When I started this post, I wasn't thinking of a word for "a short and striking phrase used in advertising." I was thinking of those words or sometimes phrases that suddenly burst on the scene and which everyone else seems to already understand and I always start off hopelessly behind on. Words like "snowflake" and "woke" and "cancel culture" and "Karen", to name just a few from the current batch. Or probably the not so current batch, since I know of them.
But having started out thinking these were "slogans," I thought I would pursue the term anyway, and an agreeable journey it has proven to be. Since I visited Scotland recently and delved a bit into my Scottish roots I was pleased to learn that the word derives from Gaelic originally.
The original term sluagh-ghairm, meaning "battle cry" in both Irish and Scottish Highland clans, is a combination of two Scottish Gaelic words, sluagh, which means "army", "host" or "slew", and gairm, a cry, which is related to the word 'garrulous', according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. (At first I didn't understand this, because garrulous derives from Latin, but it turns out that they are linked even further back by the Proto-Indo-European root gar--"to call or cry".)
|An Incident in the Rebellion of 1745, David Morier
We may think of images from Braveheart or the like when we think of a Scottish battle cry, but I have stumbled upon a quote from Elias Canetti's Crowds and Power (Masse und Macht) which reminds me that our tour guide Graham often pointed out the mythological stories of Scotland as being on at least an equal footing with the geographical or historical ones:
"The Celts of the Scottish Highlands have a special word for the host of the dead : sluagh, meaning 'spirit-multitude'. 'The spirits fly about in great clouds like starlings, up and down the face of the world, and come back to the scenes of their earthly transgressions. With their venomous unerring darts they kill cats and dogs, sheep and cattle. They fight battles in the air as men do on the earth. They may be heard and seen on clear, frosty nights, advancing and retreating, retreating and advancing against one another. After a battle their crimson blood may be seen staining rocks and stones.' The word gairm means shout or cry, and sluagh-ghairm was the battle-cry of the dead. This word later became 'slogan'. The expression we use for the battlecries of our modern crowds derives from the Highland hosts of the dead."
Which brings us back to our present day usage. Sluagh-ghairm entered into English as slogorne in the 1510s. Its metaphorical sense of "distinctive word or phrase used by a political or other group" is attested from 1704, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, when it was spelled slughon. They mention a "fully folk-etymologized slughorn" as another variant spelling. (Folk-etymology is when people make mistakes about the origin of a word because it coincidentally sounds like another word that it bears no relation to.)
Slogans were not just war cries, however. They are also used on Scottish family crests, as either the motto or a kind of secondary motto. They might be war cries, but they don't have to be. The Graham family motto, for instance, is "Ne oublie"--do not forget. This is not exactly a war cry--but it's hardly a peace cry either.
It is this kind of family advertising that seems to be the transition point to our current understanding of "slogan," which means, according to Wikipedia, a motto or memorable phrase in a political, commercial, religious or other context, designed to persuade a targeted audience about something, whether a cause, a conviction or an object.
Which brings me right back around to the beginning. Because it turns out that those single word I mentioned are slogans. They're just in special subcategory called "catchwords."
The Oxford English dictionary: "a briefly popular or fashionable word or phrase used to encapsulate a particular concept.