September 2009


I Love… Whaaa?

by San Diego Shooter

by San Diego Shooter

I’m not an expert on the history of advertising, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that the INY campaign is one of the most memorable and effective tourist campaigns ever created. Conceived in 1977, the imagery is still used today to promote the city and the state.

Despite the fact that, as of 2005, New York has filed almost 3,000 trademark infringement claims against usurpers ranging from San Francisco, Las Vegas, Paris, and a Yoga store, people still use it for derivative and imitative works.

Sure it makes sense when it’s ISF or IParis. I suppose I can even understand it when it says IYoga.

Goethe and Schiller approved.

Goethe and Schiller Approved.

However, sometimes derivative works can go a step too far, and thanks to the Weimar Tourist office, there’s an example of a step too far in Weimar, with the artful “IWE” t-shirts and bags around town.

It’s not obvious what the phrase means: last weekend during when I sat down at the gay bar with J of Germany Doesn’t Suck and two Germans, the two Germans read my t-shirt and had an immediate question: “Isn’t that grammatically incorrect? Shouldn’t that be IUS?” This was even before I sunk completely into grandma’s old couch.

Obviously these were individuals needing education, so I provided them the correct answer: “Don’t you know that WE is the license plate prefix for Weimar? Weimar that is the Cultural Capital of Europe, 1999, home of Goethe, Schiller, Liszt, and all other important German cultural figures?”

Instead I learned a the German variation of that odd American term, “fly-over state”; which in Germany, since one never flies within Germany, is “drive-across state”. It seems that since Weimar is in the state of Thüringen, which as I’ve recently noted, is often described by Germans in terms that remind me of Wyoming, despite radical differences.

It seems that “WE” meaning Weimar is not well known by Germans, and that seeing IWE doesn’t evoke an immediate wanderlust involving Thüringen Bratwurst,  Klöße, and Onion Cake; all served up with a healthy dose of Goethe and Schiller.

What we have instead are Germans trying to diagnose what’s wrong with that English sentence, and native speakers thinking that they’ve either have an existential question in front of them or they have somebody who’s speaking English as a second language.

M Loves YOUStrangely, it seems that Munich has the answer for Weimar, because as Weimar struggles with its IWE, Munich uses MYOU—which works Germans, because as Munich’s a big city, most people know that M is the license plate prefix for Munich. Take that logo to Moldova and they might interpret it a bit differently—never mind Minnesota, Missouri, or Montana.

What would work best, of course, is WEYOU—an actual emotive sentence that draws people in, rather than leaving them scratching their heads. Once the people are drawn in, it’s easy to extend the WE to WEIMAR. Ultimately the sentence is true: Weimar loves you.

And Weimar loves the money you spend in its hotels, restaurants, and shops.

4 comments to I Love… Whaaa?

  • Interesting. Robb has one of those J'(heart)Paris T-shirts. More interesting, I think, is the fact that “New York has filed almost 3,000 trademark infringement claims”. I think Mr. Glaser, who created the logo in the first place, should sue New York for never paying him as much as a single dime for it. I’m certain, had he known these suits were forthcoming, he would not have been so altruistic.

  • I remember seeing this shirt when I was in Wiemar in May. I had questions about it then, but during the latter days of my stay, it made sense to me.

  • starman1695 – I doubt he knew how profitable the logo would be. It’s had amazing longevity.

    Cynical Queer – I couldn’t remember the first time I saw the shirt. I was thinking about buying it for quite awhile though–It seemed like a nice purchase for the Whiney Expatriate (WE) meetup!

  • I think that the letters are more than a license-plate prefix. My understanding is they are used as an abbreviation for the entire Landkreis.

    Munich (and other large German cities) get a bit more exposure for their Landkreis abbreviations, and not just by virtue of registration-plate exposure.

    On Autobahns and other directional signs, the suburbs of Munich are designated with the prefix M. So the exit to my suburb is labelled M-Bogenhausen, for example. (This applies to most other large German cities, I think. Perhaps you’re accustomed to approaching larger German cities by train or plane, Adam?)

    The whole of Munich Airport is plastered with the symbol M. It helps that BMW chooses M as the name of their performance-division, since any available airport surface not plastered with a civic booster M is plastered with a BMW ad.

    M♥YOU is much less charming than the German version, M♥DICH. Which I cannot help but miseread as M♥DICK. And it does.

    The origin of the I♥NY campaign is that NY in the 70s had the reputation of being nasty and unwelcoming. Notice that unlike Munich, doesn’t say NY♥YOU. That would be egregious false advertising. Having lived in New York for a while, I would often remark that New Yorkers had big hearts, but only on their plastic shopping bags. New York is, indeed, the Big Asshole.

    My fave T-Shirts on this theme are twofold. The first is the lament of many a weary traveller:


    and a little observation of my hometown: