Who names drugs? A comedian? A computer? A committee? A combination?
I'm betting combo, because no one person (or one machine) could concoct some of the bizarrehoods that the drug industry has perpetrated.
Take Lipitor, for example. I do, every day. It helps me fight off deposits in my arteries. On me, it has worked like a charm.
But who thought up the name of this stuff? Lipitor sounds like the villain in a Batman movie.
The brand name is obviously based, at least in part, on the word "lipid" (or possibly its cousin, "lipoid"). Both substances can contribute to the formation of fat and cholesterol, which none of us wants to see in blood passageways.
But why not call the drug Lipidless? Or Lipidcrush? Or Fatreduce?
What exactly does the "tor" suffix give us, except furrowed brows?
Please don't think that none of this matters much.
Businesses spend astounding sums on names that are designed to electrify the public.
For instance, USAirways. It used to be plain old USAir.
About five years ago, the company hired a consulting firm to recommend a new name so it could jazz up its image.
After pocketing a fee of $1 million (!), the company studied and studied and studied and finally suggested the breathtakingly clever new moniker . . . US Airways.
Do you ever get the feeling that you're in the wrong business?
Anyway, you can bet your boots that Lipitor was tested with focus groups, run past consultants and tweaked by image experts. The money would have been better spent on removing (or at least reducing) the chalky taste.
But why carp? The bizarre name Lipitor makes me think that we are missing a bet, especially here in Washington, where image is everything.
What if drug companies were asked to name our most prominent citizens?
What if the same consultants who gave us Lipitor took a crack at politicians and personalities great and small?
Levey brewed himself a second cup of the best drug of all, coffee, and started scribbling notes . . .
Bowtietox: Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
Setmeupucel: Former mayor Marion Barry.
Onemoretrytrex: Carol Schwartz.
Thanksfloridazyme: President Bush.
Realpoweramine: Vice President Cheney.
Suspendertussin: Larry King.
Impatiencelox: Daniel Snyder.
Wetbehindearsupex: Patrick Ramsey.
Cucumbercoollanta: Jim Vance.
Wontquitolax: Michael Jordan.
Hillarybasholase: Rush Limbaugh.
Internedrex: Monica Lewinsky.
Misslimelightucel: Bill Clinton.
And the one you've all been waiting for . . .
Typesaloticidin: Bob Levey.
Last Monday's column brought out many amens, and an equal number of question marks.
About half the readership agreed that restaurants slip you the check too soon. They called the practice insulting, demeaning and tip-reducing. They said it would never happen in (choose at least one) Europe, New York or "back home."
But the other half of the readership finds the opposite problem. As Danny Smith of Northwest Washington put it, "I ask for the check, and it's as if that's a signal to the server to disappear."
Danny says he routinely waits five minutes for a check to be produced -- even in pricey, expense- account places where service must be impeccable if they want fickle folk to return. He notes that this makes especially little sense in 2002.
"Fifteen years ago, when they filled out the credit card slips by hand, maybe I could understand the delay," Danny said. But today, when all credit cards are simply swiped through a reader, "there's no excuse."
Roger Hays of Bethesda was front and center with another molar-grinder: Servers who march up to a couple (one he, one she) and ask how "you guys are doing this evening?"
As Roger puts it, his wife is very obviously female. "No way in the world she looks like a guy," he says. Yet servers call her a guy all the time.
What would Bob Levey recommend as a way to return fire without being obnoxious?
Here's what I wouldn't recommend, Roger: great huffs and puffs of outrage.
This is surely some dimwitted attempt by the server to be casual and cool, and to make you feel more comfortable. The server can surely tell who's female and who isn't.
One tactic I've tried: Fight fire with fire.
If the server is female, wait for her to return with the drinks you've ordered. Then say, cool as ice: "Thanks, guy." The smart ones will get it right away, and mend their ways.
From the other side of the country comes an excellent spotted-outside-a-church sign. Many thanks to the spotter, Nigel Lindsay-Kerr of Tukwila, Wash.
Outside a church that Nigel passed in Toronto were these words:
"Avoid the Christmas Rush -- Attend Church Now."
To contact Bob Levey:
By mail: Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071.
By phone: 202-334-7276.
By fax: 202-334-5150.
By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org