Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Hard Problem to Lick

Did you hear the one about the giant popsicle that melted, sending New York pedestrians scurrying?

Only, wait -- Popsicle is a registered trademark. And this one was made of Snapple, so it wasn't a Popsicle-brand product. What will you do?

The evolution of the Associated Press story is instructive. First it was a "Popsicle." Then it was a "popsicle" (though the headline didn't get fixed), with the note "Eds: SUBS lead and 4th graf to substitute generic use of 'popsicle' sted trademark."

(Sure enough, Webster's New World says the word for "such a confection" can "also" be lowercased. You'll get letters from lawyers if you take this route -- that, I don't mind. What I do mind is that it's descriptivist nonsense.)

Finally, with no note to editors, AP did the right thing: "ice pop." Before I saw this I had come to the same conclusion for the Post's second edition, after a little Web surfing. For the first edition, unfortunately, all I could come up with was the dorky and unwieldy "Popsicle-style frozen treat."

For the third and final edition, I killed the item when I saw that it was also in the Style section. Sigh.

4 comments:

Eric "Babe" Morse said...

I only searched 2 dictionaries (lazy git), but I don't find the word "pop" define in either as referring to any kind of treat-on-a-stick.
When I saw "ice pop" I thought that certainly we can do better... but I got nothin'.
So, did Popsicle coin the usage of "pop"? Does anyone use it ouside of the frozen-treat world in this way?

Bill said...

Definition 4 for "pop" in Webster's New World is "a frozen confection consisting of ice cream or flavored ice on the end of a small stick."

I don't buy the idea that "ice" is redundant, though. Seems to me the meaning should be "a candy treat on a stick" (as in Tootsie Pop or Charm's Blow Pop), and then "ice" does the job it should.

Eric "Babe" Morse said...

Yeah... I though of lollipops, like, five minutes after I'd posted. Usage of which goes back to 1784.
At least the stuff melted away. NY is lucky they weren't building the world's largest Laffy Taffy™.

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