The popularity of Acme as a brand name

There are 20 Acmes in the San Diego phone book

Matmail: Is there an Acme Corporation? Why does Wile E. Coyote buy from them and only them? Is it because they are an American company? — R. Runner, @ibus.com

I always figured Wile E. must buy irregulars and floor samples, considering his track record with Acme merchandise. Doesn’t he have a good attorney? He has the mother of all product liability suits by now. Maybe he’s been hit with one too many falling anvils to see the retirement potential.

With all that bad publicity, who would want the name Acme? Well, plenty of companies. There are 20 in the San Diego phone book — everything from hair cutters to sand blasters. The multi-volume Thomas Register of manufacturers lists 252: the Acme Artificial Limb Co., Acme Button & Buttonhole Co. (how do you ship buttonholes?), Acme Cryogenics, Acme Felt Works, * Acme Grooving Tool, Acme Nipple Mfg., Acme Rolling Steel Door, and Acme Spirally Wound Paper Products among my faves. Then there are combinations like Royal Acme and Arrow Acme. And yes, there is a plain old Acme Corporation, designers and makers of scenery, lighting, and special effects for the theater and other extravaganzas.

Acme has been a popular company name since man invented nine-to-five. “Acme,” after all, is Greek for “the peak” or “the point of utmost attainment.” When the earliest cave decorator opened Grottos by Fod, his first competitor likely countered with Acme Caves (“Brighter, warmer, drier than Fod’s! The point of utmost cave-decorating attainment!”) It also put him up front in the phone book, until the next guy founded AAAAA Caves. To test our little hypothesis, let’s scan the corporate listings for Zenith, a similar superlative. We find 27, even though Zeniths would trail the alphabetical pack. Ace 177, Best 91. There’s a Wirst Corporation, but no Worst. And a Pitts, but no Pits. No Perigee or Nadir or Bad. So even if you know your bombs misfire, just call yourself Acme, and coyotes will beat a path to your door.

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