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Drive a Stake Into It, OK?

November 02, 2003

This probably won't come as a shock or awe to anyone, but a lot of folks are trying to cash in on that "shock and awe" phrasing heard a lot last spring. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office reports receiving 29 applications so far to use "shock and awe" on some product. That's the most for one once-popular phrase since all that Y2K and millennium stuff a while back.

Clever, catchy, even resonant phrases are a lot like french fries, er, freedom fries. They can look good, smell good, sound good, even taste good. But then they somehow infect the human mind, causing it to think that if one serving of shock and awe is good, then two is delicious, three is funny, four becomes hilarious and even more repetitive usage is so outrageously amusing that it should require a health warning about splitting sides.

Pretty soon, as you may recall, pretty much everything about the Iraq war was shock and awe. Then everything in America was shock and awe or Shaq and awe. We were shocked and awed by how many times we heard it. Earlier, in our less-wired national life, a saying like "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" could take months to cross the country by railroad and horse. No longer. Thanks to instant global communications, shock and awe was everywhere all the time. Bright phrases, like bright meteors, burn up quickly. Listeners' ears soon find shock and awe first not funny, then cliched, tiresome, trite, bothersome, annoying, rancid, and enough already. Same words but different reaction, so ultimately, shock and awe could incite disbelief and distaste.

But in true entrepreneurial fashion, at least 29 people still believe there is further value to be squeezed from shock and awe. They seek to patent shock and awe fireworks, shock and awe golf clubs, shock and awe video games, shock and awe salsa, coffee and energy drinks. There's a proposed shock and awe Bloody Mary mix, shock and awe yo-yos and something described as shock and awe "infant action crib toys." Also shock and awe lingerie and shock and awe condoms.

Good luck to each. Meanwhile, with the shock and awe recall concluded, the shock and awe Disney Hall opened and a shock and awe state deficit, what about a few new shock and awe applications? How about shock and awe bus service? A shock and awe government in Sacramento? Shock and awe new Dodger ownership? Here's one: a shock and awe Mayor Hahn. That would be, uh, impressive.

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