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October 1, 2008

The Roots of Virgin's New 'Airphoria' Tagline

virgin_logo.jpgVirgin Atlantic has just launched a new advertising campaign centering around a neologism: Airphoria.

A spokesperson for Virgin's agency of record defined the term as "the excitement and anticipation felt before a Virgin flight."

"Airphoria" is obviously a play on the word "euphoria." It's a trifle less euphonious than its source word, but with a little practice it falls "trippingly" enough on the tongue.

It's too early to tell whether the campaign will be a success, but my own interest in this newly-coined term is its linguistic richness and probably unintended appropriateness.

Euphoria, as we all know, refers to a sense of exaggerated well-being, or in other words, a "high." Apt indeed for the experience of cruising at 40,000 feet, not to mention the effects of consuming alcohol at high altitudes.

If you break down the word "euphoria," however, it's the "eu" that provides the positive connotations. "Eu" is Greek for "well" and has a sense of familiarity because of words such as "eucharist" and "eulogy." Take the "eu" out of "euphoria" and you have "phoria," which comes from the Greek word meaning "to carry" or "to bear."

virgin atlantic.pngIn fact, the original Greek meaning for "euphoria" was "fertility," in the sense of bearing children easily, which is slightly ironic for an airline whose name is Virgin. I'm sure the flight attendants would prefer that passengers not give birth in mid-flight, though outfitting planes as delivery wards might be just the kind of wacky stunt that would appeal to Richard Branson.

So "airphoria" (which the Greeks would have spelled aerophoria), would be "the ability to carry in the air." And any airline had better have that.

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Posted by Diane Prange at October 1, 2008 1:29 PM
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