sunday I stopped in Atomic Books to look for the new issue of ORIENTAL CINEMA and picked up a free copy of something called SEN. It's a local publication reporting on Baltimore's art and music scene. I liked the design and the size - about the same size as RADAR magazine (whatever happened to RADAR, by the way? Haven't seen one in a while). But what I couldn't figure out was what SEN meant. If you want people to pick up your publication from a sea of zines and mags on display, it helps to immediately identify what you're selling. ARCHITECTURE DIGEST - that's pretty clearcut. JUGS magazine, again, pretty obvious what it's about. But what the heck is SEN, I thought. A mag for Sennheiser microphone enthusiasts? Anyway, I picked it up because it looked well-designed and (more importantly) it was FREE. Only after flipping through it and seeing that it was a scene guide to Baltimore's clubs, artists and musicians did it finally dawn on me: SEN was a hipster spelling of SCENE with a long " - " accent line over the E to indicate the stressed E sound. Which begs the question, why not just spell out then word SCENE? Isn't the point of branding to clearly communicate one's identity and to communicate with your audience? This isn't WHEEL OF FORTUNE where you have to purchase an extra vowel and consonent. It costs nothing to throw in those two extra letters! The spelling lessons we learned from SESAME STREET and THE ELECTRIC COMPANY can't be so casually discarded.

On SEN's back page I also noticed an ad for VIN - which has a similar line over the "I" and is pronounced VINE - the new wine bar in Towson Circle. How fitting, because that place also grates on my nerves with its pretentiousness. I mean, VIN's website actually has the gall to pronounce itself "An Oasis of Quality, Sophistication and Joy" - a description just begging for a loud raspberry or a well-hurled pie-in-the-face from The Three Stooges. Just as I hate signs advertising businesses with unnecessary P's and E's (e.g., Ye Olde Rocket Shoppe, Brand New Towne), so too do I find scimping on letters pretentious. Like people named "Bil" or "Wil" or "Dug." It says you're trying too hard to be different, people! It's why, even though I like much of what I hear from Radiohead's albums, I can't get into any band whose singer spells his name "Thom." Sorry, just rubs me the wrong way. I'm especially sensitive on this issue, being a card-carrying "Tom" myself. The only thing worse would be to spell it "Ptom" as in the astronomer Ptolemy or the prehistoric dino-bird Pterodactyl (anybody remember Pterri on PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE?). The effect, like SEN and VIN, is to take something clear and make it all Greek to me. But maybe that's the point; maybe it's the demographics of exclusion - and exclusivity - at work. Maybe these entities don't want construction workers and plumbers to "get it." Maybe they want people like me to mispronounce their names so that they can snicker, "Dumbass! He doesn't get it! He's not in with The In Crowd!" As in, if you have to ask, you can't afford it - be it the menu or membership in the group. I hope not; that would make typography just another tool in the ever-widening gap between the ranks in America's Class War.

One thing's for sure, you'll never see a pulled-pork BBQ joint call itself SWIN ("Pronounced SWINE - An Oasis of Finger-licking Joy with Sophisticated Handi-Wipes"). That would be like talking down to it's unpretentious customer base.

So please people, stop with the snooty spellings. It's all just a little too too.

Related Links:
SEN Website
VIN Website
City Paper review of VIN (thanks to countswackula for pointing this out!)

Related Rantings:
SPASTIC (the Society for Preservation and Acknowledgement of Subjective Taste In Communication) is a great resource for people who get annoyed by spelling and language infractions.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you! I hate that pretentious shit!

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I to extrapolate, then, that "The Family Circus" is pretentious because it's drawn by Bil Keane?

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did you notice the title of this brief article about Vin in the City Paper?:

This post reminded me of something I was thinking about recently, namely the extremely prevalent tendency of pretentious hipsters to deny being hipsters and use the word derisively when describing rival hipsters. Wondered if you had anythign to say about this since you describe yourself as "an aging hipster"?

Also, Fam Circus is totally pretentious!

11:11 AM  
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That would be like talking down to it's unpretentious customer base."

Ha, ha, ha! Look who's talking about spelling.

And, the magazine is "Juggs", not "Jugs".

I guess you'll never be pretentious; you can't manage it.

5:08 PM  

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