The Now I Know Weekender: I Missed the Tacos


Wednesday was perhaps the most annoying day in Now I Know history — well, not as annoying as the day I scheduled the email for PM instead of AM, or the day that I totally forgot to hit send, so, maybe top 5. The reason? I was very excited to finally share a story, but decided to wait until next week.

And then, a few hours later, the news cycle killed it.

Late Tuesday, I discovered that there’s a Swedish tradition called “Taco Friday.” Atlas Obscura summarizes it as well as I could have::

Fredagsmys, or Cozy Friday, [is] a beloved Swedish tradition. Across the Scandinavian country, families stay home on Friday night, watch TV, and eat Tex-Mex-style tacos. This dinner choice is so common that, for most Swedes, Cozy Friday is also Taco Fredag, or Taco Friday.

“Taco Friday” doesn’t alliterate well, so it’s not a huge surprise that it hasn’t caught on outside of Sweden. But another phenomenon has — “Taco Tuesday.” (See? Alliteration.) Across the United States, many Mexican restaurants will run special deals on tacos on Tuesday nights; here’s a sign for $1 tacos via Wikipedia, for example. The phrase even became a major plot point in the 2014 film “The Lego Movie,” as seen here. Taco Tuesday has definitely become a piece of Americana. 

That’s not quite enough for a Now I Know story, but here’s what is (or was): Taco Tuesday is also the subject of litigation. In 1989, a fast food restaurant named Taco John’s registered a trademark for the phrase “Taco Tuesday” in 49 states (not New Jersey, though, because a place named Gregory’s Bar got their first) and they’ve been trying to enforce the mark ever since. Typically, Taco John’s does so by sending cease and desist letters to other restaurants that use the phrase — I couldn’t find any actual court cases over the dispute — and the little guy just stops using the name, as they can’t afford the cost of a lawsuit. I was going to turn that into a story.

That was my thinking on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning. I considered trying to quickly write something early Wednesday AM but figured no, I could do it for next Tuesday, with the title “Today Isn’t Taco Tuesday.” The Swedish Taco Friday thing was going to be the bonus fact.

But next Tuesday will be Taco Tuesday, if you want it to be, at least. Why? Because later in the day Wednesday, Taco John’s announced that they’d give up the trademark. The short version? In May, Taco Bell — a bigger chain than Taco John’s — filed a petition with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, asking the government to declare that “Taco Tuesdays” is a generic term and therefore unable to be trademarked. Taco John’s CEO, per NPR, decided it wasn’t worth the fight: “We’ve always prided ourselves on being the home of Taco Tuesday, but paying millions of dollars to lawyers to defend our mark just doesn’t feel like the right thing to do.”

And with that, Taco Tuesday was free — and my story went kaput. Well, I could have made it about New Jersey — the co-owner of Gregory’s Bar is not willing to give up the fight yet. And his name is Gregory Gregory, which is amazing, But I only learned about the NJ trademark wrinkle after I started writing this email, so, I cut my losses. Besides, Gregory Gregory may change his mind (or Taco Bell may write him a check) before next Tuesday — and I don’t want to risk it. 

Enjoy the tacos, especially tonight if you’re in Sweden.

The Now I Know Week In Review

Monday:  How iTunes Saved Dunder Mifflin: It’s a good thing they took a shot at getting an iPod in the show. After all, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. 

TuesdayThe Third Little Pig’s Guide to Computer Hardware: I wanted to call this “Shipping Bricks” at first but the title I went with was better.

Wednesday: The Blackest Black Versus the Pinkest Pink: The title (as I sent it) had the word “name” in there by accident. Don’t ask how that happened; it’s a weird mistake that would take forever to explain and isn’t all that interesting.

ThursdayWhere There’s a Way, There’s a Will?: I messed up some of the legalese here (and haven’t fixed it yet) but the story is otherwise right.

And some other things you should check out:

Some long reads (kinda) for the weekend:

1) “The mountain doctor on call in north-east Georgia – in pictures” (The Guardian, July 2023). It’s a photo essay, so I’m not telling you how long it will take you to “read” it as you won’t be doing a lot of reading. 

2) “How I Survived a Wedding in a Jungle that Tried to Eat Me Alive” (Outside, 10 minutes, July 2023). Here’s a fun (?) quote:

Yesterday’s hike was rough, but the 15 miles today were raw pain. The mosquitoes were so vicious that by mile two even our local guides had asked to borrow our 100 percent deet. Bugs here suck down lesser repellent like an aperitif. Nothing provides complete protection.

Our destination is La Danta, one of the largest pyramids on earth. It’s located in the ruins of El Mirador, a centerpiece of Maya civilization from 800 B.C.E. to 100 C.E. that was abandoned nearly 2,000 years ago. There are no restrooms, no gift shops. In fact, the site is still being excavated.

This is where Angela and Suley want to get married. So, accompanied by a pair of guides, a half-dozen pack donkeys, and their ten toughest (or least informed) friends, the brides are determined to march us 60 miles over five days through Parque Nacional El Mirador in northern Guatemala to La Danta to say “I do.” It’s our second night on the trail.

3) “When Barbie Went to War with Bratz” (New Yorker, 12 minutes, January 2018). The Barbie movie is coming out this weekend (tonight, I think) and in celebration (?), here’s a story about its Taco Tuesday moment.

Have a great weekend!