Sunday, January 18, 2009


'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.'

And the world tumbled down a rabbit-hole or, thinking of the above quote, slipped through a looking-glass.

I recall, a long time ago, getting praise from a Marketing Director in Ireland (I was working for DEC at the time and had just finished a presentation/demonstration of an Office Automation product to a group of Consultants - yes, they did think of themselves as having a capital C). Bill, the Marketing Director, said to me after the hour-long event, awe in his voice, "You didn't say 'No' once the whole time."

And, in truth, I had not. Many things I had said, that might have added up to "Well, no, our product can't do what you're asking it to do" but I have always known that most people don't listen that carefully.

Even so, reading the caveat card accompanying one of those "memory foam" mattress covers yesterday gave me pause. Pause, and concern for the atrocities committed against language.

The card hints that, upon removing the product from the packaging, one may notice a newness scent. The possibility of not noticing suggested by the use of may can only be attributed to the hope on the part of the manufacturer that the consumer's olfactory sense is long dead.

The sharp and ugly scent, a word chosen no less carefully than may because odor carries too many negatives, that greeted me nearly brought about the demise of my olfactory sense (and mine's not all that good to begin with).

The card goes on to suggest that, if after 8 or more hours of airing - in a well ventilated space (because of the danger of suffocation?) - some consumers find themselves hyper-sensitive to the newness scent, use can be discontinued and the product returned to the retailer.

Newness scent. I suppose the words were chosen to evoke the new car smell.

I suppose they might, were it not for the stink.

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