"Smells Like Teen Spirit"

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun May 21 00:29:38 UTC 2006

On 5/20/06, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at csli.stanford.edu> wrote:
> On May 20, 2006, at 3:01 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> > Am I perhaps the last person on the face of the earth to discover
> > that this famous song title puns on the name of a brand of underarm
> > deodorant, uh, anti-perspirant marketed to adolescents, said brand
> > name being, "Teen Spirit"?
> if wikipedia, and my memory, are to be believed (neither of these is
> a sure thing), it's a bit more complicated than that.  a deodorant
> was involved, but cobain maintained he didn't know about the one on
> the market under the name Teen Spirit until after the song became a hit.

The story goes (from Wikipedia) that Kathleen Hanna of the band Bikini
Kill sprayed "Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit" on his wall. She in turn
was playing on the commercials for Teen Spirit running at the time. I
once saw a clip of a commercial on MTV, and it featured a teenage girl
smelling a stick of the deodorant and saying "Smells like... Teen
Spirit!" Clearly ripe for parody.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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