“I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
Every marketing course will tell you that branding sells products, but few connect it to the original meaning of branding cattle with a hot iron. Whether we know it or not, we live our personal brands through our daily exchanges. Some brands have lasted for centuries and have come to signify a universal meaning.
“Achilles’ heel” has come to mean a person’s vulnerable spot. In Greek mythology, Achilles’ mother, Thetis, forgot to dip his heel in the River Styx. Adam’s apple refers to the voice box of the throat, an allusion to the story of Adam and Eve. It seems that a piece of the forbidden fruit lodged in Adam’s throat. Swearing by Alexander’s beard was a reference to Alexander the Great’s dislike for beards. He shaved and made certain that all followed his example. If anyone said, they “swore by Alexander’s beard,” they were not swearing by anything.
Fast forward a few hundred years, Calamity Jane came to exemplify respect. Mrs. Martha Burke was her real name, but she became famous because of her ability to handle herself in dangerous situations. Any man who provoked her invited calamity.
My personal favourite! Sally Lunn, who lived in the late eighteenth century, is known for her legendary enriched yeast breads associated with the town of Bath. Her voice was heard throughout the streets, calling for people to buy her delicious wares. She became famous and her name came to symbolize the best of things to eat.
“Live out your life in truth and justice, tolerant of those who are neither true nor just.”
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations