Working Words That Sell: A Premier (Or Premiere) Establishment
Premier. Say it with me: “Pri-ME-er.” Or, as they say in France (where it came from), “PREH-me-yay.” In English, it’s a pretty word that means “first.” Firsts are special, although somewhat show-off-y. (I’d know, being one in my family myself.)
- Homophone with just one differentiating letter.
- Way too many parts of speech for its own good.
- A meaning so similar as to be almost superfluous.
Premiere is obviously the odd, bourgeois interloper, but its popularity usage-wise means it’s here to stay.
Because both premier and premiere are such aesthetically and aurally beautiful words (don’t you hear the lofty horn notes?), they’re attractive to businesses that would like to brand themselves as tasteful and authoritative establishments. But too often, it’s done wrong, as in the real-life examples below:
“We are a premier/e establishment.” If you are simply one of many businesses like yours, that’s fine, although you may not want to broadcast that fact. But only one of you is first.
Using premier/e to mean “best.” We’re in the midst of an epidemic of misplaced aspirations to greatness, and this is only one of its manifestations. So many businesses and other establishments use either word as a means of catapulting themselves to the top of the pile, and the intent is well-taken, but the execution is simply wrong–with any meaning applied.
I’m not going to make this last one a bold point because it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but still. When I see either premier or premiere used in a business name, I get a picture in my head of a squat, black curly-wire phone with the little red light bulb sticking up. That light is flashing as the phone rings unanswered on the desk of a receptionist who’s been there at least 10 years, and the moth-eaten curtains have been permanently creased from displaying the dusty blinds spilling dust motes into a slanted cube from the window on her right.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just something of a let-down when a word (either one) that usually has an honest purpose is used only as a euphonious placeholder.
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