Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Did I just read that?

Most of these are funny, but this one is just plain sneaky.

On the side of Colgate toothpastes, you find this:

"Clinically proven, stain protection formula for sparkling, healthy white teeth accompanied by a unique flavor experience"

Now, either they have no concept of what commas really are for, or they're trying to make you think they're making a claim that technically they aren't. After all, companies have to tell the truth--and they generally make the strongest claim they can.

Most people will read this and say, "Ah! The stain protection formula is clinically proven." And if that's what it means, they misused a comma.

If you read what this actually says, it's gobbledygook, with a bunch of clauses strung rather ungrammatically together that don't properly connect to each other or really have any meaning.

It says that something is clinically proven (to what? Be toothpaste? Probably),that there is a stain protection formula (no claim whether it works or not, just that the formula is intended for that purpose), that something (the paste? The formula?) is for healthy, white teeth (so you can't use it if you don't already have sparkling healthy white teeth? or it produces that--"for" has so many meanings!). And what about that "accompanied by a unique flavor experience"? Are the teeth accompanied by that already? It's for teeth that have a unique flavor experience? That sounds kind of gross, actually.

And "unique flavor experience" is a nappy phrase anyway. It can't be unique--they produced millions of tubes of it. "Unique flavor"--like cinnamon? That's not terribly unique even if they hadn't produced millions of tubes of it. And "unique flavor" is something like "real sweet spirit in her own choice way" (BYU slang for "butt ugly"). When something is yummy or tasty or good or appealing, we say so. To say "unique flavor" sounds like you're trying to find something nice to say to a cook who spilled the salt into the eggplant-rutabaga-pineapple-beef stew.

And what on earth is a "flavor experience"? Sounds like a ride at an amusement park. Experiences generally come in two varieties: Good and Bad. And on the continuum between. "flavor" doesn't generally fall on that continuum. Anywhere.

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