816 North Opinion

August 22, 2014

David Knopf: The I’s don’t have it in Coke’s name game

Poor Isaac. One son loses out in Coca-Cola’s personalized bottle promotion. The 250 names include only Ian and Ibrahim in the ‘I” category.

Before we dive into our scintillating tale, I need to come clean about my drink habits.

I always have at least one, usually two, drinks in hand when I walk into work. Ditto for the trip home and when I walk into the house.

I’m typically armed with a diet cola in one hand, a coffee in the other. Apparently, I didn’t get enough caffeine as a kid and am trying to catch up.

First, let’s address the diet cola issue. The first non-sports story I wrote for a daily newspaper was about Nutrasweet. This was back in the day when aspartame was the new kid on the block, touted as a healthy alternative.

My deadline was flexible because it was a lifestyle feature, a soft one at that. It didn’t stop me from digging and digging, writing and rewriting, talking to experts and otherwise wearing myself out on a subject that deserved, at best, 30 minutes.

Fast forward to the present and imagine me entering a Casey’s to fill up with — what else? — diet cola and coffee.

You should know that as far as the Coke-Pepsi schism goes, I’m a straddler. Depending on the day, I go with either Diet Pepsi or Coke Zero. Diet Pepsi is my default drink, but when I want something sweeter, I go with Coke Zero.

In that context, I was standing in line to pay. To my left, I noticed an ad for Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign. There were three bottles pictured — Diet Coke, Coke Zero and sugared Coke — each with a first name on the label. The first two were Sarah and Matt, which happened to be my daughter and son-in-law’s names and prompted a quick phone photo for them.

My area of expertise is obsessive, often trivial, quests, so searching for bottles with those names came naturally.

I found Matt and Sarah, as well as one with my name on it, after about a week of rummaging through 20-ounce bottles. Store clerks must’ve thought I was suspicious, taking all those bottles out and then sliding them back where they belonged.

Marieta, my wife’s name, was unusual and I knew I wouldn’t find it. But I thought our son Isaac’s was common enough that I would.

I didn’t immediately think to go to the “Share a Coke” page, which had a scroll-through feature with all 250 names. Isaac isn’t included.

Ben, Aaron, Sarah, David, Matt(hew) and Mary made the cut (sorry, no Jesus or Moses), so you’d think Isaac would be among them.

Judging from the number of comments on Coke’s website, the promotion has been popular. Indeed, one Israeli Arab actually took the bottler to court, claiming too few Arab names had been included in Coke’s Israeli promotion.

I don’t plan to make a federal case about Isaac being omitted, even though the letter I seemed short-changed, with only two names, Ian and Ibrahim.

Rather than cry over what wasn’t included, my mantra is “when life gives you names, engage in word play.”

For that reason, I created a rhythmic Spanish name for my son. Personally, I love that language’s passionate feel, how the words roll off the tongue.

So risking an occasional throat trill, I now refer to him as Jose Javier Luis Manuel, all “Share a Coke” names. I call him Joe or JJLM for short.

Admittedly, it’s a long name. But I realized something and hope Coke does, too. Isaac’s nom de cola would fit perfectly on a two-liter bottle.

Have a “Share a Coke” story or a Pepsi experience to share? Pop open your email and let me know at davidknopf48@gmail.com.

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