Originally published the last week of December 2002, in the now defunct ESP Magazine (an alternative weekly serving the Greensboro, High Point and Winston-Salem area. Rest in peace).
One might think that professional communicators would be very familiar with their Mother Tongue. It is not so.
The Inigo Montoya "I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means" Award.
Former Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie gets the coveted "Inigo" for his description of New Mexico’s "3-3-5" defense during ESPN’s broadcast of the Las Vegas Bowl on Christmas Day.
After saying the defense was "en vogue" and listing almost ten schools that run the defensive formation, he capped his description by saying "it’s a unique defense."
All I can say to that is "INCONCEIVABLE!"
Coach, if more than one school runs it, it ain’t unique.
"Unique" must have been on Coach Davie’s "2002 Word-A-Day" calendar, because he continued to use it. Incorrectly.
Moments after describing New Mexico’s defense, Coach Davie described a particular play as "very unique."
"Unique" means "one of a kind." Coach Davie must have seen a play that was VERY one-of-a-kind. Inconceivable.
From the Department of Repetitive Redundancy. Steve Levy, welcoming viewers to ESPN’s second Christmas Day bowl game: "Welcome to the first ever inaugural ConAgra Foods Hawaii Bowl."
Wrangler. If there is anything more annoying than the misuse of words by people who should know better, it is the misuse of music by advertisers who just don’t give a damn.
Wrangler Jeans is running a spot where they equate wearing their pants with being a good American. Okay, that’s fine, even if a bit crass.
But the song they use to demonstrate this equation is "Fortunate Son" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. John Fogerty, the man who was CCR, sold the rights to the songs he wrote long ago, so he is not the one that sold the song to Wrangler.
If Fogerty were dead, and he’s not, he’d be generating enough torque in his casket to power the Las Vegas strip and all ten schools that run the unique "3-3-5" defense.
The commercial shows people with nice asses wearing Wranglers while the song’s guitar lick plays. The commercial then shows an American flag flapping in the sun while Fogerty sings
"Some folks are born made to wave the flag,Ooh, they're red, white and blue."
The insinuation is that wearing Wranglers, being born made to wave the flag, and being red, white and blue all go together and are all good things.
But Fogerty’s lyrics don’t mean that at all.
The song continues, but the commercial does not,
"It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senator's son, son.It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, no."
The song is not about being a flag-waving patriot. The song is about hiding behind patriotism for personal gain. The song is about hypocrisy.
Perhaps the song is appropriate after all.
Subway. On a lighter note, Subway sandwich shop is running a spot where two hot blondes, obviously close to one another, each orders her favorite sandwich.
They both want their sandwich spicy. One of them explains, very helpfully, "because we like it hot."
Maybe it’s just me, but she says this a little too seductively to just be making conversation with the unseen sandwich maker behind the counter.
Next up to the counter is a handsome man. He simply says, "I’ll have what they are having," and throws a glance their way. The hot babe with the saucy haircut, not to mention the hot sandwich, is caught in midchew but still manages to give him a little flirty nod and a coquettish smile.
That nod and smile speak pages. We all know what happens next, but the commercial comes to an end and leaves the unspoken truth unsaid, and, unfortunately, unseen.
The advertisers are telling us that Subway is a good place to pick up hot, bisexual babes. If you order the right sandwich, your desert is recreational sex with two sexy blondes.
I’m ready for a sandwich right now.
Diamonds. There is a jewelry commercial running where a man and a woman are in an exotic European location. They are in a public square, and the man embarrasses the woman by yelling "I love this woman!" several times very loudly.
Her embarrassment quickly subsides when he whips out a huge diamond ring. She is overcome with love. She hugs the guy and says, quietly, "I love this man."
The message? Even loud, obnoxious guys can get an attractive woman to love him if he has enough money.
This, of course, is a sad truth. It also explains why a certain loud and obnoxious writer is currently getting divorced, but, once again, I digress.
The moral of these spots? Sandwiches equal sex, money equals love.
Coors Light. Coors Light is running a series of very popular and effective commercials. One of them shows a bunch of good-looking young people having all kinds of fun at all hours of the day and night in all kinds of locations. Drinking Coors Light.
I can appreciate a good time for the sake of a good time with the best of them, but one guy in this commercial needs a big gangsta-slap upside his beer-addled head.
This is the guy who thinks it is a hoot to climb up on the kitchen sink, grab the spray nozzle, and turn it on his fellow party goers in the kitchen.
Sorry, dude, but your party is over.
Somebody has to clean that mess up, and when that time comes I bet you’ll be singing "it ain’t me, it ain’t me," and trying to catch a ride to Subway for breakfast.
Before that time, I’m confiscating your water gun and kicking your can-can-can out the door.