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Oct 30, 2018
Ben & Jerry's New Anti-Trump Joke Reveals America's Deep Divide
(Bloomberg) -- Ben & Jerry’s latest ice cream campaign is courting controversy twice over. One, the company is calling on ice cream lovers everywhere to oppose the Trump administration’s agenda. Two, it’s embracing a pronunciation of “pecan” -- as in "PEE-can" -- that’s really only popular along stretches of the East Coast from Maine to South Carolina.
Starting Tuesday, the flavor normally known as New York Super Fudge Chunk will be called “Pecan Resist.” Get it?
Maybe not. In the U.S., there are four major ways to refer to the popular pie nut, according to Grant Barrett, linguist and co-host of the radio show “A Way With Words.” Native American tribes had different pronunciations for the nut, which they taught American settlers over time. “We have never as a country, never ever, settled on a single pronunciation,” Barrett said. “There was never just one.”
Ben & Jerry’s, a South Burlington, Vermont-based subsidiary of Unilever NV, has taken punny approaches to social justice before. In 2009, it re-branded “Chubby Hubby” as “Hubby Hubby” to support same-sex marriage. In 2016, it debuted “Empower Mint,” a mint ice cream with brownies made by a bakery with a job-training program.
The history of the word “pecan” presents unique challenges, Barrett said. “It’s not the most efficient type of communication. You’re causing people confusion. They’re scratching their heads for just a second.”
The campaign was launched as a way to “lick injustice,” and the company made a $25,000 contribution to each of four progressive organizations including Color of Change and the Women’s March.
Chief Executive Officer Matthew McCarthy said the ice cream maker didn’t do much consumer research on the name. “If people want to call it ‘Puh-KAHN Resist,’ I’m totally cool with that,” McCarthy said. “This is one that comes more from the heart and the DNA of this business.”
New York Super Fudge Chunk was conceived in 1985 as a way for the company to make a name for itself in New York. It’s chocolate ice cream with white and dark fudge chunks, pecans, walnuts and fudge-covered almonds.
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