or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, January 28, 2006


As I have said before, I like looking at new products in stores. There's just something fascinating about the amount of labour that goes into thinking up new things (most of which nobody could possibly need) and making them, through the alchemy of product and packaging design, seem irresistible and essential.

A new product which has been receiving an ungodly quantity of advertising is a razor--no, a "shaving system"--called Fusion, which, preposterously, has five blades. (Can the six-bladed razor be far behind? and where does it stop?) The sheer ridiculousness of this interests me, but what really grabbed me was the name that they saw fit to give to the shaving gel that's being sold alongside the razor: Fusion HydraGel. It grabbed me, of course, because it's wrong.

I know; it's a made-up name and they can call their product anything they like. But the root words from which it's composed are real enough, and there are rules governing their use.

Every word in English that begins with "hydra-" actually begins with "hydr-", abbreviated down from "hydro-", from the Greek word for "water"; the following root word is what donates that "-a-". "Hydrate", for example: it's "hydr-" plus "-ate", a suffix which in English denotes an action. Or "hydrangea": "hydr-" plus Greek "angeion", "vessel" (that's the same "angeion" that gives "angioplasty" its name--the word literally means "[blood] vessel reshaping"). Or "hydraulic": "hydr-" plus "aulos", "pipe".

So HydraGel ought to be HydroGel. Even if you're clabbering word roots together to make product names, there are still rules you have to follow. To do otherwise makes people like me think not of a shave cream but of a hundred-headed monster. (If it had to shave, maybe it'd need a five-bladed razor to get through all those acres of stubble: I'm pretty sure I don't.)


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