or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Get Out

Yesterday on one of my favourite blogs, Now Smell This, was a review of a men's scent called Imperial Jade Emperor by a clothing and fragrance maker called Agatha Brown. A link to that website eventually leads to this page, where one can read about and buy the fragrance in question. One can also read, at the top of the page, the following legend:

"The most exclusive and prestigious fragrances in the world"
Worn by Royalty


Advertising does stretch the boundaries of language, and it isn't unheard of for fragrance manufacturers to make extravagant claims for their products. "Exclusive" is a useful word for advertisers because it makes people think a product is rare and hard to get, and therefore if they get some, they must be special. (Some of the numerous definitions of the word are "excluding some or most", "not shared with others" and "expensive".) But it's nonsensical and, frankly, a corruption of the language--which is the main reason language-lovers hate advertising--to call an easily available and not prohibitively expensive scent "the most exclusive and prestigious in the world". (A better candidate for such a title would be the scents of Clive Christian, such as this perfume for men, which at $2150 U.S. has to set some kind of record.)

I think it's safe to say that if something can be bought by anybody with a computer and a hundred American dollars, it isn't very exclusive, let alone the most exclusive anything in the world. In fact, I'll go one further and postulate a useful rule of thumb: if I can buy it, it isn't exclusive.

In the mid-1940s the couturier Marcel Rochas, with the help of the famed perfumer Edmond Roudnitska, made for his bride-to-be a scent called Femme, which was a wedding present, hers alone for a year before he made it available to the general public, and even then it was hard to come by because of war rationing (and because Rochas deliberately limited quantities--making something hard to get of course increases its perceived value). For that little while, Femme had a pretty good claim to the name "exclusive".

About ten years ago I made myself a scent out of notes I love such as carnation, tarragon, frankincense, and benzoin. (It wasn't a classically constructed scent; it didn't really have any top notes, only middle and base notes. But I liked it.) I made only a small amount and then used it up over the course of a couple of years, and not only is it gone, I lost the formula for it when I moved, so I can't have any more, and nobody else ever can, either. Now that's exclusive.


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