COLUMN: Do not be fooled by cozy marketing


Dan Hahn

Dan Hahn is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Dan Hahn, Columnist

An assignment for one of my courses required writing a “word essay” on a word that stood out in one of our readings. The assignment asked to examine the significance by researching the definition and etymology in the Oxford English Dictionary.

I chose the word “cozy”, which is not frequently used in Mary Norton’s “The Borrowers,” but as the novel progresses you become acquainted with the cozy lifestyle of the miniature humans known as the Clock family, living beneath the kitchen floorboards in a country home.

Indeed, the threat of losing a cozy lifestyle drives the plot, and cozy living affords the sheltered protagonist certain advantages including the opportunity to learn to read and keep a journal. 

As the days shorten and darkness descends sooner and sooner during these late fall and soon-to-be early winter afternoons, I agree it is appropriate for society to lament the loss of the warm season and long for more cozy environs. 

As I reflect on the cozy holiday season surrounding such celebrations and milestones as Thanksgiving, Fall Break, and even Christmas, I am thinking a lot about what the cozy sentiment really means, and I keep seeing the word “cozy” show up pretty much everywhere.

In fact, it appears to me that “cozy” is an especially powerful marketing tool this time of year. I’ve recently seen the word on store displays, mugs, and T-shirts; it’s in email campaigns, commercials, and appears across social media. 

There seems to be consensus that coziness is good, everyone should want it, and it’s readily attainable for a low, low price.

If you read a book like “The Borrowers,” or even look at the definition of “cozy”, you will see there are notions of vulnerability and complacency inherent in cozy living.

In other words, while I love coziness as much as the next person, it should not be an ideal we strive for, even if it’s cold and rainy outside.

I’m not saying that good, hardworking people don’t deserve creature comforts and the feelings of security they offer.

But, humans need to first exercise their tenacity and challenge themselves physically and mentally as a daily (or almost daily) habit. I’m not merely talking about going for a walk or going to the gym, which are all great things to do.

I’m also talking about pushing ourselves into discomfort, challenging ourselves to try new things, and taking acceptable risks as safely and as regularly as possible.

If all we strive for is comfort and coziness during this time of year, then the pounds will get packed on, and we’ll come to expect a life with no hardship and no surprises. We will delude ourselves. 

In other words, seduced by the promises of coziness, we not only become easy targets for advertiser, be we also become complacent in our lives.

On the flip side, marketers all seem to understand that “cozy” is universally desirable. And, it’s true that as an adjective “cozy” describes notions of comfort and warmth which most people agree are worthwhile pursuits.

However, you may be surprised to learn that “cozy” as a transitive verb is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “to comfort, reassure; to delude.”

There are other parochial meanings within the word which point to notions of possessing a narrow worldview.

So, don’t be duped by marketing campaigns promising coziness, since upon closer investigation, “cozy” is a loaded term that has complicated meanings beyond what is being advertised. 

Besides, it is quite obvious that you don’t need to be an English MA student to realize that coziness is easily obtained, usually, without needing to buy yet another new item.

Further, being cozy does not necessarily mean you are leading a satisfying life, or possess a thorough understanding of the world around you. If you think that simply being cozy is good enough, you may just be deluding yourself.

Advertisers need to stop with all this talk of cozy, since it’s not necessarily a positive or desirable position to be in. 

This time of year especially, I need to remind myself to do something hard in body and mind before indulging in the cozy life that is all too easy to partake in. 

Besides, who needs another Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal on a mug that says “cozy” in cute lettering?

All you really need to be cozy is a piping hot beverage served in any old vessel, perhaps while seated under a heavy blanket you’ve had for years, with a good book in hand that you borrowed from the library.

Dan Hahn is English composition and rhetoric gradute student. He can be reached [email protected] or 217-581-2812.