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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Goodbye, ironic toothpaste,
we hardly knew ye.

From Whole Pop Magazine Online:
Darlie toothpaste is a popular brand in much of Asia. Its dark secret is that it used to be called Darkie, complete with a stereotyped logo of a minstrel man. Apparently its founder had come to the US in the 1920s and seen Al Jolson in his blackface show, and had been impressed with how white Jolson's teeth looked. . . .

Stereotypes of this sort were not unusual before World War II. What was unusual about Darkie was that its racist name and logo were still intact in 1985 when Colgate bought the brand from the Hong Kong's Hawley & Hazel Chemical Co.
Colgate eventually changed the name after the secret was leaked, but . . .
The name change placated Western critics, who pointed out that the toothpaste actually sold better after the name change. What they didn't know, and apparently still don't, is that only the English was changed. The Cantonese name ("Haak Yahn Nga Gou") still stayed the same, and the Chinese-language ads reassured users that, despite a cosmetic change to placate those inscrutable Westerners, "Black Man Toothpaste is still Black Man Toothpaste."
Twenty years later, I found myself at a Cambodian convenience store and in need of some toothpaste. I came across Darlie, and being that it was the only one with words I could read, I picked it up and paid for it with cash riel.

Darlie worked well for me for five long months. It lasted me five countries, one brief relationship, and the feeling of a fresh, clean mouth a few hundred times post-brush. Darlie, no matter what your past, I believe it is my duty to give you a proper burial. Goodnight, sweet prince.

"I have some white-ass teeth!"
- Al Jolson


Blogger Madge DoRightly said...

Both funny AND informative!

6:41 PM  

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