When the box arrived, I'd spread out the "bricks" and unfold the instructions. Remember those? They were perfect, international, kid-friendly manuals. Just numbers and diagrams. No words.
Except this warning:
The word LEGO is a brand name and is very special to all of us in the LEGO Group Companies. We would sincerely like your help in keeping it special. Please always refer to our bricks as 'LEGO Bricks or Toys' and not 'LEGOS.' By doing so, you will be helping to protect and preserve a brand of which we are very proud and that stands for quality the world over. Thank you! Susan Williams, Consumer Services.
Even as a nine-year-old, I was put off. How dare they tell me how to talk about my toys?
For years it ate at me. Even today it shapes my perception about LEGO. No matter how beloved the product, any company that issues a warning like that - to kids - has a screw loose.
The cold, disheartening impression: the lawyers are really in charge. Even of the most creative brands.
But that was the 1970s. Surely today's enlightened post-dot-com companies wouldn't dare micromanage the way their customers talk and think about their products. Right? Apparently not:
Usage: 'Google' as verb referring to searching for information via any conduit other than Google.
Example: "I googled him on Yahoo and he seems pretty interesting."
Our lawyers say: Bad. Very, very bad. You can only 'Google' on the Google search engine. If you absolutely must use one of our competitors, please feel free to 'search' on Yahoo or any other search engine.
Michael Krantz, Google Blog Team
Google is trying to be cute, but the message is just as off-putting.
At least LEGO acted like it was just a few helpless little branding hobbits trying to protect their precious creation.
Google goes straight for the legal jugular. What are their lawyers going to do about it, anyway? Sue over sentence structure?
Like LEGO, Google is one of my favorite toys. I always thought it a creative, international, friendly company. (They're one of the few willing to play with their own brand.)
So how and when did the lawyers get in charge?
Maybe I can google it.