This was the catering van parked outside the hall where the wedding lunch was served. The name on the van rearranged itself into “Love Dons” in my head, a murky but memorable, potent, and perhaps not undesirable free association for a wedding catering company’s name. Inside the hall, while waiting for the lunch (or rather, for the happy couple to arrive), a relative pointed out the paper napkin on the table with “lovedons” emblazoned on it and asked me if I knew what the name signified. “Love Dons?” I guessed. Not so, though this amusing possibility had occurred to him too. According to him, it was a misspelling (perhaps intentional) of “Loved Ones.” If you say “lovedons” rapidly in Malayalam (and remember, Malayalam is spoken at ten times the speed of English), it sounds just like “loved ones” as a Malayalee would pronounce it. A wedding feast, after all, is a gathering of loved ones. I asked this relative if this was speculation or if he was really in the know, to which he replied that an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher attending the wedding had told him this.
However, I was not convinced. On my return home, I did some Googling and found that “lovedons” (a registered trademark) is the name of a business group headquartered in the region where the wedding was held. However, the home page did not indicate the origin of the intriguing name. I even called one of the numbers listed in the website and asked about the name, but whoever picked up the phone did not know and refused to pass me on to a higher authority who might know. I can’t blame him: he might have got fired for his pains. 🙂
So, I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that the name is a made-up trade name like so many of the trade names around us, many of which should arouse in us the same investigative spirit that “lovedons” aroused in me. For example, why on earth did Reckitt & Coleman name their shoe polish Cherry Blossom? I can answer that one. Yes, I can, I can, I can! Here goes:
The name was originally used by the Chiswick Soap Co., London, for a perfumed toilet soap packed in a tin. After a period of non-use, the name was revived for similarly packed boot polishes manufactured by the same firm, with the name being registered in 1903, and the company’s name was changed to the Chiswick Polish Co. The firm in due course was acquired by the company that today is Reckitt & Coleman. Hence the unlikely link between an attractive spring flower and a basic shoe-cleaning substance.
I found the above explanation in Dictionary of Trade Name Origins by Adrian Room.
This book answered another question that I’d asked myself sometimes as I traveled inside Piaggio’s Ape autorickshaws. Why Ape? It seems a terrible brand name! Never fear, Adrian has the answer. Here is the entry for Vespa (motor scooter by Piaggio):
The Italian name means ‘wasp’. The reference is not so much to the buzzing sound of the scooter but to its appearance: the rear end of the original Vespa, produced in 1947, did make it look like a wasp. The Italian manufacturer, Piaggio, went in for insect names. They also produced a three-wheeler car called Ape, Italian for ‘bee’, and an outboard motor called Moscone, ‘bluebottle’.
(A product named after a blowfly?? Was Enrico Piaggio an amateur entomologist? That’s a mystery for another day.)
In fact, inventing trade names is serious business, as Adrian’s book makes clear. One of the pitfalls in coining trade names is the one that led me to wonder about a name like Ape: a name that sounds good in one language might have opposite connotations in another language.
Adrian gives the following examples: “Other foreign blunderous names marketed in Britain have been the French soft drink Pschitt and a Finnish lock de-icing compound called Super Piss.”
I would still be happy to know that “lovedons” is not just an arbitrarily made-up trade name (to the extent that any trade name is arbitrarily devised, that is). I’d like to think there’s an interesting story behind it.
Those in the know about the origin of “lovedons,” you know how to get in touch with me.