At some point when I wasn’t looking, they slapped the word “Encore” atop the new building that stands beside the tower for which Encore is the, uh, encore. The original, of course, is Wynn Las Vegas, or “Wynn.” (heretofore written as “Wynn Period”) as it reads in script on it and on bottles of water and God only knows what else.
It kind of disappointed me, that “Encore” sign did. There was no punctuation to chew over. In the process, it seemed to be undermining the very notion that this new building was a continuation of some sort of thought or concept begun by Wynn Period.
You probably think I’m a grammar geek. Guilty. But punctuation is very, very important in Las Vegas. Almost nothing, not even a dot after a name, is done without a great deal of thought. When Steve Wynn decided to make his building read Wynn Period, he was making a point. This was his big comeback after Kirk Kerkorian and the MGM crowd snapped up Mirage Resorts and, with it, the Bellagio, which had been seen up till then as Wynn’s crowning masterpiece.
In 2005, his new building screamed Wynn Period as if to say, “This is the Wynn. Period.” Wynn once told me as much, explaining it was a subtle way of saying that this is the definition of his embodiment as a resort, the ultimate. As subtle, that is, as you can be on top of a 42-story building and so many bottles of water.
There are other ways up and down the Strip that punctuation comes into play in an important way. The exclamation point, for instance, is used to exuberant effect, as in Donn Arden’s Jubilee! and Mamma Mia!, though the latter uses that point throughout the world. The colon is employed to, essentially, provide two related but potentially independent names, as in Phantom: The Las Vegas Spectacular and Manilow: Music and Passion. There’s one intriguing use of the hyphen in “New York-New York.” It must’ve been carefully chosen over the comma or no interim punctuation at all, although someone must have rethought that, since it appears with and without the hyphen on NYNYHotelCasino.com.
Ampersands also make a few important and historic appearances, most notably in “Siegfried & Roy” and “Thomas & Mack,” serving in both instances to form an inextricable tie between the two names. How, for instance, could Siegfried ever perform without his “& Roy”? (It also makes both parties indistinguishable; I can’t tell you how many editors asked me after Roy’s tiger-attack injury, “Which one’s Roy again?”)
Harrah’s Entertainment is, it seems, a company awash in punctuation. Along with the aforementioned exclamation point in Jubilee!, the apostrophes are sprinkled in generously, as in Harrah’s and Rao’s and Bill’s, to denote a tribute to a founder of some sort, although the one “Gamblin’ Hall & Saloon” is just an attempt to be hickish. Because I guess they think that Vegas visitors think hick schtick is cool?
I deliberately left Bally’s out just now, because from what I can tell, there was nobody named Bally in the first place. In fact, my exhaustive research—okay, I looked up Bally Technologies on Wikipedia—shows it may descend from the Chicago-based pinball-machine company as a derivative of the name of their first successful game, the Ballyhoo. Which means that this apostrophe is meaningless, as it doesn’t attribute ownership or responsibility to anyone. Kinda sad.
Also meaningless—and a lot more irksome—was the ellipsis that followed the name of a certain Canadian songstress’ old production at the Colosseum, A New Day … . What was the point of those three dots other than to confound those of us in the media who felt we had to write them every time we mentioned the show?
While we’re on the topic of Céline, there’s the matter of foreign names and their little accent marks. (Is an accent mark considered punctuation? Wikipedia isn’t clear.) They’re always tossed in to imply something fancy or exotic. Often, as with Kà, Le Rêve, Joël Robuchon and Mystère, it tends to work. The Harley Davidson Café and Café Ba Ba Reeba, maybe not so much. What’s fun to do if you have some time is to imagine how an errant accent could alter the entire meaning of a name. Pure, for instance, would be Puré. Well, that is how some people feel after they’ve been soaked to a pulp by doormen, right?
It’s interesting, in fact, that we embark on this study the week after Harrah’s Entertainment announced it’s soon to be Caesars Entertainment. Caesars is one of the most intriguing examples of an absence of punctuation that baffles to no end. There is no apostrophe, even though “Caesar’s” would make more sense to most. In fact, Clark County thought so too when they included the apostrophe in the street sign along Flamingo Road when the Augustus Tower first opened.
A Google search for “Caesar’s Palace,” in fact, yields 500,000 results, the first of which is the actual hotel, implying they know this is a pretty common mistake, and they’ve gamed the Google algorithm so as to not lose any eyeballs. But Jay Sarno, the resort’s developer, deliberately wanted it to be Caesars Palace because he believed that at his hotel, everybody is a Caesar. Trouble is, if that’s so, then technically the place should be called Caesars’ Palace.
All of this brings us back to the original point. Leaving Encore without any punctuation creates a baffling dissonance from its forebear, Wynn Period. I know it’s unrealistic, but I guess I expected some sort of punctuation for Encore, too. Maybe it should read “… Encore” to show it’s part of the previous notion? Or maybe “Encore!” since the word is usually shouted with enthusiasm? If it underwhelms, maybe it should be “Encore?”
Come to think of it, that’s pretty cool. There are plenty of marks in Vegas, but not a single question mark.
Read Steve Friess’ daily blog at TheStripPodcast.blogspot.com and catch his weekly celeb-interview podcast at TheStripPodcast.com. He can be reached at SteveFriess@aol.com.