If I confined my blog posts to writing only about subjects about which I knew nothing…
I’d never run out of subjects.
The depth and breadth of my lack of knowledge could fill all the books in the Library of Congress, and that’s around 39 million books.
All those, and then some.
Case in point:
I’d never seen the word “rhebok” until I recently read in it a novel. The reference was the narrator’s dog “bounding around like a rhebok.”
What the heck, I thought, is a rhebok?
I’d seen and heard the word Reebok a million times. Who hasn’t?
Those famous logos…
That you see on famous people in those famous shoes…
And other logoed clothing…
The brand has been around – in the U.S. – since 1980.
So I knew what Reebok was.
Meet the rhebok, a medium-sized antelope weighing 42-66 pounds with a long neck and narrow ears. Only the males have horns, which are six to 10 inches long. Rheboks are described as “good jumpers,” hence the book referring to the narrator’s dog as “bounding around like a rhebok.”
Rheboks live mainly in Southern Africa, and Southern Africa was colonized mainly by the Dutch. Their spelling of rhebok was reebok.
Ah! A connection!
But how did reebok get connected to Reebok?
For that we need to meet Joseph William Foster, born in 1881 in England and trained as a cobbler. At the age of 14 in 1895, he was a member of the local harriers – “harriers” was another name for cross-country runners. Joe started working in his bedroom above his father’s sweetshop in Bolton, England, designing some of the earliest spiked running shoes.
Joe founded his shoe business, J.W. Foster, in 1900. Eventually his sons joined him, he changed the company name to J.W. Foster and Sons…
…and they gradually became famous among athletes for their “running pumps,” pioneering the use of spikes:
Foster’s shoes were made famous by 100m Olympic champion Harold Abrahams (pictured) in the 1924 Summer Olympics held in Paris. (Abrahams would later be immortalized in the 1981 Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire.)
In 1958, in Bolton, two of the founder’s grandsons, Joe and Jeff Foster, formed a companion company, “Reebok,” having found the name in a South African dictionary won in a running race – by Joe Foster as a boy.
They chose the name because of the rhebok’s ability to expertly move in its natural habitat – mountainous terrain – sometimes at speeds up to 37mph.
And while I doubt that today’s celebrities who wear Reeboks are doing much running around in mountainous terrain…
And I doubt that they know the connection between rhebok and Reebok…
Now I do, and so do you.
And someday, when the pandemic is over and armed with this new knowledge, we’ll wow ‘em at work with the story of rhebok and Reebok and…