Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The smell of diesel

I remember in one of my college business classes talking about brand names that become synonymous with broader categories (there's a proper term that I can't remember, must have missed that question on the final). You know, like instead of saying photocopy we say Xerox. Or we ask for a Kleanex instead of a tissue. Perhaps some Koolaid to drink, or maybe you'd like a Coke in the south (even if you mean a Dr. Pepper, or Mountain Dew, or RC Cola, to name my favorites). What do you use after a boo-boo? A band-aid. For you in the younger crowd... ever drink from a non-nalgene Nalgene? Or listen to an ipod that's not made by Apple?

In Tanzania, gas stations are known as 'Sheli's'. Very often, English words are Swhiliized by changing the spelling a bit and adding an 'i' to the end. Like baiskeli (bicycle), televesheni (television), or kluchi (clutch). So to hear a gas station called a 'sheli' seemed to make perfect sense. But for a year we've traveled throughout Tanzania, and not until today in Nairobi after seeing an actual Shell station did I realize that I've never seen a single Shell station in Tanzania. From Dar Es Salaam to Morogoro to Moshi to Iringa to Arusha, we've never seen a Shell. There's Gapco, Oilcom, Oryx, Tiot, even BP, but no Shells! And yet, gas stations are referred to as Sheli. Weird, huh?


Ashlee said...

You know I would never want to live in NBO, but as I read your post I missed it. Buy Joe Joe some flowers on the street for me!

Kevin Eby said...

Another example of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th mouse getting the cheese.

Shell was one of the first companies to distribute gas in Ecuador as well. They spent money up front to establish the possibility of a "future" that included the automobile, but the other companies reap the benefit.

Shell is in the Tanzanian mouse trap.

Michael & Joe Joe said...

Haha, good advice Ashlee, today someone gave us directions by saying "you follow the road until it goes down a hill, and then you turn on the street corner where they are selling flowers." Funny the landmarks we use.