In 2009 I did a post whose title — “Excuse Me While I Kiss this Guy” — was an homage to the great modern institution of mangled popular song lyrics. That particular neurological “take” on Jimi Hendrix’s wailed request in “Purple Haze” is so prevalent that an entire website dedicated to misheard song lyrics is actually called “Kiss This Guy,” and beat me to the punch by three years. Who knew?
Knowing, it seems, is the key. That “kiss this guy” mistake is probably based as much on the cognitive dissonance implicated in the brain’s processing of the real lyric, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky,” as any failure to enunciate by the late, great stoned Englishman Hendrix. ”Kiss the sky” is just not in our neural “type-ahead” cache, and while you might not think “kiss this guy” actually is, well, turns out it is. Oddly enough.
Same thing with names. Pattern recognition and familiarity are all. Everyone, after all, knows what “a Louis Vuitton” is, and wants one — real or not. The result has been years of fun and, for many of those I love, profit.
Even I had my moments on that score, and when, as a much younger man, I was tasked to hop on an Amtrak and sue a trademark counterfeiter on LVMH’s behalf in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, I was happy to do it. (The “LV” is for Louis Vuitton; the M is not for Malletier, in fact — the “MH” is for MoÃ«t Hennessy. Together, they’re a “group.”) The resulting decision, Malletier v. Veit, was kind of important for about ten minutes.
But who is that plaintiff? Who is this Malletier guy?
The plaintiff in my case, of course — and in Malletier v. Dooney & Bourke, and a whole bunch of other cases — was not a guy named Louis V. Malletier. Of course. You knew that. It is, rather, the firm called Louis Vuitton Malletier — and as you also knew, a “malletier is, in French, literally a trunk-maker, or manufacturer of luggage and suitcases.” It comes from the French word malle, which means trunk but related, as is readily evident, to the word “mallet” for hammer.