I’m fascinated with etymologies (word origins), and my obsession is only growing with age. More and more often, I’ll hear a word, a phrase, or a name, and just have to know where it came from. And then I’ll go find out.
There are worse hobbies.
So anyway, when Betsy brought home some Häagen-Dazs ice cream recently, I got curious. What kind of a name is Häagen-Dazs? What language is it? What does it mean? Is it a proper name, or a word, or two words, or what?
The Häagen-Dazs Our Story page (which features an oddly sexualized photo that depicts no ice cream) offers the following:
In 1961, Mr. Mattus decided to form a new company dedicated to producing his new super-premium ice cream. He called this new brand “Häagen-Dazs” – a name that conveys an aura of old world tradition and premium quality.
… which is accurate, but also curiously vague. Why did he pick that name? What does it mean?
When you learn the answer, the vagueness is understandable. The name doesn’t mean anything. It’s nonsense. Reuben Mattus — who lived in New York at the time — just made up nonsense words, one after another, till he came up with some nonsense that conveyed … what was it, again?
Oh yes: “an aura of old world tradition and premium quality.”
Well played, ice cream man, well played.
The zs at the end of the name always bothers me: because the name would be spoken the same with just z, my mind always parses zs as the possessive, gets niggled over the missing apostrophe, then remembers the name has a silent s.
Yeah, you’d think that when you’re picking a nonsense name, you’d at least choose something easy-ish to spell. Fortunately, Google is now smart enough to return Häagen-Dazs as the first result even if you search for “hogen dos.”