Friday, April 29, 2016

"Why It Annoys Me"




“Not again!”

No, I promise.  I have already written two posts on the inexplicable naming of prescription medicines and, although the third time can be the charm, it can also be “I’m not reading this anymore.”

Despite residual misgivings, I have come to terms with the fact that these laughable prescription medicine names have a memorable, syllabically meaningless objective.   



It is undeniable that the gibberish names the pharmaceutical companies give their products are at least more memorable to the than their generic or their actual chemical names.  That’s why they create them.  Fine.  Except I still don’t understand why the prescription medicine called JUBLIA could not just as easily be called HARVONI and the prescription medicine called HARVONI could not just as easily be called AFLURIA.

I mean what the heck difference would it make?

But forget about that, it’s done and it’s over.  I am, however, left with an equally troubling concern:

How do they come up with the meaningless names they give to the medicines?
Why do I care about that?  What is my generic interest?

At first I thought simply, “It’s a funny thing, silly names for prescription medicines.”

“Silly but helpful.”

Right.  Because you don’t want,

“I really need this medicine.”

“What’s it called?”

“‘Psyllosibo’… I don’t remember.”
The goofy names seemed hilarious to me.  Absurdity is always funny – write that down.  So that’s why I wrote about it.

Or so I believed.

The intensity of my feelings, however, suggested there was a deeper consideration.  I felt viscerally angry about these ridiculous medicine names.  Not primarily because they were ridiculous – “ridiculous” is good for business. 

I was angry because they were arbitrary.   

Imagined Pharmaceutical Company “Pitch Session”:


“No.  But “ZYLINGA”.  Now you’ve got something!”


To provide the link between the dopey medicine names and my irrational hostility to them, I need to explain that, in my “Imagined Pharmaceutical Pitch Session”, “LYZINGA” was pitched by a pharmaceutical company employee and “ZYLINGA” was suggested by the boss. 

That’s what annoyed me.  Not “What it is.”  But “Who gets to decide?”

What did that remind me of?  (This is like psychoanalysis… I imagine, having never experienced psychoanalysis – “free association” till I get to the answer.)

What it reminded me of was every time I sat in a rewrite room and I pitched something that the show runner shot down, only to pitch an alternative that was no better and possibly worse but it got into the script because the person who pitched it was indisputably in charge.

Boy, that made me angry!

That gnawing inequity not only was potentially damaging to the final product – meaning it made the show worse – it was essentially rewarding a bully, which infuriated me, while dismissing the efforts of a now dispirited underling, which infuriated me even more.  (Which led to my saying, “I would rather be a boss than have a boss.  Later, when I became a boss, I had a somewhat different perspective.)

That explains my irateness about the pharmaceutical naming – not the absurdity but the method of deciding.  When the thing you are deciding upon is meaningless, the final decision is entirely arbitrary.

And when it comes to “arbitrary”, “Power” inevitably prevails.

Now you might be thinking,

“You know what, Earlo?  This sounds an awful lot like ‘sour grapes’.  A person in charge, who is generally more experienced and more talented than you are shoots down your suggestion and replaces it with his (or her) own.  It’s been twenty or more years now.  It might be time to get over it.”

Okay… maybe… I respond, in partial concession.  But you have never been in a room where we are pitching “character names” and you pitch the name “Susan” and the show runner shrieks “Susan!” as if they cannot now fathom the reason they hired you and are seriously considering letting you go.  They then pitch “Susanne”, which goes immediately into the script. 

And don’t get me started on “locations.”

‘Buffalo!  Are you kidding me?  You might as well say ‘Cleveland! 

They pitch “Chicago”, and on we go.


It is exactly the same thing.

I was angry about that then, and I am angry about it now– not for myself this time, but for the pharmaceutical company peons caught in a similar dispiriting position.

Believe me, LYZINGA is just as good as ZYLINGA.

And, having gotten to the source of my irritation, I shall not mention this matter again.

Most likely.


Wendy M. Grossman said...

Zylinga is easier to say than Lyzinga. Though I'm not one of the people who receives millions of dollars for coming up with these names. (A big factor is picking something that isn't a word in any language so it can be trademarked, and also picking something that hasn't been trademarked by some other company. At this point, you could say that all the good names are taken. "Aspirin, there's a great name." "Not available." "Could we buy it?"

It's like having a good phone number: one that rolls off the tongue, that is easily heard and written down correctly...makes your life easier and sells better. I once had a phone number that ended in 0065. I thought that was a good number and had picked it personally from the list of available numbers in my town at the time. It wasn't. Something like 80% of the people I said it to wrote down 0056. When you're self-employed, that's a killer.


Jes said...

When we pick out names for our latest luxury apartment building, the name sometimes seems to fall from the sky. But in the end, most are borrowed from the coolest cities in America...The Boulder Apts., Sonoma Lofts, and the latest one I personally named is going to be called The Tahoe Apts. It's nice being married to the boss ; )

Naming children though, it's a big responsibility to select the name God will call them for eternity.

Jes said...

And btw, if El Earlo is the best name you can come up with, I'm not slapping it on the side of a building no matter how hard you try to convince me. I will not honor your legacy in that way, I just won't.

YEKIMI said...

Doctor put me on a heart medicine called Carvedilol. Will looking at the name I thought it was pronounced CARVE-[like what you do to a turkey]-DILL-ALL. I wondered why the pharmacist snickered whenever I went in for a refill. Finally one of them told me "It's pronounced CAR-VAY-DILL-OLL". From then on I just said "I need a refill of my heart medicine".

JED said...

Maybe all those pharmaceutical naming folks are just aspiring comedy writers who haven't gotten their break yet. Like actors and actresses who are waiters and waitresses and being told by their bosses how to 'act' with the customers.