Welcome to this special Super Bowl installment of Word Soup!
While some of you will be rooting for one team or the other this Sunday, what we’re excited about are the ads, and those funny, interesting, and ridiculous words associated with those ads. To celebrate, we’ve rounded up some words from Super Bowl ads of the past.
Announcer: “On January 24, Apple computer will introduce Macintosh, and you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”
“1984,” Apple Macintosh, 1984
1984 refers to George Orwell’s dystopian novel of the same name, which takes place in “a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, and incessant public mind control.” Citizens “are subordinated to the totalitarian cult of personality of Big Brother, the deified Party leader who rules with a philosophy that decries individuality and reason as thoughtcrimes.” In contrast, the Macintosh symbolizes freedom, independent-thinking, and individualism, ironic today considering the proliferation of Apple products and the cult of personality around Steve Jobs.
In 2007, a controversial internet ad mashed up the original Apple commercial with a speech from Hilary Clinton, casting Clinton as Big Brother.
Cowboy: “Being a cat herder is probably about the toughest thing I think I’ve ever done.”
“Cat Herders,” Electronic Data Systems, 2000
Herding cats “refers to an attempt to control or organize a class of entities which are uncontrollable or chaotic,” and “implies a task that is extremely difficult or impossible to do, primarily due to chaotic factors.” The term may have originated in the technology industry in the mid 1980s. “Managing senior programmers is like herding cats.”
Announcer: “You know the feeling. You can’t take care of business the way others do. It’s called connectile dysfunction, a condition caused by inadequate broadband coverage.”
“Connectile Dysfunction,” Sprint, 2007
Connectile dysfunction plays on the medical term, erectile dysfunction, “the inability of a man to obtain or sustain an erection.”
Joe Namath: “I’m so excited. I’m gonna get creamed!”
“Joe Namath and Farrah Fawcett,” Noxzema, 1973
The word creamed here has a double-meaning: “badly beaten; lost by a considerable margin” and having cream applied to one’s person.
Woman: “I do get a hint of drinkability right away.”
Man: “Does my pen have writability?”
“Meeting,” Budweiser, 2009
Drinkability is “the extent to which something is drinkable,” and prior to this Budweiser campaign may have referred mainly to wine. The ad campaign may poke fun at wine tasting and formal terms such as drinkability and ageability, or aging potential.
Announcer: “Monster.com and the NFL are searching for a fan amongst fans to become a part of NFL history. The director of fandemonium will announce the pick at the NFL draft.”
“Director of Fandemonium,” Monster.com, 2009
Fandemonium is a blend of fan and pandemonium, and refers to the “wild uproar or noise” created by fans. Fan may be a shortening of fanatic, “a person affected by zeal or enthusiasm, particularly on religious subjects,” which ultimately comes from the Latin fanum, “temple.” But the word fan may also be influenced by the fancy, “all of a class who exhibit and cultivate any peculiar taste or fancy,” especially for prize fighting, and is attested by 1735.
Pandemonium comes from Pandæmonium, the capital of Hell in Paradise Lost, the epic poem by John Milton. The word contains the Greek pan, “all,” and the Latin daemonium, “demon.”
“The Force,” Volkswagen, 2011
The Force is “a binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power in the fictional universe of the Star Wars galaxy created by George Lucas.” An ability of the Force is telekinesis, “movement of or motion in an object, animate or inanimate, produced without contact with the body producing the motion.” The word force comes from the Latin fortis, “strong.”
Man: “G to me means greatness.”
“Talking Heads,” Gatorade, 2009
Ozzy Osbourne: “Welcome to 4G!. . All aboard the 5G train!. . .How many bloody G’s are there?”
“Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Beiber,” Best Buy, 2011
In the Gatorade commercial, G has a variety of meanings that have to do with endurance and perseverance, while in the Best Buy commercial, G has no meaning. 3G and 4G referred to third or fourth generation wireless technology, but are essentially meaningless marketing terms.
“The Magic Chip,” Doritos, 2009
Dude: “Guys, hurry up! The magic fridge is back!”
“The Magic Fridge,” Bud Light, 2006
These two commercials use the term magic to make ordinary things like corn chips and beer seem other-worldly and powerful, while simultaneously poking fun at this idea.
Baby Girl: “And that milk-a-holic Lindsay wasn’t over?”
“Jealous Girlfriend,” E-Trade, 2010
A milk-a-holic (a blend of milk and alcoholic) is someone who is addicted to milk. As Erin McKean stated in a Boston Globe piece, the “-holic suffix is used for any addiction” (chocoholic, shopaholic, workaholic). Actress Lindsay Lohan sued E-Trade over this ad, claiming that the baby Lindsay referred to her and her reported problems with substance abuse.
“Terry Tate: Office Linebacker,” Reebok, 2003
Office linebacker plays on the idea of superfluous jobs created in the name of pseudo-efficiency and faux-continuous improvement.
Announcer: “Your inner hero is calling. Answer at the one place we can all feel super human again.”
“Calling All Heroes,” Universal Orlando Resort, 2009
To feel human means to feel like oneself and not part of a machine. The ad plays on this phrase by adding super, implying that the product will make one feel even more human, and therefore even better, as well as like a superhero.
Announcer: “Truckers know towing 10,000 pounds up a steep grade ain’t good for your tranny.”
“Killer Heat,” Toyota, 2009
Tranny here is short for transmission. Tranny is also short for transvestite, “a person who dresses and acts in a style or manner traditionally associated with the opposite sex.”
Conan O’Brien: “Vroom vroom party starter.”
“Swedish,” Bud Light, 2009
Vroom is “the loud, roaring noise of an engine operating at high speed.” The word is imitative in origin and attests to 1967. The earliest citation we could find was February 1967, in a Boston Globe article: “When I tried a sudden ‘vroom’ up to 50, the extra speed came slowly.” The ad’s use of vroom vroom may be a play on Mazda’s zoom zoom ad campaign.
“I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl,” Timberlake said in a statement. “It was not intentional and is regrettable.”
“NFL, FCC upset by halftime show; CBS apologizes,” USA Today, February 1, 2004
While wardrobe malfunction does not originate from an ad (though the phrase did inspire at least one commercial), we thought no post about Super Bowl words would be complete without it. The phrase was coined by Justin Timberlake’s management to describe the incident that occurred during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, in which Janet Jackson’s breast was accidentally bared. The phrase implies that no one was at fault except Jackson’s wardrobe; malfunction implies mechanical rather than human error.
The incident has also been referred to as boobgate and nipplegate. Gate refers to Watergate, “a series of scandals occurring during the Nixon administration in which members of the executive branch organized illegal political espionage against their perceived opponents and were charged with violation of the public trust, bribery, contempt of Congress, and attempted obstruction of justice.” Adding gate to a word signals a scandal or controversy.
Various dudes: “WASSUP!”
“Wassup,” Budweiser, 2006
The wassup commercials first ran in 1999 and were “based on a short film, entitled ‘True’, written and directed by Charles Stone III, that featured Stone and several of his childhood friends” sitting around “talking on the phone and saying ‘Whassup!’ to one another in a comical way.” Other versions of the commercial include “What are you doing?” for yuppies and “How you doin’?” for “Jersey guys.”
The word wassup is a corruption of the phrase what’s up. Other variations include whazzup, what up, and ‘sup. What’s up is commonly thought to have originated from the Bugs Bunny catchphrase, “What’s up, Doc?” first used in 1940. However, an earlier citation can be found O. Henry’s Sherlock Holmes parody, The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes, in the name of a Dr. Watson send-up, Dr. Whatsup. “Sit down, Whatsup, and excuse me for a few moments.”
For all the Super Bowl ads that ever were, check out this site, and keep your eyes and ears peeled this Sunday for even more Word Soup-worthy Super Bowl ad words.