Words Invented By Commercials

December 24, 2018

Not everybody watches the same TV shows or reads the same books, but we are all subject to the same ads. That makes marketing a universal language, and as such, marketers and advertisers have introduced several now common words and phrases into the vernacular.


Netflix just rebooted the early 2000s makeover show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, in which five guys turn around the life of a (usually) sad and hapless man. The original was far more focused on grooming and hygiene, and quietly introduced the phrase “manscaping” into the culture. A play on “landscaping,” it refers to a male’s need to carefully take care of their appearance by shaving, plucking, trimming, and waxing errant hair. Companies who sell razors and shaving cream, particularly Gillette, took the word (and concept) mainstream, using it in their ad campaigns so much that in a recent corporate survey, 70 percent of respondents said they “manscape”…by name.


Obviously, the word “dependable” has been around for a long time, but this variation on it — to describe something or someone that possesses the quality of being dependable — was solidified as a full-fledged English word, added to dictionaries in 1930. It was actually invented in 1914 by advertising executive Theodore F. MacManus for a Dodge campaign to demonstrate that the company’s cars rarely broke down (unlike those of the competition, Ford). The word’s presence permeated marketing. J.D. Power and Associates, an independent consumer study group, releases an annual “Dependability Study,” while Budweiser created a campaign built around the word “Drinkability” in the 1960s.


This is one of those aphorisms that everybody knows, a slightly cynical if poetic way of saying “after one bad thing happened to me, a bunch of bad things seemed to happen to me immediately after.” It’s also been the somewhat cryptic ad slogan (and package copy) on Morton Salt for more than a century. But the condiment producer didn’t just slap an old phrase on its packages — they actually came up with it, and it made its way into common use. The actual meaning of the phrase: Morton is trying to say that humidity or rainfall won’t cause its salt to clump (because of the additive magnesium, which absorbs moisture). In other words, when it rains outside, the salt will pour.


It’s a phrase associated with luxury, describing what is certainly the highest quality of leather in the world. Maybe, but only because a commercial said so. In 1975, Chrysler hired debonair Fantasy Island star Ricardo Montalban to star in TV ads for a new and luxurious car called the Cordoba. The most memorable feature, thanks to Montalban’s alluring voice: the car’s interior, lined with “Corinthian leather.” That phrase, along with the rest of the commercial, came courtesy of the Bozell Jacobs ad agency. Corinthian leather was just regular leather that came from a supplier located in less-than-exotic Newark, New Jersey.