Salutations, EL&U folks. I came across a curiosity this morning and I'm wondering if anyone can shed some light on the issue. The introduction is long, but here is a summary:
Can or should quotation marks be applied around company and product names? Has this practice fallen out of favor or merely evolved?
(thanks, David M)
For a some time, I've had an odd fascination with commercial supply branding. It's always intrigued me that you can usually find some mark from the company who makes commercial-grade door hardware, for example. When I was in grade school, this fascination revolved around the idea of getting commercial-grade things at home so they would be more durable.
Judge me not, dear reader.
One specific subset of this interest is in plumbing fixtures. In the United States, I suspect you'd recognize brand names like Mansfield, Crane, or American Standard, but might have trouble naming what those companies do without prompting. I find that fascinating.
This morning, I was visiting a restroom at an educational institution (the remaining context is superfluous) and was, as is common for me when bored, passively noting the logos around me. What caught my eye is that the positively ancient commode wore the "Standard" logo, and the quotes were included. Here's an example.
Curious! These quotes would seem to be improperly placed, but the fact that the plumbing hardware and other advertisements from that period in the company's history were so dated led me to hypothesize that perhaps there was another use of quotation marks, like this example, that I didn't know about.
First, I looked at the company itself. "Standard" is a shortened version of Standard Manufacturing Company, which, through a company juggling routine, is now part of American Standard. Standard Manufacturing Company was founded in 1875, confirming my suspicion that this company is old.
Next, I looked for other companies with similarly quoted names.
There are plenty of standard usages as well.
With thanks to Allan Peters for his awesome Badge Hunting project.
I also found this idea behind what the author calls "Decorative Quotation Marks."
Then, I found another well-known company that appears to be giving the exact same treatment to quotation marks.
These observations led me to a couple of ideas.
- "Jiffy" and "Standard" are intended as very brief quotations, for example, of customer testimonials. "The toilet is standard" could be shortened to "It's standard" and then to just "Standard." In this way, the adjective becomes the brand name and the company is pivoted to embody that word. "Jiffy" is fast, "Standard" is universal.
- This is an appropriate but dated use of quotations for emphasis.
- The company name is intended to be both a brand name and a slogan, or tag line.
Does anyone know if one of these ideas is correct? If not, what do you think?