Advertising names that speak to you: 3 - Uwantit

U 17.594-5: Uwantit (Combined pocket twoblade penknife with corkscrew, nailfile and pipecleaner).

As was the case with “Bacilikil” and “Veribest”, Joyce added the product name “Uwantit” to the typescript of Ulysses in late 1921. To Don Gifford the source of the name is “Unknown”. “Uwantit” (= “You Want It”) is a general-purpose advertising name, of the sort that might be applied to any desired product. In fact, it seems to have been Joyce’s own idea to apply it to a multifunction penknife. If he hadn’t come across such a device earlier, he would doubtless have discovered during his time in Zurich that a similar tool was carried by the archetypal Swiss soldier. What later became known as the Swiss Army knife was patented in 1897, though this combined penknife, corkscrew, etc., had many precursors in the nineteenth century.1

He didn’t need to invent the name, as it had been common currency in the world of advertising in the early twentieth century. Joyce read Jerome K. Jerome, and may have encountered Jerome’s reference:

I talked to a certain dealer one afternoon a few years ago at the Uwantit Club.

Jerome K. Jerome American wives and others (1904), p. 146

An advertisement in the Clothier and Furrier for 1905 (vol. 66, p. 102) recommended “starting a smoke right” with the:

'Uwantit' cigar clipper. A practical souvenir for Gentlemen.

The glib approachability of the name was attractive:

A Second Sherlock Holmes.

Coming. Uneedit. Uwantit. Ugetit. Whatisit? Why, the Great Detective Booklet to be given free with the New York Sunday world.

Waverley (New York) Free Press (1911) 10 February

“Uwantit” fitted in well with the ethos of “want” ads and impulsive purchases:


Special to Ladies – Hair Pads, Side Combs, Back Hair Nets, and Hair Rolls, also the great "Uwantit" Hair Nets. – Bert Pratt, Hairdresser and Tobacconist.

Manawatu Standard (Palmerston north, N.Z.) (1910), 21 September p. 1

Although Bloom disapproves of this type of name, it hasn’t disappeared even today:

Check out all the awesome uwantit gifs on WiffleGif. Heart your favs and share them with your friends.

John Simpson


1 Diccon Bewes Swiss Watching (2012), ch. 7; for earlier references to the type, see the Official Catalogue to the Kingdom of Italy’s contribution to the Dublin International Exhibition (Turin: 1865, ed. 2), p. 82: “Clasp-knife, penknife, and corkscrew, with horn handle mounted in steel”, etc.

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