Purely by coincidence, today is Veterans day. This has nothing to do with the fact that the Snark Materials Acquisitions Team dropped this copy of Picture Post magazine on my desk and I flipped randomly to this ad for Japlac. Double-you tee, eff. Really?" "Japlac"?
So, what's the deal with Japlac? Well, when you think about it, it makes some sense. The word "lac" can be traced back to an insect which was so numerous in India and China that is was given the name "lac", which was the root of the word "laksha", meaning "one hundred thousand". Lac bugs contained a resin that could be used to make the shiny painty stuff called "lacquer". Ta-da.
Lacquer is very glossy, and generally dries harder than other finishes, such as enamel. The lady in the ad had better have a window open - lacquer tends to smell a lot while it's wet.
In Asia, lacquer production became something of an art, and they were good at it as far back as 4500 B.C. So, while in '51, it was no longer made from squashed bugs, but polymers and petroleum just like everything else in the world, the name had already stuck. In people's minds, Asia is still The Shit when it comes to lacquer furniture and shiny black things. Remember the shiny black furniture in The Eighties that looked kind of Asian? That's the lacquer look. It's a shame that The Eighties had to go and rub it's stink all over an ancient and beautiful art style, but "tasteful restraint" was a dirty word in The Eighties.
Actually, it's kind of understandable to use the prefix "Jap" to sell your lacquer in 1951 England. But still, that font. Wow. Kind of racist. You can download MP3s of WWII news reports from about a hundred places on the web, and it's really bizarre to hear an otherwise professional reporter talk about "pushing back the Japs" in a battle on some island or other. That's kind of an indicator of how much Americans hated them. They didn't think anything of calling them "The Japs". You don't get that kind of slanted hate speech in the news now without resorting to Fox News... but then again, that's not real news, is it? Heh.
It's easy for us here in The Future can look back on the word "Japlac" and exchange awkward glances. But at the time, it worked. Yes, Japlac is still around, but they've changed their logo to something a little less "me so solly". Good job, there. I'm kind of surprised to see they're still using the name at all. But if you must keep the name, at least lose the Nixon In China font.
Some other unfortunate household products from history that seemed like a good idea at the time:
-Philips' Milk of Rhodesia: Go like a Rhodesian!
-Babycham Lite - Now with much less baby!
-Irish Times Bathtub Whiskey - Everyone's a little Irish sometimes!