As I was perusing my iTunes the other day, I noticed a bit of a disturbing trend.
…No, I am not referring to my extensive collection of Phil Collins albums. There is nothing weird nor disturbing about loving an 80’s singer/songwriter with the voice of an angel.
What I’m actually talking about is the alarming number of bands who are dropping vowels from their names like one of Clooney’s girlfriends post awards season.
Even Madonna has started going by “MDNA” recently.
At first I assumed that vowels were just another casualty in the endless pursuit of the ultimate ironic band name (“Dale Earnhardt Jr.Jr.” and “Com Truise” anyone?);but after a little research, I discovered this trend was actually part of a wider phenomenon known as “disemvowelling”.
“Disemvowelling” (besides just being a really great pun) is the art of rewriting a piece of alphabetic text with all of the vowel letters removed. According to Wikipedia, It was first developed in 2002 as a way to limit unwanted comments on internet sites. The technique would strip the vowels from offensive comments, rendering them harder to read and sending a message about appropriate conduct. Disemvowelling later went on to become a common feature of SMS text language.
Disemvowelling has been experiencing a bit of a heyday as of late with the resurgence of minimalist branding- a form of advertising where designers strip away all the fluff and keep the only important things.
If you live in an urban centre, I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of this lately. I feel like every time I turn around there’s a new restaurant in Toronto called “MRKT” something or other which
seats about 5 people and is furnished with exposed lightbulbs and metal stools.
But it’s not just the bougie places- even the low brow brands are getting involved:
I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, I find it sort of gimmicky and annoying. It makes your band/restaurant/product something I never want to say out loud for fear of messing it up- like all that fancy sh*t on restaurant menus.
Part of me also sees it as yet another erosion of the English language. Is it really necessary to sacrifice spelling and grammar at the expense of making an impact? .
Plus, all of this has the potential of putting Vanna out of a job, and quite frankly, I think we should all be a little more concerned about that.
I was all set to write an entire post hating-on this, until I discussed it with a musician friend of mine who suggested that this trend makes sense, given that the English language itself is inherently limiting. There are a finite number of words, and ways you can say them. Creative types understand this innately, and try to supplement what can’t be said through music, art and other mediums. Creating new words or ideas by dropping vowels, adding numbers, or spelling things uniquely is just another way to stretch the boundaries of language to do something meaningful.
It’s a good theory in principle- but at the same time, I have a hard time believing that’s what N’SYNC had in mind:
Who knows though. They were the voice of a generation.