Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Y is no longer the YMCA - it’s just the Y. Y? Because “Y” has become the brand, and the MCA has withered away rotten roots, I guess. But roots they were: the M was a reminder that this was a place that made distinctions based on gender, the C stood for the cultural grounding in a specific tradition, and the A - well, it provided a nice way to finish off the acronym, letting it soar a little instead of clunking back to earth with a D or an F. The name is so engrained in the culture I don’t have to tell you what any of those letters stand for.
The name change only goes for the national organization. Here’s the explanation:
The change is part of a marketing plan to encourage people to take a new look at the Y's services. According to News 14 Charlotte, a "two-year study found while most people know what the YMCA is, they don't know exactly what the Y does."
And this will help? At least it’s not as bad as the corporate rebranding that swept the land in the 70s and 80s, when perfectly fine names like Amalgamated Jute & Copper or National Brick were convinced to change their names to Sylvanix or Accela - airy gaseous words that gave no indication what the company did, and were usually accompanied by an abstract logo that looked like someone held a crayon in his mouth and doodled on a coffee stain. I miss those old names. They had a sturdy sound; they stood for smokestacks and the Arsenal of Democracy. Guys with lunchpails streamed out of the gates of places like Consolidated Ambergris; when you hear “Accenture” you see only a khaki-clad drones who spend their day in puce-hued cubicles moving numbers around a screen.
Anyway: if you’re wondering whether this will affect the Village People, they’ve already issued a press release assuring people they’ll continue to play YMCA, and people will continue to form the letters with their hands at sporting events and karaoke bars, unaware of the song’s salacious intent. (“You can hang out with all the boys,” indeed.) The Village People, however, are not happy:
"We are deeply dismayed by today's announcement from the YMCA that they feel a name change and a rebranding are in order after 166 years. Some things remain iconic and while we admire the organization for the work they do, we still can't help but wonder Y."
Roger that. Any great brands you recall that were turned into mush? Aside from Pennsylvania Mush and Gruel, that is.