Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream Is From the Bronx, So What’s With the Name?

Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream is not named for Häagen, or Dazs, or any person or thing. Polish immigrants Reuben and Rose Mattus founded the company in New York in 1961. Customers can be forgiven for believing the name is Scandinavian, because it was designed to sound vaguely Danish.

Reuben Mattus told Tablet Magazine in 2012 that the name for his company was inspired by Mattus’s admiration for Denmark’s treatment of Danish Jews during World War II, and that he sat around trying out Danish-sounding names until he hit on one he liked. But the phrase “Häagen-Dazs” not only has no actual meaning in Danish (or any other language), it does not follow Danish language conventions. There is no umlaut in Danish; it is found in some Germanic languages, including semi-archaic uses in English like the word naïve, as well as in French, Dutch, Spanish, Welsh, and a few other languages.

So Häagen-Dazs is a thoroughly nonsense word. You'd have to be a real ice cream fan to learn how to spell it, and there are plenty of Häagen-Dazs fans. But what makes it a nonsense word, and why can't it mean something? Atlas Obscura looks deep into the linguistic puzzle of the Häagen-Dazs name.

(Image credit: Flickr user Edgar Zuniga Jr.)

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After I started learning Swedish I tried to pronounce Häagen-Dazs "correctly", and realized how wrong the word is. And yet (as this piece points out) how right it was for branding purposes.
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