Dr. Know: Josh Groban’s Green Suit, the Proper Abbreviation of Cincinnati, and a Secret P&G Store


I went to the Josh Groban concert last June. He said he likes to look up fun facts about every city he performs in, and that the reason he was wearing a green suit was because Cincinnati’s first-ever crime was the theft of cucumbers. Is this true, or was he playing with us? —JUST JOSHING?

Illustration by Lars Leetaru

Dear Joshing:
Mr. Groban’s research was accurate about Cincinnati’s first recorded crime, but he was perhaps a bit opportunistic about the crime’s color matching his choice of wardrobe.

Wikipedia’s Crime in Cincinnati page does in fact list the city’s original sin as a petty theft of cucumbers in 1789. But Mr. Groban, in his dressing room, could have easily found this information minutes before walking onstage. And a cursory search of recent images shows him wearing a rather high percentage of green jackets.

Perhaps Mr. Groban fantasizes about winning the Masters. Maybe he travels with a large wardrobe that allows him to quickly and colorfully reflect a fun fact he has just found on his iPad about the city he is about to sing to, and a good number of those cities have green fun facts. We do not wish to cast aspersions on the integrity of Mr. Groban’s sartorial claims. But he would have been more convincing—albeit less romantic—had he come onstage dressed as an actual cucumber.

I’ve noticed a shift in the abbreviation people use for the long and clumsy name that is Cincinnati. Back in the ’90s, I mostly saw Cinti. But the winner lately seems to be Cincy. Is there such a thing as an officially correct abbreviation? If so, which is it, and who decides? —CINCERELY

Dear Cincerely:
Cue the sirens! Hide the children! The only more dangerous request our office gets is this: Name All Seven Hills of Cincinnati. But the Doctor shall don his helmet and proceed.

At first glance, Cinti makes no sense. It is never spoken (sin-tee is not so harmonious), and is illogical in print without an apostrophe. A-ha: Early 19th-century documents universally show it as Cin’ti. The first brave apostrophe abandonment appeared in 1889, but was rarely repeated. Only by the 1970s do we see evidence the vestigial apostrophe is withering as the Cintis start outnumbering the Cin’tis. (Our spell-check should be exploding right about here.)

The term Cincy is definitely easier on the ear, but did not appear in print until the 1890s, living harmoniously thereafter with its elder. In the separate world of postage addresses, Cin. O was overwhelmingly favored until 1963, when Big Government thrust their zip codes upon us. The post office “requests” that all city names be spelled in their entirety. Oh, please. Most Cincinnatians see this as an opportunity to resist, using several variations.

To answer your original questions: Nobody knows, and nobody.

My mom is retired from Procter & Gamble. She says that P&G used to secretly sell its test-market products in a store downtown, where employees could buy the beta-versions of stuff in development. It was very hush-hush. She can’t remember the store’s name or where it was. Can you find it? —PAST PROCTOID

Dear Proctoid:
Maybe Hush-Hush was a new type of tissue that promised a quieter nose-blow? A toothbrush that does its work silently? The Doctor kids. Your mom is thinking of Fred’s Place at 645 Main St., a short walk from P&G headquarters. Fred Cianciolo’s tiny grocery store included several Procter & Gamble products that were being test-marketed elsewhere in America. P&G employees, and anyone else, could drop by and check out the company’s newest offerings before their national launch—or their quiet failure.

Fred’s extra inventory was no secret, but it was not publicized. A few other nearby stores might carry specific P&G test products, but Fred took everything, and occasionally got stuck with products that flopped. He was ahead of his time: Today those losers could probably get $800 apiece on eBay.

Fred’s Place is long gone. Construction of the Aronoff Center obliterated that whole corner in the mid-1990s, along with the entire concept of a small grocery store in downtown Cincinnati. Procter & Gamble has had its problems as well, and some critics wonder about its future. It has not yet become available on eBay, but we’ll keep watch.

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