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UK retailer website betrays the little children / ignorance
February 1, 2008 3:00 AM   Subscribe

Buying a new bed for your daughter?. How about this little number, with a cheeky, precocious, contemporary culture-aware name. And pull-out desk, did I mention the built-in cupboard?
Mothers aren't concerned about the pull-out desk; they're concerned about the young girls' bed being called "Lolita".

A spokesman for the company, Woolworths, told the Times "What seems to have happened is the staff who run the website had never heard of Lolita, and to be honest no one else here had either. We had to look it up on Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now."
The item has now been removed from the Woolworths site, the fate of the spokesman is undisclosed.
posted by NinjaTadpole (72 comments total)

 
Times Online? This will Whitwell.
posted by grouse at 3:02 AM on February 1, 2008


I don't know what's worse: that people have never even heard of Lolita, or that those that have didn't understand it.
posted by psmealey at 3:12 AM on February 1, 2008 [6 favorites]


Far more impressive:

In 2006 Tesco was removed its pole-dancing kit from the toys and games section of its website after it was accused of destroying children’s innocence.
posted by XMLicious at 3:21 AM on February 1, 2008


Strange that this single link post should be via some rubbishy tabloid rag's site when the same story is available from the forum that actually got Woolworths to remove this ill-named product. Or not strange?
posted by motty at 3:22 AM on February 1, 2008


Makes me think of "Amelia Earhart luggage"

(Does it ever arrive at its destination?)
posted by pax digita at 3:24 AM on February 1, 2008


motty, which version reads better?
posted by NinjaTadpole at 3:24 AM on February 1, 2008


I would have preferred one of these as a little girl, anyway.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:31 AM on February 1, 2008


It is a tough call, NinjaT, but given a story about an online forum's successful action campaign and the choice between a link to that forum itself or to a largely regurgitated press release on a newspaper recently caught out spamming for SEO, I'd probably plump for the former. You know, on balance. Unless the newspaper version was such a unique priceless pearl of prose as to make it seem somehow wrong to omit it, in which case I'd apply to the moderators for special permission to have more than one link in the post.
posted by motty at 3:36 AM on February 1, 2008


Oh, these people are overreacting. I had Woolworth's Shotacon Bed For Boys, and I turned out just fine.
posted by Greg Nog at 3:37 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


In the current climate of department stores 'sexualising' pre-teen girls it's pretty off. Kids should be allowed to be kids without balding overweight marketing types projecting their fantasies into them.
posted by mattoxic at 3:48 AM on February 1, 2008


Sounds like a bed my daughter would like. Is there someplace I can buy one cheap post-scandal? Unless it says "Lolita" across the headboard, I doubt anyone would ever know what the company called it.

My "Cuckold" model recliner is very comfortable and was a real bargain.
Except that I have to share it with strangers.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:49 AM on February 1, 2008 [10 favorites]


Old Yeller dog food.
posted by jbickers at 4:07 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bambi's Mother Buckshot
posted by XMLicious at 4:12 AM on February 1, 2008


Remember that askme about cultural touchstones? This is why. Personally I have never had any problem with my Captain Ahab swim trunks.
posted by Gungho at 4:17 AM on February 1, 2008


I think a whole subculture of young girls who believe in exactly the opposite of Nabakovian Lolita-esque concepts (that Rori is about restraint and prettyness without being sexually alluring - q.v. skirt lengths, "non-flashy" materials and "wear a blouse under that JSK!") will find this mild amusing.

Seriously though - what exactly was the mothers' fear? That letting their daughter sleep in a bed named Lolita would turn her into one? Give her less argument should an aging relatively attempt to force himself up on her in one? I really fail to understand how this whole strain of Political Correctness is actually considered by its proponents to make anything or anyone safer. ...
posted by benzo8 at 4:18 AM on February 1, 2008


Red Adair Lighter

(oh motty, you're so cute when you puff up like that.)
posted by NinjaTadpole at 4:27 AM on February 1, 2008


Who's puffing up? I am busy being grumpy.
posted by motty at 4:57 AM on February 1, 2008


benzo8 -- I don't know if they were necessarily afraid of anything in particular. The woman quoted in the story said "Am I being particularly sensitive, or does anyone else out there think it’s bad taste...". I, too, might buy the bed if I were in the market for little girls' beds, but I would also look very suspiciously upon whoever named it that.

The company's initial response is odd...they refused to change the name because "we also have to respond to customer demands and follow current trends"...what customers were demanding children's furniture named "Lolita"?
posted by creasy boy at 4:59 AM on February 1, 2008


Wacker Concrete Vibrators. Be sure to check out their exciting line of motor-in-head internal vibrators!
posted by Pollomacho at 5:03 AM on February 1, 2008


If they never heard of Lolita, how did they name it that?
posted by DU at 5:20 AM on February 1, 2008


Not strange, motty; I imagine that more MeFites read timesonline regularly than read raisingkids.

I'm wondering why those mothers are concerned about the brand name of the bed. I mean, it's not like it comes with instructions for the kid on how to replicate Nabokov's storyline.




At least, I assume it doesn't.
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 5:30 AM on February 1, 2008


I imagine that more MeFites read timesonline regularly than read raisingkids.

<grump>
This is an argument for linking to Times Online how?
</grump>
posted by motty at 5:42 AM on February 1, 2008


My father's business used to carry Wacker Concrete Vibrators, along with Ridgid Tools.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:43 AM on February 1, 2008


At least they didn't call the bed the "Humbert Humbert." Now that would be creepy.
posted by exlotuseater at 6:39 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


If they never heard of Lolita, how did they name it that?

Maybe they just heard a derivative use and thought it seemed hep. For instance, there was a big French dance hit called "Moi... Lolita" a few years ago, sung by a girl who was young and appeared younger in the video. Some aliterate person could, I suppose, see things like that and, if surrounded by clueless colleagues, make a bad marketing choice.
posted by pracowity at 6:50 AM on February 1, 2008


Why are they renaming this? I was looking for something to shame my 8 year old daughter and make her stop being such a whore. This would have been perfect. Teach her to say that little fairy from the High School Musical show is "cute".
posted by ND¢ at 6:56 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


My father's business used to carry Wacker Concrete Vibrators, along with Ridgid Tools.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:43 AM on February 1 [+] [!]


Epon-innuendysterical?
posted by Pollomacho at 6:56 AM on February 1, 2008


This is the stupidest thing I've heard all week. It's a word. It's a word that happens to be a name that was used in a book that very few people have even read (I have read it, and found it pretty boring and generally not as good as many other "classics" I've read, but that's just my opinion). The bed does not have the word Lolita written on it anywhere. I can't believe, with all there is to worry about in this world, especially as a parent, that one would take time out to actually make a fuss about this. Pathetic.
posted by agregoli at 7:00 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Let's pause for a moment, in memory of the marketing geniuses who came up with the Zyklon Trainers.
posted by zorro astor at 7:13 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


"aliterate" Heh.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 7:35 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


At some store, years ago, I saw a selection of Forrest Gump brand boxed chocolates. All maple creme. Marketing is like a box of Forrest Gump brand chocolates. You ALWAYS know what you are going to get.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:49 AM on February 1, 2008


Zyklon is just german for cyclone.
posted by Catfry at 7:50 AM on February 1, 2008


Let's pause for a moment, in memory of the marketing geniuses who came up with the Zyklon Trainers.

And the Hoover V2.
posted by biscotti at 7:51 AM on February 1, 2008


...to be quickly replaced with their new "Little Ho" line of bedroom furniture.
posted by eye of newt at 8:16 AM on February 1, 2008


MeTa
posted by grouse at 8:19 AM on February 1, 2008


Rumor has it that Woolworths is replacing the Lolita with the "Serge Gainsbourg Signature Lemon Incest" model.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 8:22 AM on February 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


DU writes "If they never heard of Lolita, how did they name it that?"

They don't actually make these things. Some marketing department in Indonesia or China thumbed thru a book of baby names and slapped one on the box.
posted by Mitheral at 8:43 AM on February 1, 2008


Um, the Times is not quite a dumb tabloid yet.
posted by Artw at 8:44 AM on February 1, 2008


LOLLOLITA
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:46 AM on February 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Times has been a tabloid since 2004. Dumb is a matter of opinion.
posted by grouse at 8:48 AM on February 1, 2008


Heh. That's not quite what I meant.

It'll never match the awesome tabloidyness of The Sun no matter what the paper size.
posted by Artw at 8:52 AM on February 1, 2008


(Looking at The Sun site actually made me feel vaguely homesick. WTF? First I start liking Top Gear and now this? I must be turning into one ofd those red faced expats who live in Florida and compalin how England is no good anymore because "the darkies" have taken over)
posted by Artw at 8:54 AM on February 1, 2008


(Aside: ninjatadpole, not everyone reads MetaTalk so you may not know, but motty is referring to the fact that Mefi has been spammed by TimesOnline more than a few times - thus his reaction. And this post is now being discussed in MetaTalk, fyi.)
posted by madamjujujive at 8:55 AM on February 1, 2008


Let's pause for a moment, in memory of the marketing geniuses who came up with the Zyklon Trainers.

And the Hoover V2.

----------


Dude, Hoover Vacuums suck.


posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 8:58 AM on February 1, 2008


In any decent world the Hoover V2 would have been renamed the Hoover A4.

[/rocketnerd]
posted by Artw at 8:59 AM on February 1, 2008


Why are they renaming this? I was looking for something to shame my 8 year old daughter and make her stop being such a whore.

Spare rods.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:12 AM on February 1, 2008


What strikes me as insane about the whole thing is that in the book, Lolita wasn't in the least a tarted-up mini-whore. She was a regular American girl, and even Humbert Humbert, creepy old sophisticated European, found her annoyingly childish. That the name Lolita has turned into shorthand for a young seductress, instead of say, "Humbert" becoming shorthand for thieving, raping creep...

Just riles up the book-loving feminist, that's all. I loved the book, its use of language, the way it draws out the senses. The dread in the presence of this truly frightening man. And all we get is shorthand for young whore. Fuck me.
posted by jimmietown softgirl at 9:33 AM on February 1, 2008 [12 favorites]


The staff at Woolworths hasn't read Nabokov. Who'd have thought that?
posted by Mike D at 9:38 AM on February 1, 2008


jimmietown softgirl, it sort of underscores the significance behind reading Lolita as a tale of colonialism, doesn't it?

On behalf of all Adult Babies, I am saddened by the loss of this perfect fetish furniture, and I shall do my best to protest Woolworths's insensitive slight on my people. WAAAAAAH! WAAH WAAAH WAAHHHHH!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:42 AM on February 1, 2008


Stupid illiterate Americans.

Oh no wait! It's not us this time?
posted by juliplease at 10:11 AM on February 1, 2008


Don'tchathink it's more likely that the popular etymology of the word Lolita is from the movie adaptations? I haven't read the book, but I seem to recall the Kubrick adaptation painted roles of seductress and hapless/asinine victim much more closer to the common understanding.

Last summer, angry parents demanded that a cinema advertisement about the disappearance of Madeleine McCann should no longer be screened before the children’s film Shrek the Third.

Ah, angry parents, always selflessly looking out for children everywhere.
posted by Skwirl at 10:13 AM on February 1, 2008


Just riles up the book-loving feminist, that's all...The dread in the presence of this truly frightening man. And all we get is shorthand for young whore.

Geez, this feminist never even caught onto that part. Yuck indeed.
posted by agregoli at 10:15 AM on February 1, 2008


Oh those silly Brits. These are the same folk who have no probs eating spotted dick.
posted by nickyskye at 10:38 AM on February 1, 2008


..."Humbert" becoming shorthand for thieving, raping creep...


If you haven't read the book, interpretation spoiler alert:

I wouldn't be doing justice to some of my undergraduate profs if I didn't point out that Humbert Humbert is insane and we can't trust a word of the story he tells. Granted, that doesn't make him any less of a creep, but the thieving and raping is up for debate.
posted by juliplease at 10:53 AM on February 1, 2008


So will this thread Give Well? Who knows.
posted by Mister_A at 11:34 AM on February 1, 2008


I don't know, I had always gotten a very definite impression that Humbert was not only sexually obsessed with Lolita, but that he actually... well, acted on it, shall we say. The implications were pretty strong - dont' have my copy with me now, but I re-read it last summer, so it's still relatively fresh in my mind.
posted by Phire at 12:16 PM on February 1, 2008


I'm sure he acted on his perversions. And just like some web site to tell you how you should understand a book. Worse than a pretentious lit teacher.

The girl is clearly ruined, runs off with a young man and gets pregnant, hates Humbert. Are we supposed to believe the whole story about him becoming her step-father , etc., is also his sick fantasy? I just read it recently too, and can't remember specifics. I guess I shoulda read some web sites first.
posted by jimmietown softgirl at 1:02 PM on February 1, 2008


Hey, whoa, sorry, I didn't mean to offend. I studied it under a pretentious lit teacher who was of the mind that the whole thing was written while HH is legally insane. The idea of the unreliable narrator is a pretty common one and just one interpretation of the many available.
posted by juliplease at 1:44 PM on February 1, 2008


Yeah, the colonialism angle is way more untenable, but that's the pretense from the professor from Reading Lolita in Tehran.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:17 PM on February 1, 2008


Something was nagging me about this all day, and it just sort of clicked; namely, who the fuck calls a bed anything anyway? I've had the "bed" model bed all my life. I assumed they were all called that.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:21 PM on February 1, 2008


Huh? Most products such as beds, night tables, couches, lamps, etc. are all named SOMETHING. How would a retailer differentiate between products? Check any web site that sells items like these and you'll see that they all have a name of some sort.
posted by agregoli at 2:32 PM on February 1, 2008


The staff at Woolworths hasn't read Nabokov. Who'd have thought that?

And no, she wasn't new...and to make matters worse the checker next to her didn't know either.
posted by dhartung at 3:16 PM on February 1, 2008


Exaggerated sensitivities run amok.
posted by bz at 3:55 PM on February 1, 2008


“That the name Lolita has turned into shorthand for a young seductress, instead of say, "Humbert" becoming shorthand for thieving, raping creep...Just riles up the book-loving feminist, that's all.”

Yep. Agreed. Weird. And 'pedophile' seems a bit too light. Pervert works. Rapist. Etc. Chickenhawk seems to have been co-opted for other uses, that’s in part, perhaps, by design.

In ignorance, I don’t know why anyone would use that particular name. Although certainly it’s got a more exotic ring to it than, say, ‘Jane.’ And, to be fair, I think the ‘-ita’ ending implies (given the Spanish, and the alliterative) ‘little.’ And it’s probably just some working stiff hired to name the beds trying to be sorta creative.

(In the masculine it’s ‘-ito,’ - e.g. taquito, burrito (little donkey - more properly called taco de harina) Churrito, etc. - which is why I got such a chuckle out of every time they mentioned the Judge in the OJ case. “Today, Judge Ito ruled that...” *smirk* ‘Smed, what’s so funny man?’)

Still, why expend any skull work on naming a bed at all? Just generate a list of common female names and plug away.

Dunno that ‘Lolita’ is that common. Maybe they’re going for the whole idealized childhood thing for marketing purposes. I dunno.
But then, why not go with adjectives? The ‘petitie.’ The ‘lovely.’ etc. etc. Or use other language adjectives - la bella, encantadora, etc.
But I guess that’s why I don’t make the big ‘name that bed’ bucks for department stores.


2nd on the Kubrik film version comment.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:01 PM on February 1, 2008


Exaggerated sensitivities run amok.
I assume that you're talking about this thread, wherein people are getting all worked up about what happened.

It doesn't seem even remotely unreasonable to me for a mother who sees a "Lolita Bed" targeted for young girls to think, "Uh, WTF?". Nor even to actually say to the company selling it, "Uh, WTF?".

Many posters here seem to be assuming that the people complaining were frothing at the mouth. Meanwhile, the one quote in the article from someone who complained was:
Am I being particularly sensitive, or does anyone else out there think it’s bad taste for Woolies to have a kiddy bed range named ‘Lolita’?
Yeah, that's certainly running amok if I ever saw running amok.

Complaining about supposed "PC" sometimes seems like the new PC.
posted by Flunkie at 4:30 PM on February 1, 2008


Remember the Gutvik children's bed from Ikea? From CNN Money "101 Dumbest Moments in Business" (January 1, 2004):

"In April, Swedish furniture giant Ikea explains that a children's bunk bed called the Gutvik is named for "a tiny town in Sweden." Announcing that bit of etymology becomes necessary when Germans point out that, in their neck of the woods, the word sounds like a phrase that means "good f***." Ikea yanks the Gutvik from its catalogs in Germany."
posted by iviken at 4:54 PM on February 1, 2008


Some aliterate person

Precisely the right word, pracowity. There should be a name for the trope where a typo makes a deeper point, besides "Freudian Slip."

"Aliteracy" could mean that you could read, but not really understand. And there's a lot of that in the world.

Or it could mean -- more provocatively -- that while you know how to read, you never really bother, and hence don't know thing one about the textual world and do stupid things like this (or is this a brilliant piece of viral PR for some line of children's furniture, or Woolworth getting hip to the internet at last?).

There's a lot of that kind of aliteracy out there too. I mean, you don't *have* to have read *Lolita* (or even seen the film) to know the context in which this would be a bad idea for a bed name. You would just have to read the newspaper once in a while. Or paid attention in a hundred other movies or TV shows.

But "aliteracy" as in lack of curiosity about traditional written literature is a definite trend I see among the very, very well educated (Ivy League) college students I read (also true to some extent about film -- I seriously know a late-20s person who *can't* not watch black and white movies, which she finds impossibly flat and boring and insufficiently mimetic, like me listening to a 78 RPM record, I guess). Now, many of my 18-30 year old students (because increasingly I include my grad students in this) are *deeply* literate in internet contexts, and it's certainly easy enough to discover the meaning of "Lolita" as a literary and specifically pornographic trope if you spend any time online at all, never having heard the name "Nabokov" or the phrase "unreliable narrator." I am constantly catching myself talking about things I think everyone knows until they stare blankly at me, and the E.D. Hirsch response is all too easy, and I do sometimes gripe that they are "culturally [and scientifically] illiterate" or give them remedial reading in Western Civ 101 or Evolutionary Biology 101. But they also school me on a lot of stuff.

My 70 year old mother gets SPAM that utterly shocks her which I don't even notice any longer when it sneaks past the junk mail filter. She will call me up to tell me about some email she's received about sex with snakes or something . . . just like she can't quite grasp the metaphor of a nested file system "in" her computer, her mind can't grasp the shift in the value and economy of language she knew as a highly educated woman (she can read Medieval Latin and administer a morphine drip like nobody's business) born in the 1938. Precisely because she is literate in the extreme in print culture, she can't make the shift to the unfiltered word market of the net. She is used to a culture of peer review and editorial boards and the Daily Paper's endorsement meaning something. She is a person of the book. SPAM makes no sense to her.

Aliteracy is spreading upward in generational location, but I don't want to brand it as a net negative thing. I don't know. How much of the outrage above is nostalgia for literacy, projection (we're not reading great literature here, most of the time, and many of us spend a lot more time here than we do curled up with a great novel), I can't say. But it's a more interesting subject to discuss than the story itself, which is just stupid, really.

Culture changes. It just leaves some all of us behind, eventually.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:09 PM on February 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


"can't not watch" -= crazy assed double negative, meaning "can't watch black and white"
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:10 PM on February 1, 2008


And of course prawocity may have meant "aliterate" in the first place and it is perhaps no type at all.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:38 PM on February 1, 2008


Thanks for that last note. I was just about to come in here and explain that aliterate wasn't a typo.
posted by pracowity at 12:46 AM on February 2, 2008


Yeah, fourcheesemac, aliterate is a real word, sorry.
posted by grouse at 2:01 AM on February 2, 2008


I hereby retract my ignorant "heh".
posted by Nick Verstayne at 11:00 AM on February 21, 2008


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