May 7, 2013

"Lil Wayne Puts Mountain Dew in Crisis Mode."

"How much street cred is too much?"
The family [of 1955 murder victim Emmett Till] was not satisfied with [Lil Wayne's acknowledgement of the offense they took at his lyric likening Till's murder to sexual enthusiasm] and instead called for a meeting with executives at PepsiCo. At the same time, a publicist for the family said, they found an additional way to pressure Mountain Dew: to bring to public attention an offensive Mountain Dew video ad created by the hip-hop producer and rap artist known as Tyler, the Creator, that featured a battered white waitress, bandaged and on crutches, trying to identify her assailant from a lineup that included African-American men and a goat.
What niche of meaning does each particular soda occupy? The Mountain Dew brand was always transgressive:
"Mountain Dew" was originally Southern and/or Scots/Irish slang for moonshine (i.e., homemade whiskey).... Using it as the name for the soda was originally suggested by Carl E. Retzke at an Owens-Illinois Inc meeting in Toledo, Ohio, and was first trademarked by Ally and Barney Hartman in the 1940s. Early bottles and signage carried the reference forward by showing a cartoon-stylized mountaineer. 
Mountaineer? That's Wikipedia text. I guess someone edited "hillbilly," trying to get to something more decorous. To my ear, a "mountaineer" is "A person who engages in or is skilled at mountain climbing" — and that is the 5th definition in the (unlinkable) Oxford English Dictionary. I'm surprised to see the first definition is: "A person who is native to or lives in a mountainous region; (occas.) such a person regarded as ignorant, uncivilized, or uneducated; (U.S.) a hillbilly." This usage goes back to Shakespeare:
a1616   Shakespeare Cymbeline (1623) iv. ii. 102   Yeeld, Rusticke Mountaineer.
a1616   Shakespeare Tempest (1623) iii. iii. 44   When wee were Boyes Who would beleeue that there were Mountayneeres, Dew-lapt [etc.].
The word "hillbilly" — "A person from a remote rural or mountainous area, esp. of the south-eastern U.S." — is only traced back to 1900:
1900   N.Y. Jrnl. 23 Apr. 2/5   In short, a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him.
Has anyone ever before written a blog post that went from Lil Wayne to Shakespeare so quickly? I don't know, but I'm interested in how the product's branding evolved from low-class white to low-class black. But the branding has always been low-class. How do you do that well and remain current when there are high-minded groups getting press, demanding apologies, stirring up outrage?

IN THE COMMENTS: richlb said:
...poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed...
All right, then. That settles it.

84 comments:

Pogo said...

No worries, since it wasn't done by a white male.

Now it's just free publicity.

Nomennovum said...

Maybe this one goes under the rubric "there is no such thing as bad publicity.

El Pollo Real said...

Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed,
Then one day he was shootin at some food,
And up through the ground came a bubblin crude.

betamax3000 said...

So I take it there isn't going to be a Mountain Dew promotional tie-in with the Gatsby movie?

El Pollo Real said...

People forget that premise of The Beverley Hillbillies was to laugh not just at the Clampetts but also at the "sophisticated."

E Pluribus Unum

SteveR said...

I like Mountain Dew better than Squirt

pduggie said...

Yeah, mountaineer is a standard term

"I guess someone edited "hillbilly," trying to get to something more decorous."

You could prove that. was there a revision?

donald said...

It's a key component of purple drank.

X said...

I had no idea Mountain Dew was created by Owens-Illinois, but it makes sense. that probably is what liquid insulation tastes like.

ad hoc said...

I'm a little surprised that you're surprised to see the first definition of a mountaineer is: "A person who is native to or lives in a mountainous region"

The WVU mountaineers.

traditionalguy said...

The people raised in secluded mountain valleys are the uneducated and poor from among a talented group of Scots/Irish that had been the proud supporters of William of Orange in the old world.

Low class is what we see from our being educated to near a religious worship of ideas perch.

Like money, having education is better than being poor and ignorant.

But the George Jones' and Dolly Partons and John Steinbecks of this world are really not low class people.

Nomennovum said...

The Hillbilly Manhattan: Ice, Makers, and a splash of Mountain Dew, served in a jar or a red Solo cup.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I thought Emmett Till was an NFL running back.

Ann Althouse said...

"You could prove that. was there a revision?"

Good idea. You could check too!

edutcher said...

Nice to see someone on the other side given the Full Court Alinsky.

PS Love the definition:

1900 N.Y. Jrnl. 23 Apr. 2/5 In short, a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him.

Cut it down to the emphasis and it sounds less like a white guy from Huntsville and more like somebody who voted Demo last time out.

chuck said...

Low class? You are insulting a significant percentage of workers in Silicon Valley.

Long the late-night programmer's favorite with 17.4% more caffeine than any member of the Coke family and over 40% more caffeine than Pepsi, Mountain Dew

Jeff Teal said...

Mountaineer=hillbilly=redneck=my ancestors.Tough people who just happened to fight in a much higher than average proportion all of this country's wars.By the way mountain dew and Tullamore Dew are mos def related.

Ann Althouse said...

"Low class? You are insulting a significant percentage of workers in Silicon Valley."

Not talking about who's actually drinking it, but what image is intended.

Mountain Dew has always presented the image as a low-class individual -- not in a negative way, but as fun-loving and free.

Loren said...

"Ya-Hoo! Mountain Dew!"

The hillbilly also had a jug in hand on the label, IIRC.

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry if "low class" seems like a blatant insult.

What would be more politically correct?

Poverty-stricken?

We're talking about people who are at a lower economic level than "proletarian" or "working class" or whatever.

Ann Althouse said...

"Tough people who just happened to fight in a much higher than average proportion all of this country's wars."

These are the people depicted in any Mountain Dew ad I have ever seen.

ricpic said...

Untrammeled. The public good done wiped that out.

Jeff Teal said...

quite true that the rest of society views the children of Appalachia as low class.I remember a video presentation at Hemisfair in 1968 that highlighted VISTA work in SW Va and Tenn.But these people have more inherent dignity than their "betters" from say NY.Your own example from two days ago from KY illustrates this,yes?

edutcher said...

Jeff Teal said...

Mountaineer=hillbilly=redneck=my ancestors.Tough people who just happened to fight in a much higher than average proportion all of this country's wars.

Not after Appomattox.

And how come so many regiments in the Regular Army were known as Irish or German regiments?

The Micks and the Krauts showed up when nobody else did.

Jeff Teal said...

I don't like poverty-stricken as a term since it sounds like a disease. But dirt poor covers it nicely.Especially since part of the reason for their poverty was the low.fecundity of montane soils.

Jeff Teal said...

There are an awful lot of Schmidts in the Pennsy mountains and O'Reillys in the Tennessee hills.I once did a study of relatice percentages of military medals versus state of origin and those mountain places were severely overrepresented.

Dr Weevil said...

"Hillbillies"? Way back in 1935, the Hoosier Hot-Shots (favorites of my parents growing up) pointed out that "Them Hill-Billies are Mountain Williams Now".

Pribek said...

In the old commercials the slogan was, "There's a bang in every bottle". Made women amorous and men shoot straight.

http://youtu.be/dyu4Tpoq8hc

I haven't noticed a malt liquor type marketing strategy but, I can testify that it's a popular product amongst self professed "real hillbillies". In recent years, I've seen a trend among the same folk of ordering Mountain Dew and Jim Beam at the bar...can't imagine.

Dr Weevil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust Bunny Queen said...

I suggest that those who want to understand "hillbilly" culture read Born Fighting by Senator James Webb

One man's dirt poor is another man's freedom to live as they choose.

Bob R said...

National Lampoon The Hillbillies

ken in sc said...

Traditionalguy is right about William of Orange supporters being called hillbillies. They were also called rednecks because of their scarves. A British officer, is supposed to have written in a letter during the American Revolution, words to the effect that this revolt is nothing but an excuse for Presbyterian rednecks to shoot at redcoats.

ken in sc said...

After the Whiskey Rebellion, in western Pennsylvania, those rednecks came down the Great Wagon Road to the southern mountains, to get away from George Washington's revenuers. That's how we got here.

ken in sc said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sofa King said...

Mountain Dew jingle from before when it was a soft drink:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khFkNsBbmAQ&t=46s

edutcher said...

Jeff Teal said...

There are an awful lot of Schmidts in the Pennsy mountains and O'Reillys in the Tennessee hills.

Those are Scots Presbyterians that intermarried in their century in Ireland.

Kind of like George McGovern.

If you can't count your ancestry only as far back as 1845, you're no Mick.

(hey, that's what Bill Richardson says)

Methadras said...

So the Rancid Little Demon has done his work.

Parker said...

Early marketing slogan, remembered from my youth:

"It'll tickle yor innards!"

Ah, a simpler time.

buwaya said...

I can't help but think that this is a lifestyle to aspire to -

" In short, a Hill-Billie is a free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him."

When I finally put my responsibilities behind me, I am going to do this, or die trying.

GrandpaMark said...

Im gonna hafta get me one a them Oxford English Dictionaries

Lem said...

How do you do that well and remain current when there are high-minded groups getting press, demanding apologies, stirring up outrage?

The answer to that is also related to your question from the other day...

Why are the figures on our national stage so lacking in greatness?

It must be us. This must be our doing. Our preference.

Peter said...

"They call it that good old mountan dew,
And them that refuse it are few.
I'll hush up my mug if you'll fill up my jug
With that good old mountain dew."

"My aunt Lucille had an automobile,
It ran on a gallon or two.
It didn't need no gas and it didn't need no oil,
It just ran on that good old mountain dew."


OK, so "mountain dew" really is an old euphemism for moonshine. But how "transgressive" is it really to name carbonated sugar water after it?

Balfegor said...

Re: Pogo:

No worries, since it wasn't done by a white male.

Oh, there are ways around that little problem.

furious_a said...

"mountaineer" is "A person who engages in or is skilled at mountain climbing"...

...to someone NOT from West Virginia.

Steve Koch said...

We have hillbillies in Mo., my dad called them brush apes (which is ok cuz none of them are black).

furious_a said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
furious_a said...

What would be more politically correct?

"Bitter clinger"*
"Back-up-yonder-in-the-holler"
"Ridgerunner"
"Pennsyltuckian"
"The Hills Have Eyes"

* Literally. The rural white Pennsyltucky Democrats who voted for Hillary!.

DADvocate said...

Mountain Dew was first formulated in Knoxville, TN. From Wikipedia; The Hartman brothers developed Mountain Dew as a mixer. Soft drinks were regional in the 1930's, and the Hartmans had difficulty in Knoxville obtaining their preferred soda to mix with liquor, preferably whiskey, so the two men developed their own.[8]

Knoxville was my hometown for the first 38 years of my life. We know it's a hillbilly heaven and haven. I always considered Mountain Dew a redneck drink, but I have one on rare occasions.

Mountain Dew has a tangy taste and a ton of caffeine. I guess blacks like that as well as hillbillies. But, I don't understand why blacks are assumed to be low class.

traditionalguy said...

Speaking of mountaineers, the most famous Mountain man was an illiterate Scots/Irish boy from Missouri who learned to speak most tribal languages plus Spanish. He kept his Sarah Palin like warrior spirit through the nearly every important event of conquest of the American west. He was Kit Carson, all 5 feet 4 inches of Manifest Destiny.

furious_a said...

...a free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him.

Sounds like heaven, now with ROLL TIDE!

Seeing Red said...

Dew doesn't have the caffeine of Dr. Pepper, little did I know.

Now they want to put caffeine in food.

I'm still trying to find Wrigley's gum.

Seeing Red said...

We are actually vacationing in WV this year, check out the fun stuff in the Gorge area.

furious_a said...

...the most famous Mountain man was...

...Andrew Jackson?

richlb said...

...poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed...

richlb said...

...poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed...

Jeff Teal said...

Jackson was lowlander Scots-Irish from SC.

Pianoman said...

Whenever I see "mountaineer" used in sentence, I always think of this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdMV42czPCI

"Mountaineer: Two men skilled in climbing mountains."

Steve Koch said...

One time my dad, my big brother, and I were on a canoe trip in remote Missouri on a beautiful little river. We pulled over by this little shack by the river. For some reason my big brother thought they might sell stuff like soft drinks in the shack. After calling out a few times, he stuck his head in the door and called out some more. This little hillbilly comes out, spittin' mad. We apologized but he didn't want to hear it and pulls a big knife on us. He had a big knife but he was only about 5'8" and maybe 135 pounds while my big brother is a big guy (about 6'4") who just returned from being a squad leader for a year and a half on many infantry patrols in Viet Nam, my dad was still in good shape at that point and was an ex golden gloves boxer, and I was significantly bigger, stronger, faster, and tougher than my big brother. So when the little guy pulled the knife, we just laughed and started picking up big rocks (don't bring a knife to a rock fight). My big brother told the little guy that if he didn't put the knife away, my big brother was going to hold the hillbilly's head under water (in the river) until he blew bubbles. Very funny threat. It was a moment that was both funny and tense. The hillbilly put the knife away and we went on our way down the river without any soda pop.

DADvocate said...

...a free and untrammelled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no means to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he gets it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him.

Shit. Bama ain't got enough hills to shake a stick at. I camped on the highest point in Alabama once, a measely 2,400 ft at Cheaha State Park. Tennessee beats that by o'er 4,000 feet.

traditionalguy said...

Andrew Jackson was from the South Carolina eastern side of the mountains and ended on the Tennessee western side of the mountains as a lawyer, politician, Militia Commander, Spanish Monarchy's agent's killer and most especially British Monarchy's Army killer.

There was something heroic in Jackson that still represents the best of the Scots/Irish tradition... a preemptive killing Kings who threaten him with violence.

Jackson's final recorded memories included saying that his biggest regret was not hanging John C Calhoun for treason when he had the chance during the Interposition Debates which were a preview of secession by the Southern States.

furious_a said...

...Jackson was lowlander Scots-Irish from SC.

...who settled in Jonesboro, Tennessee.

furious_a said...

The hillbilly put the knife away and we went on our way down the river without any soda pop.

No two-string banjo or "purdy mouth"?

Steve Koch said...

"No two-string banjo or purdy mouth?"

No, we clearly had the upper hand in the confrontation. Deliverance portrayed the hillbillies as aggressors but I realize now that maybe that little hillbilly was a bit scared (in addition to being angry). I doubt that he had much contact with outsiders cuz this was a very remote location.

Once we got back on the river, he wasn't going to catch us by himself in a canoe (if he even had one). I don't remember there being a car or truck at the shack, either.

Geoff Matthews said...

Oh, this is NOTHING. Mountain Dew had a contest to name a new flavor, and the leader (before it was taken down) was "Hitler did nothing wrong".

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/13/4chan-mountain-dew_n_1773076.html

Jeff Teal said...

Yep all that and backstabbing SOB who initiated the Trail of Tears.And refused to enforce the SC position in Worcester v Georgia and he gave the US Florida illegally.Mixed bag.But he would not shine a British officers boots.

Alex said...

All this ruckus over sugar water.

Alex said...

Now start talking about the corn crop and you'll get me engines revvin...

AprilApple said...

I remember the first time I read about Emmett Till. I was so devastated and horrified I wanted to throw up.
The idea that Till has been made a punch line in a rap song like a joke, is beyond pathetic and just adds to the thousands of reasons I cannot stand rap. Rap music = the decline.

wyo sis said...

I remember a lot of years of Mt Dew advertising featuring extreme sports.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Althouse wrote: IN THE COMMENTS: richlb said:
...poor mountaineer barely kept his family fed...
All right, then. That settles it.


Yeah, he wrote that alright...a couple hours after I did.

Sheesh, are you blind, Althouse?

Chip S. said...

Rehabilitating this brand is a job for President Camacho.

Chip S. said...

Althouse, feel free to apologize to El Pollo Real for not recognizing his intellectual property.

David Noles said...

My understanding is that northerners in the steel mill cities gave the term hillbilly to folks from Appalachia who came to the north especially Pittsburgh to work in
the steel mills.

Ann Althouse said...

"Sheesh, are you blind, Althouse?"

Sorry. I skim and skip sometimes.

Chip S. said...

I can't believe that "feel free" gambit actually worked this time.

Good on ya, AA. I'm willing to bet you'll add an addendum to the post, too.

Feelin' the commenter/blogger goodwill vibe!

Rick Lee said...

Montani Semper Liberi

Palladian said...

Sorry. I skim and skip sometimes.

Ouch.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Sorry. I skim and skip sometimes.

Me too. I sometimes go right to the comments. :)

Chip S. said...

I'm mighty disappointed that you only got an excusapology instead of a front-page correction and a tag, Raylan. But as I like to say,

Seeking is the goal, and searching is the answer.

Palladian said...

Me too. I sometimes go right to the comments. :)

Zing!

EnigmatiCore said...

Arkansas hillbillies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogpatch_USA

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Mick Havoc said...

They went to live in the hills so they would be left alone.
The hardscrabble ground yielded a bushel of corn they could sell for 50 cents in the flatland.
OR
They could take that same bushel of corn and make six gallons of whisky which they could sell for 3 dollars apiece.
They put the mason jars in the trunk of their '40 Fords and drove them down to Charlotte and Atlanta to sell to the city folk.
When the G-Men started chasing them down the highway, they used the profits to order speed parts from California.
On Saturdays and Sundays they would race around somebody's farm to see whose car was faster.
And that is how NASCAR was born.

Craig said...

Thought Asterix and Obelix was a sequel to Cymbeline.