Who was Mr Lidl?

The problems of naming a supermarket

As a nation changes, so does its trivia. Traditional supermarkets - your Tescos and Sainsburys and Asdas - have been joined in recent years by those cheeky young upstarts Lidl and Aldi. The latter gets its name from Albrecht (the family who started it) Diskont (meaning, of course, ‘pricing policy that has people flocking out of Tesco when a recession hits'.) But where does the name ‘Lidl' come from?

Who was Mr Lidl?

Supermarket monikers have long been a source of intrigue. There was, for example, a third partner who went into business with Mr Waite and Mr Rose in Acton in 1904: Mr Taylor. But he soon left, and so ‘Waite, Rose and Taylor' became simply ‘Waitrose'. Asda started as Associated Dairies, Londis as London District Stores and Nisa as Northern Independent Supermarkets Association.

There have also been:

- Carrefour: the first one was in France near a crossroads (‘carrefour' in French).

- Spar: they hail from Holland, where originally they were ‘DESPAR'. The acronym stood for a phrase meaning ‘through united co-operation everyone regularly profits', but by a coincidence ‘de spar' means ‘the spruce' - which explains the tree logo you still see outside every store.

- Tesco: founder Jack Cohen took an early consignment of tea from his supplier T.E. Stockwell.

- Ocado: It's a made-up word, inspired by ‘avocado' and meant to evoke thoughts of fresh fruit. 

Then there are the simple ones, who simply use their founder's name. There really was a Mr Morrison and a Mr Budgen - while the last words of the original Mr Sainsbury were ‘keep the shops well lit'. But what about Mr Lidl? Did he exist?

Well, yes - but he was only a partner of the man who started the German business in the 1940s, Josef Schwarz. After Josef died in 1977, his son Dieter bought the rights to Ludwig Lidl's name for 1000 Marks. Why did he not use his family's own name? Because ‘Schwarz Markt' would have meant ‘black market'.



Jane Preston
Posts: 11
Reply #1 on : Fri February 06, 2015, 10:18:15
my neighbour a former stevedore from Wapping told me that Tesco was called after Tessa Cohen who was the owners daughter

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Big Ben

On a visit to Big Ben, I was told that if you stand at the bottom of the tower with a portable radio and listen to the chimes on Radio 4 (they still transmit them live), you hear them on the radio before you hear them ‘for real’. I couldn’t believe it – but was intrigued enough to try it for myself. And you know what? It’s absolutely true. The bongs come out of the radio a fraction of a second before they reach your ears from the top of the tower. It’s something so silly, so counter-intuitive, that you have to tell people. (Well, I did.) Researching the explanation, I found that it’s because radio waves travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) rather than the 700 or so miles per hour at which sound waves travel. The signal travelling down the wire from the microphone to the BBC goes at the speed of light too. Hence the radio version overtaking the real one.

I realised that this would be the perfect way to teach the principle in school physics lessons. Instead of a boring teacher droning on that ‘radio waves travel at the speed of light’, illustrate it with this beautiful and quirky little fact. The kids will remember it then. I certainly would have done if my physics teacher had taken this approach. As it was I had to wait until I heard a piece of so-called ‘trivia’ in my thirties.