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Annals of Trademarks: Super 8 Superates?

“Don’t Want to Die in a Super Eight.” “Super 8” by Jason Isbell

Like me, you’ve probably driven by hundreds of Super 8 motels in your lifetime. Travelling up I-95 for hours on rides to Jersey and New York or on longer hauls southward to the Carolinas, Georgia, and down the endless Florida coast, the rectangular sign with big red 8, black “Super,” and bright yellow background is hard to ignore, even as it blends in with the melange of fast food oases and other budget-conscious lodges that dot the interchanges and byways of our endless ribbons of highway.

Full disclosure–I’ve never stayed at a Super 8 Motel. Never given the place much thought, really. Not because I’m some kind of snob when it comes to accommodations. Sure, I enjoy a swanky room at a Ritz Carlton or Monaco hotel. But I’m equally at home at a Motel 6, where Tom Bodett leaves the light on for us, or at a Holiday Inn, my parent’s motel of choice for our occasional family junkets. I’ve even stayed at a few La Quinta’s, which one of my musician friends, (who’s seen the inside of many a motel), insists means “next to Denny’s.” Somehow, however, my travelling stars and terrestrial GPS never aligned to guide me into the parking lot of a Super 8.

But last night, while drifting off to sleep with Jason Isbell’s evocative new song “Super 8” from his magnificent album “Southeastern” (buy it!), something about the name of this hotel hit me like an epiphany. I’d always assumed that Super 8 referred to the price of renting a modest room at one of the chain’s humble properties. And indeed, Wikipedia reports that the fare at the first Super 8, in Aberdeen, South Dakota, was $8.88 per night. With that price, and with its reputation for clean, no-frills convenience, it’s no surprise that Super 8 took off like a Chevy stock Super Eight zooming down the roads of Jersey, as in Bruce Springsteen’s “Lost In The Flood” from “Greetings From Asbury Park.” I had no idea, however, that Super 8, which now is owned by Wyndham Hotels, is the world’s largest motel chain. And while listening to Mr. Isbell lament that he “don’t want to die in a Super 8,” I suddenly realized why the name makes sense. Super 8, you see, is a play on the word “superate,” a verb that means “to outdo; to surpass; to exceed.” And with more than 2,000 properties and over 125,000 rooms in the US and Canada, there’s no denying that Super 8 Motels, (now known as Super 8 Worldwide) truly has done precisely as its name suggests.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I know bad things happen. Bad things happen. But you can still live. You can still live.” Line from the movie “Super 8,” spoken by character Joe Lamb, played by actor Joel Courteney.

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