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OnWords: Marketing And Neologisms


As language users, we reserve the right to make up words.

There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as those with whom we are communicating understand what we’re trying to get across. No lesser beings than Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss added new words to the language, and slang continues to bloom.

But no group pushes the boundaries of language creation like those who market products.

One notable example is “Camaro,” a name General Motors created for its competitor to Ford’s Mustang. Camaro is meant to evoke a sense of companionship and camaraderie, your little pavement-rippin’, tire-fryin’ pal. But it doesn’t actually mean anything outside of promoting a sporty Chevy Coupe.

Drug companies have taken this to an extreme. It’s been a long time since the, uh, good days of the drug Halcion, which, in sound if not in spelling, at least referred to well established notions of happiness.

Vyvanse, a stimulant sold to treat ADHD, subtly suggests vivaciousness and life, but can anyone tell me what a Vryalar is? The pharmacological name for this drug is cariprazine, chosen here to illustrate how little the trade name has to do with its generic name and also because it is one of the few I would have a chance of pronouncing.

Some stuffy part of me laments these pharmaceutical tongue-twisters. But I have to hand it to the folks who come up with them: The names are unmistakable, even if they signify nothing.