It’s a high-touch word with Italian roots, and similar to many Italian words has a musicality all its own. It sings the lyrics and strums a bass note all at once. It just may be the shortest Italian opera ever written. If there were a Golden Globe for the best word ever in a comedy or musical, that word would be Zamboni.
From a marketing perspective, Zamboni isn’t really a coined word like Kleenex or Xerox, but it has fallen to the same fate. Marketers long ago made the tissue and copier brands so well-known that their names became synonymous with lesser-known generic brands that wind up on the dust pile of mediocrity. Today, Zamboni is more about the kind of machine than the brand it represents. Zamboni happens to be the last name of the man who invented the modern ice resurfacer for which it is named. Frank Joseph Zamboni, Jr. developed a system of scraping very thin layers of ice away from the surface and melting on a new cap of ice so that hockey players can safely skate up and down the rink while hammering each other’s heads against the glass. Players can be assured that any blood spatter on the ice will not be there the next period, thanks to Zamboni.
There is absolutely no reason why someone who lives in the southern US where kids don’t learn to ice skate on frozen ponds and likely don’t understand the concept of “icing,” should know what a Zamboni is. Zamboni sounds more like something you would find at a Jewish deli hanging from a hook, as in “Give me a half-pound of your Zamboni.” Or maybe something from slapstick where the guy falls down and breaks his Zamboni.
Of all the obscure things we shouldn’t know, why do we know what a Zamboni is and what a Zamboni does? Because it’s the most fun word to say, and even better, it’s pretty good word to hear. Zamboni plays well in the mouth and delights the ear. It’s the kind of word that’s going to stick with you forever.
Don’t believe me? Take the Zamboni challenge. Next time you’re out, maybe standing at the DMV to renew your driver’s license, turn to the person behind you and say, “Zamboni.” I promise you will get a smile out of that person. And, who knows, maybe it might lead to an explanation for “icing” that you can understand.
Zamboni’s biggest competitor, if not only competitor, is the Olympia sold by the Resurfice Corporation of Ontario. The inventor’s name of that machine is Schlupp. If you turn to the same guy at the DMV and say “Schlupp,” he’s likely to retort, “Nothin,’ Schlupp with you?”