Shampoo, rinse, and spit

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Scott Gardner

"There is a higher mane of being and an ultimate tooth." -A. B. Molar, barber surgeon

I once saw a dental clinic in Tokyo with a clever name: "Ha Ha" (ha is Japanese for "tooth"). The clinic's sign showed a big, cartoonish, smiling bicuspid. Ironically the sign was directly above a plate-glass window showcasing one of the multifunctional "procedure" chairs inside—empty at the time but still decidedly unfunny. I admired the dentist's effort, though, to lure us in with the promise of entertainment, with or without the aid of laughing gas. After all, we don't usually sit around the tea jar at work talking about how fulfilling our last dental visit was. (Fulfilling: get it?) It's good practice to get a checkup once in a while, though, say at least as often as you would buy a new refrigerator. In fact, some new "smart" refrigerators actually come pre-equipped with a magnetic note on the door that says "see dentist."

Not to brag, but I go often enough that my dentist and I have established a warm, amicable relationship. "How's Bowser today?" my dentist will ask when I walk in. (Bowser is my upper right canine, fairly well-behaved but with a tendency to drool on the carpet.) The polite assistants always say "shitsureishimasu" ("I am going to violate you") before putting their hands in my mouth. And of course I always say "douzo" ("go ahead") before opening it. (For dental visits I've managed to kick my old when-in-Japan habit of modestly holding my hand up over my opened mouth; it tended to get in the way of the drill.)

I like my dentist, but the atmosphere in his clinic is rather dry and sterile, and he certainly didn't give much thought to catchy nomenclature when he named the place after himself. I wish more dentists would show the imagination of "Ha Ha" in Tokyo. They could learn a lot from other small business ventures, like hair salons, for instance.

I've never had a favorite hair salon, but when I was a kid I had a t-shirt advertising a place called Cut 'n Dried. My older sister had passed it on to me after receiving it from a hairdresser who was seeking her attention. I went to that salon only once, even though my stylist there ran his fingers through my curly hair and said it was "to die for". (I figure he wasn't the same guy plying my sister with gifts.) But I liked the emphatic sound of the name and the intimidating scissors image on the shirt, and I probably wore it every other day during the summer until it fell apart. "Torn 'n Mangy" might have described it well near the end.

While I don't have much need for a coiffure these days, I'm still impressed by smart salon names that make people want to sell a lock of their hair to afford an appointment. In Japan, or at least in Okayama where there are styling salons everywhere, we have the added pleasure of seeing how craftily they use English words they may not quite have a command of yet. Here is a short list of some interesting local titles I've seen. These are all real: I've seen them either in person or on local commercial search sites.

Massive Hair
Hair Hospital Funny Face
(in katakana スチューピッド, which unfortunately reads as "stupid")
Hair Grease
Hair Communication Puzzle

If dental clinics chose names more like hair salons do, we'd have a lot more fun going to the dentist, wouldn't we? Some possibilities:

Transcend Dental
Fangs A Lot
The Tusk of Amontillado
Tickle Your Ivories
The Buck Stops Here
Total Floss
Game of Crowns