The owners of Uncle Ho, a new Vietnamese restaurant in Fortitude Valley, have been forced to change the name of the venue by protesters. They’re not the first company to find themselves in this position — from Hitler clothing to ISIS chocolate and Ayds candy, here are 15 brands that have had to turn over a new leaf.
The name ‘Uncle Ho’ refers to communist North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, and it was always going to be controversial.
In an Instagram post on the weekend, director Anna Demirbek complained that the venue had been forced to close after receiving “death threats”, but admitted that she was “fully conscious that the brand Uncle Ho would be sensitive”.
After 100 Vietnamese protesters turned up outside the Fortitude Valley restaurant on Sunday to express their anger (a drop in the bucket, compared to the amount of people who expressed outrage online), the owners backed down, and confirmed they’ll be changing the name to ‘Uncle Bia Hoi’.
Of course, Uncle Ho isn’t the first controversial brand name to bow to public pressure. Here are 15 more — some of them were just unlucky, and some of them will leave you shaking your head that they ever thought they could get away with it.
A number of protesters on the weekend pointed out that calling a restaurant ‘Uncle Ho’ was a bit like calling it ‘Hitler’ — except, of course, someone has actually already done that.
In 2012, the owners of an Indian clothing store called Hitler were forced to change its name to Gladiator after feeling the heat from the public.
Owner Manish Chandani told the AFP news agency at the time that he had never intended to glorify Hitler — and, in fact, he didn’t even know who the bloke was.
“I was not aware of Hitler being responsible for the killings of six million people before the shop’s inauguration,” he said. “This time I will choose a non-controversial name.”
So, why did they call it Hitler? Mr Chandani said the name was a tribute to his grandfather, who was nicknamed Hitler because he was “very strict”.
There’s just one thing that makes us a little skeptical Mr Chandani was unaware of the 20th century’s most infamous man — and that’s the fact that the store’s logo incorporated a swastika.
This wasn’t the first time Hitler was responsible for a brand changing its name, either. Way back in 1945, SS Cars — abbreviated from Swallow Sidecar Company — made the solid choice to change their name after the initials ‘SS’ became synonymous with one of the most dreaded organisations in Nazi Germany, the Schutzstaffel. The company’s new name? Jaguar Cars.
The rise and fall of ISIS
The mid-to-late 2010s is not a great time to be named after the Egyptian goddess of magic. Isis, a beautiful name, has become inextricably linked with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), despite the fact that there are perfectly good names we could be referring to those guys by instead, like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) or Daesh (an acronym derived from its Arabic name, ad-Dawlah al-Islāmiyah fī ‘l-ʿIrāq wa-sh-Shām).
The rise of ISIS has led to a long list of businesses changing their names, including a Belgian chocolate manufacturer. That’s a particularly unusual case, because that company had been known as Italo Suisse since 1923, and only changed its name to Isis in 2014. After noticing a severe drop-off in sales, they changed their name again, to Libeert, which has yet to become synonymous with a terrorist organisation. Phew.
“Had we known there was a terrorist organisation with the same name,” marketing manager Desiree Libeert told Reuters at the time, “we would never have chosen that.”
As well as the slew of real businesses that were forced to change their name, which includes multiple software companies, a Canadian immigration organisation, a British private equity firm, a New York nail salon, an Oxford language school and a French rock band, a fictional brand was hit particularly hard.
Popular animated series Archer had revolved around the adventures of the International Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS) since it first aired in 2009. In 2014, the characters began working for the CIA, and ISIS was never mentioned again.
Merchandise featuring the fictional organisation was recalled after creator Adam Reed’s father handed back an ISIS hat.
“I gave my Dad one of the ISIS hats and he said, ‘You know, son, I’m not going to be able to wear the hat anymore’,” Reed said. “‘I’m gettin’ looks at the hardware store.’”
The rise of ISIS even affected meteorological phenomena. In April 2015, the World Meteorological Organisation removed Isis from the list of names for hurricanes, replacing it with ‘Ivette’.
One thing it categorically did not affect, however, was the British period drama Downtown Abbey. When a dog named Isis was killed off on the show, fans believed it was because the show was trying to distance itself from the rogue state — but actor Hugh Bonneville says that’s rubbish.
“Anyone who genuinely believes the series five storyline involving the animal was a reaction to recent world news is a complete berk,” he said.
When acquired immune deficiency syndrome — AIDS — became known to the public in 1981, the manufacturers of a diet candy named Ayds didn’t think it was a big enough deal to justify changing the name of their product. By 1987, they realised they might have misjudged the situation.
“Obviously, with a name like Ayds, we’ll have to do some re-marketing,” CEO Robert Berglass announced at the time. Unfortunately, the new name they chose was Diet Ayds…
…and it wasn’t long until the candy disappeared from shelves altogether.
Uncle Ho isn’t the first restaurant that has been forced to change its name due to public outcry. In fact, it isn’t the first restaurant that has been forced to change its name due to public outcry this weekend.
Bakery and restaurant Saffron Colonial sparked outrage in some corners of Portland when it opened last week, with many accusing it of glorifying colonialism. Owner Sally Krantz has changed the name to BORC, which stands for British Overseas Restaurant Corporation, a play on British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), a former British airline. Getting away from those colonial roots, then.
The law is an ass
When US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away recently, George Mason University decided to honour the man by changing the name of their law school.
The law school’s new name? The Antonin Scalia School of Law. The university proudly trumpeted this on social media, before students noticed the awkward acronym and the hashtag #ASSLaw started trending.
The name has since been revised to The Antonin Scalia Law School. It’s a logical substitute, but it’ll always be ASSLaw to us.
A historic cheesesteak shop in Philadelphia was recently forced to change its name after a string of protests, including a particularly nasty email threatening to hurl a molotov cocktail through the front window.
That’s over the top, but so was the business’ original name — Chink’s Steaks.
Named for founder Sam ‘Chink’ Sherman in 1949, current owner Joe Groh eventually decided to “get with the times” and change it to Joe’s Steaks & Soda Shop.
Take notes, COON Cheese…
ALDI was recently forced to change the name of its “rape yellow” paint after a complaint from a victim of sexual assault at a store in England.
The paint was named after rapeseed, a crop that is yellow in colour.
“You wouldn’t sell something called abortion red or poo brown,” the complainant told The Coventry Telegraph. “To me it’s the same thing, it’s offensive.”
The paint has since been renamed rapeseed yellow.
Rockin’ in the free world
If there’s one group of Canadian post-punk rockers who can relate to the owners of Uncle Ho, it’s Viet Cong.
The group has been copping it on all sides for their offensive name since they formed in 2012, and have even had shows cancelled because of their refusal to change it.
In September 2015, the band finally announced that they would change their name, because they “are not here to cause pain or remind people of atrocities of the past”.
A noble gesture, but it’s now April 2016, and the group still hasn’t gotten any closer to changing its name. It’s still booking gigs under the name Viet Cong, and Canadian music site Exclaim! has started running a real-time counter of the days since Viet Cong changed their name.
That’s in stark contrast to Shihad, the New Zealand rock act who changed their name to Pacifier without any real prompting after the 9/11 terror attacks. They had originally taken their name from the sci-fi film Dune, not realising that it was a word used in the real world by Muslims to refer to the ‘Holy War’ (and not knowing how to spell it correctly, either).
In 2004, they realised that might have been an overreaction, and they changed it back to Shihad. “As much as we believed in what we were doing, and the reasons for doing it at the time, the truth is we were wrong,” the band said in a statement.
The defunct name ‘Pacifier’ was then raffled off to an obscure Tasmanian band, who have continued to be, well, an obscure Tasmanian band.
On the local front, Brisbane indie quintet Cub Scouts were forced to change their name to Cub Sports after Scouts Australia took issue with the misuse of their organisation’s name (yes, seriously). “Some of the band cracked up laughing when our manager told us about the letter,” frontman Tim Nelson said, “but I was just in shock because I don’t think we are a particularly offensive band.”
Two of the world’s most famous search engines started out with very different names. They didn’t have to change them because they were offensive, per se — they were just kind of dumb.
Larry Page and Serge Brin’s search engine was known as BackRub for two years before they changed it to Google — a play on the word ‘googol’, a mathematical term to describe the number represented by the numeral 1 followed by 100 zeros — in 1998.
Meanwhile, Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web didn’t take off until co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo renamed it Yahoo, a backronym for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle”.
We don’t need to explain this one, do we?
FAGS were a brand of candy cigarettes made by Riviera Confectionary in Victoria since 1943. During the 1990s, that name was changed to FADS, because selling candy ciggies named FAGS to kids was just wrong on multiple levels.
Today, the candies are manufactured by a Colombian company that’s probably blissfully unaware of their product’s checkered past.
Do you think the owners of Uncle Ho were right to change its name? If the name offended you, would you go there now, or has the damage been done? Have your say in the comments below!