Robert Messenger collection
Some background first. As a holiday job during university, I used to sell top-of-the-line ironing board covers from one of those small stalls you'll find in the thoroughfares of most indoor shopping malls. Bear in mind this was pre-financial crisis, when people had money (or at least credit) and of a Saturday morning I would spruik these ironing board covers as well as other outrageously priced bourgeois laundry items. Admittedly the ironing board covers were pretty good. "Yes indeed, these last over twice as long as conventional covers (stroke the cover at this point). When one side finally starts showing wear, or if you happen to burn it accidently, just turn it over (demonstrate this) and you've got a brand new cover (shiny smile)". But these covers were $40 each and that was 8 years ago, but they still sold like hotcakes. As an instant-noodle-eating university student, this blew my mind. The stall was just down the escalator from a department store in which you could spend $9.50 and buy a (admittedly slightly inferior) cover which did basically the same thing, just without the personalised spiel and smartly dressed young salesman encouraging you to stroke it first.
So after rationalising it this way, I thought "good on all these creative typewriter sellers and their colourful language to match their colourful plastic typewriters!" At the end of the day eBay runs on keywords and maximising your target market is a good thing. It's not that I propose it's a good idea for everyone with anything from a Sholes Visible to a Yost 5 to a plastic Brother to start using this language, but if you've got a machine that justifies it, lets create some imaginative ebay ads!!
Now considering the particular success that the words fUnKy and aToMiC seem to be getting, I think let us first concentrate on these. In defining the terms, I reached straight for my Concise Oxford Dictionary; admittedly slightly long in the tooth these days. While the definition of "atomic" was as expected, the definition of "funk" surprised me slightly.
So what is "funky" these days then? To investigate, I trawled some ebay listings while on the train to the city. Aside from typewriters- in my very limited sample size- it appears that "funky" is most often attributed to clothes, while "atomic" is more often attributed to furniture. The two words were quite regularly found together and when they were together, they were marginally more likely to be written in the fUnKy AtOmIc style. "vintage" and "retro" were also commonly associated with many things funky and atomic.
With more time, I'd love to keep an inventry of the many different Japanese typewriters sold on Australian ebay and attempt to work out the average marginal increase in sale price achieved by describing one as funky and/or atomic. If anyone has done this or has the time to do this, please let me know!! I would also welcome comments from overseas typospharians as to whether this same FuNkY aToMiC marketing is quite so prevalent outside of Australia?