I've grown up always thinking that the ice cream Häagen-Dazs is imported from Germany or some Scandinavian country. Nope! The company was created in the Bronx by Reuben and Rose Mattus, two Polish immigrants. Well, I thought, when I learned that, at least the name means something tasty in some European language, right? Nope! To put it lightly, the name Häagen-Dazs is a linguistic abomination. When Rose suggested it in 1959, it was meant to sound Danish, to entice the customer with what Reuben called an "aura of the old-world traditions and craftsmanship". Except it's just... wrong: There is no umlaut in Danish (rendering the ä meaningless), and the zs letter combination is nonexistent outside of Hungarian! Gosh flippity darn it. What we have here is a classic advertising technique: the Mattuses made the name sound exotic and foreign, which you cannot deny worked seamlessly. This makes me sad; one of the ice creams I grew up with is a lie.
Adam Aleksic is a 221-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd