Birthdays, Blasphemy and Blogging

The Book of Mormon

This week Susan witnesses some top-class profanity at the West End’s hottest new musical…

If my father were still alive, he would certainly have walked out after only a few minutes. After all, he banned me from watching Till Death Us Do Part and Steptoe and Son because of the swearing. Despite every other word being four lettered, The Book of Mormon has to be the most hilarious musical I’ve seen in years – at least since Jerry Springer: The Opera.

The stage backdrop (behind the dramatic curtain, above), pleasingly painted to form the torn pages of an antique book, is a work of art in itself. The cast perform dexterously choreographed dance routines and enunciate clearly enough for every profanity to be perfectly comprehensible.

And what comes across is not so much a satirical attack on Mormonism, as a questioning of all our belief systems/religions – chief among them the American  Dream. Generosity of human spirit and the value of friendship triumph over ideology in this production. It’s a showcase of the power of creativity too – the imagination of the individual, versus the stultifying effect of an authoritarian regime. If you haven’t already booked to see it, you should.


Are lots of babies born at this time of the year? For some reason I seem to have a surfeit of Piscean friends. One of them even holds an annual dinner that she calls the “birthday boys’ bash,” which has grown to a considerable size, and now includes several women as well as men with birthdays in early March. This means I have to rustle up gazillions of birthday presents. Some of them will invariably come from my stock of vintage accessories, but the other day whilst I was in Selfridges looking for a new suitcase, I thought I’d see what they had on offer, apart from socks. The prices were extraordinary: with the exception of ties at around £85 upwards, there didn’t seem to be many men’s gifts costing less than £150.  Even a silk pocket-handkerchief came in at around that mark. Meanwhile, Tom Ford’s £275 silk evening scarf was positively cheap compared to Burberry’s £1000 barely there creased-up looking cashmere number. I’m still in shock…


Having dug myself into a very deep hole, with last week’s post incurring the wrath of my mother, I was forced to make amends by way of a slap-up Mother’s Day lunch at a restaurant on her freezing cold side of the M25.  Going to Brocket Hall reminds me of my errant youth. After visiting the local pub on a Friday night, a group of us (in our late teens at the time) would play a variety of silly games. In the summer months, on moonlit nights, we’d visit a wheat field on the edge of the Brocket estate – long before any Ferraris were buried under Capability Brown’s gently undulating landscape. We would proceed to roll around on the ground, creating what some might call crop circles… though ours were more contemporary art. On other occasions, we played sardines in a local churchyard, hiding amongst eerie tombs and behind ancient gravestones. I doubt we would have chosen these pastimes had we been stone cold sober.


I’m currently working on a new blog with more of a magazine style format, and recently purchased webhosting from an outfit called Laughing Squid. Companies used to have self-explanatory names like Smith’s Engineering, British Rail and Amstrad Computers. These days corporations opt for irrelevant names like Yahoo! Blackberry, Apple – or choose meaningless words like Skype to describe their business. There’s even a creative naming service called Wordoid to help conjure up words that are purposely devoid of any meaning.

Perhaps Dabblers have some suggestions for the corporate names of the future?


And, in case you are feeling the urge to do something crazy, last week a friend sent me details of The Insanity Workout – a 60-day total body conditioning programme to provide the ultimate ripped body by ‘exercising in your own sweat.’ Think I’ll give this one a miss.

Susan Muncey is a trend forecaster, blogger and founder of online curiosity shop,
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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

20 thoughts on “Birthdays, Blasphemy and Blogging

  1. Worm
    March 12, 2013 at 09:35

    Gosh, that Brockett hall looks nice

    I think they first started using stupid meaningless web names because all the good ones have been taken – and then the current liking for infantilism took over and everybody started doing it out of choice. I was looking in the ice cream freezer cabinet in my local Sainsbury’s on sunday and every item in there was called things like “moo moo” “fro yo” and “goo”. Thus I suggest a new corporation, to take on the might of Apple. I shall name it “”

    March 12, 2013 at 10:06

    And what comes across is…a questioning of all our belief systems/religions – chief among them the American Dream. Generosity of human spirit and the value of friendship triumph over ideology in this production.

    There’s a fresh new theme that will challenge the West End crowd.

    John Halliwell
    March 12, 2013 at 11:25

    Susan, that curtain is magnificent! I think I might be saying: bugger the production, let me admire that design for the next hour. Well, I don’t get out much. I take it the set designer, Scott Pask, also designed the curtain. Apparently Pask has a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Arizona and a Master of Fine Arts from Yale. That background, and a highly fertile imagination, looks to have created a visual masterpiece. As for the incessant profanities, is it really that fucking necessary? As someone brought up on South Pacific and Oklahoma, I would find the constant use of such language jarring in the extreme. I could have lived with ‘Poor Jud is fucked, Poor Jud Fry is fucked’. But for Rodgers and Hammerstein to have kept banging on in that vein for two hours would have really pissed me off.

      March 12, 2013 at 15:21

      I forgot to mention, John, that the loos at the Prince of Wales Theatre are probably the most plentiful and clean in the whole of London’s theatreland… another good reason to pay a visit?! Perhaps the theatre should be renamed, Worm?

      • Worm
        March 12, 2013 at 15:38

        I’m afraid only sponsors festivals where people play at camping and make giant versions of their favourite childhood toys, and everyone is drinking smoothies, Susan.

    March 12, 2013 at 11:49

    As for the incessant profanities, is it really that fucking necessary?

    John, I suspect the idea is to drive home the triumph of generosity of the human spirit.

      John Halliwell
      March 12, 2013 at 13:01

      Ah, thank you, Peter; on that basis I’ll book the tickets.

    March 12, 2013 at 11:54

    “all our belief systems/religions – chief among them the American Dream”

    Our? Susan, you sound so English! Who knew that you were American? And Mormon at that…

    There are a lot of March birthdays, which is also to say June conceptions. Put that way, is it mysterious?

      March 12, 2013 at 15:25

      June – or July, George?

      Must be something to do with ‘our’ weather.

    March 12, 2013 at 13:09

    Sort of like a fully clothed Hair with tabernacles and giggly bits, that’s you and young Appleyard been to see the show Susan, recommendation indeed.
    Welwyn Garden eh, home of Rank Xerox, never been the same since the by-pass was built, removing the Clock House roundabout and the old Mardley hill bit, where David Ogle was killed, in one of his own creations. Is the outdoor leisure area still there, just off the AI, used to swim there with the family.

    Some corporate name suggestions for UKPLC2022 (in receivership)

    Chinannexe Ltd

    GoneWestern Motors

    Soup Kitchinz & Co

    Shanghai and Lloyds banking group

    Well remember the first time the f-word emanated from the BBC, one of it’s left wing intellectuals and pretendy broadcaster interviewed one of those brain dead west coast hippies whose motto was “fuck for peace” the shock was palpable. “For peace?” the idiot, any war will do.

      John Halliwell
      March 12, 2013 at 14:54

      Malty, I remember the first time I heard the ‘b’ word in the cinema. It was Jack Hawkins in The Cruel Sea (1953). I think Jack was in charge of a ship escorting a convoy in The Battle of the Atlantic when he was faced with the choice: pick up survivors from a U-boat attack or try to sink the U-boat. He chose the latter; a sailor shouts “Murderer!” Jack says “No one murdered them – it’s the war, the whole bloody war.” Bloody war? In our fleapit, the intake of breath from those in Row A, all the way up to those fumbling with each other on the back row, was palpable. One or two were so shocked, they found it difficult to exhale, and were hospitalised. “Did you hear what Hawkins just said? Awww! You can’t swear in the pictures!” What a different England it was.

      March 12, 2013 at 15:48

      I shall check out Bryan’s post now… The horn player, Dennis Brain was killed just up the road – I don’t suppose the spot is festooned with petrol forecourt bouquets, or a memorial like the one where Marc Bolan went off the road near me in SW London?

      By outdoor leisure centre, do you mean the old 1930s style swimming complex at Stanborough? It has probably been demolished by now – or maybe not. I was in love with the tiered water fountain there. But not the main swimming pool… it’s where my primary school decided to send us every day for three weeks – for a crash course of swimming lessons – in March. It was mainly snowing.

      March 12, 2013 at 16:03

      Oops, Malty – my comment on John’s comment is meant for you.. ingenious suggestions for UKPLC x

  7. Brit
    March 12, 2013 at 13:28

    Team America is the only good and funny satire on Iraq I’ve seen – taking the piss as it does out of both hawks and doves. I’d love to see Book of Mormon, do you think it will tour the provinces this century?

    David Cohen
    March 12, 2013 at 14:46

    You’ve made the third (and least well known) classic blunder. You’ve raised an issue that I know way too much about. And I’m a sharer.

    Why are companies using nonsense words and phrases for names? For at least the following three (non-exclusive) reasons:

    1. They do it because the law makes do so sensible. Nonsense words and phrases get the highest degree of trademark protection. Descriptive words in a name get only minimal protection. British Rail would get no protection for either “British” or “Rail” and only limitd protection for the phrase. If I started to manufacture banisters in Bristol, I could probably get away with calling my company British Rail, as long as most individual consumers weren’t actually confused. If this blog were a bit more strident, it could absolutely get away with calling itself “British Rails”, which actually is a pretty good blog name. On the other hand, I probably couldn’t call either my banister company or blog “Google.” To the extent that brands are valuable (see below) it makes sense to use nonsense names.

    2. They do it because they’ve done it. There’s a really interesting body of research on management fads and fashions that explains part of this. It’s tied to group think and conspiracy theories, in that it depends upon our assumption that decisions by others, that seem opaque to us, must have been taken for good (i.e., rational) reasons. So take a group of companies who are considering whether to adopt a particular fad (for example, nonsense names). No company is sure whether a nonsense name would actually be good for business, but some are closer to the line than others. Suddenly, one of the group adopts a nonsense name for reasons that are opaque to the rest ofthe group (let’s say the flipped a coin between “America’s Best Search Engine Co.” and “Google”). The rest will assume that the company adopting the name must have had private information making it appear to be a good decision. That in turn will be interpreted as a signal that adopting a nonsense name makes good business sense. That is enough to move another company over the line. Now the group has two members who have (for opaque reasons) adopted a nonsense name, which is an even stronger signal. Another drops, and then another. Pretty soon you have a preference cascade, as the whole group moves, because (more or less) the whole group moved. Of course, if the first company (Google) is in fact a success, focal bias just makes the “signal” (based, remember, on a coin flip) seem that much stronger.

    For a common example of the same dynamic, think about the last time you were in a group where a speaker/teacher/leader calls for question. No one asks anything, because they interpret everyone else’s silence as not having questions and thus don’t want to look dumb by asking their own question. Then one person asks a question, and suddenly everyone has questions.

    3. They do it because we teach them to do it. There’s a specific course in almost all business schools (and “almost” is there for CYA purposes, I don’t actually know of any exceptions) in which students are taught how to think about corporate strategy as a top manager trying to earn above-average risk adjusted returns. One of the key lessons is that a high-performing company needs some resource or capability that is all of the following: valuable to consumers, rare in the industry, difficult for competitors to copy, and for which there are no good substitutes. It is more likely that a resource is VRIN if it is intangible, path dependent and somewhat causally ambiguous (that is, no one (including the company) is quite sure how the resources came about or works). This makes brand identity a very common VRIN resource. All other things equal, your more likely to buy (and even pay more for) a Coke than “David’s Soda”, or a Sony than “David’s TV”. You’re more likely to do your searches on Google than “David’s Search Engine”. Given all that, nonsense names are more likely than descriptive names to be difificult to copy, nonsubstitutable, path dependent and causally ambiguous and thus CEOs, venture capitalists, consultants, etc., who have been to business school will plump for the nonsense name.

    (An interesting example of the nonsense name: David Letterman’s production company is Worldwide Pants Incorporated, a nonsense name masquerading as a descriptive name.)

      March 12, 2013 at 16:00

      Thanks for sharing this authoritative explanation, David. I think I own the trademark for ‘Fashion Gallery’ – or at least I did… those are both pretty generic terms.

    David Cohen
    March 12, 2013 at 17:32

    Hi Susan:

    Great name.

    Also, this is the part where I mention that I’m not licensed to practice law in Britain, and that legal advice on the Internet isn’t worth what you pay for it.

    In “Fashion Gallery” you’ve taken two words that can’t be protected individually and put them together in a way that does get you some protection. So, if you owned a trademark on “Susan’s Fashions”, you couldn’t argue that a competitor couldn’t use the word fashions, even right next door to you. If you owned “Susan’s Gallery”, you couldn’t argue that a competitor couldn’t use the word gallery, even right next door to you. But in putting the two descriptive words together, you’ve made a phrase that would get some limited protection, because “Fashion Gallery” is more than a generic name for a clothing store. Still, you’d probably still have to show actual confusion to win. I did google (note that Google hates the verb “to google”, because if google becomes a widely acceptd generic term for searching the internet, they’ll lose a lot of protection) “Fashion Gallery” and got 5.5 million hits, some of which are business names and some of which are a generic description of fashion photo collections.

    March 12, 2013 at 17:53

    Thanks, David – unfortunately, the company is no longer trading and I think someone else has purchased the company name. What does that mean with respect to the trademark that I have designed and paid for? I found it on the internet here. I’m not sure who trademarken are… I have used Gill Jennings & Every in the past.

  11. Brit
    March 12, 2013 at 20:09

    Fascinating stuff, David. Google-ability is surely changing many things. Band names is another area – it’s disastrous to call yourself something like ‘Television’ or ‘The Music’ or ‘Love’ now as people won’t find you… so bands have started calling themselves things like Them Crooked Vultures and Godspeed! You Black Emperor.

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