Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Advertising 101

It was the first day of classes at the college today, and all was well. There was a slight chill in the air, a cacophony of voices filled the hallways, and the fields were filled with cars of all shapes and sizes (the fields? yes, the fields; people had to park on the grass when the overflow parking lots...overflowed). Combo went well, big band went well, and I whomped Ben in racquetball, despite being down 13-6 at one point in the first game.

But the best story of the day came from the public schools. I was teaching a middle-schooler who was getting a rather stuffy sound, and I glanced over at his ligature, which was up way too far. As I adjusted it for him, I noticed that it was an oddball-looking thing that I had never seen before, so I asked him what kind it was. He said he had no idea, that he'd gotten it in Chicago (their band had played at the Midwest Clinic right before Christmas). It wasn't a brand either of us had heard of, but he said that the guy selling them promised them it was "the best ligature you can get...for only $10."

It's a good thing I wasn't with them up there, because I saw right through that little scam. Was the best ligature really being sold for $10? It all depends on where (or if) you place the comma in a sentence like that! I posed this question to the student: was the guy saying...

It's the best ligature you can get, for only $10. (The best ligature you can get costs only $10.)
OR, was he saying...
It's the best ligature you can get for only $10 (Of all the $10 ligatures, this is the best.)

The student saw what I meant; that may well have been his first lesson in tricky advertising--not saying anything untruthful, just manipulating the language so much as to totally confuse the buyer. The kid felt like he'd been had; his next statement was "I wanna go back to Chicago and punch him." Might as well learn while you're young, I guess...

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I should have practiced my standing broad jump." --Me, as I found myself trapped in the corner of the faculty office that I share with, oh, 100 other professors or so. Blocking my way were a person sitting at a computer and a somewhat husky lady checking her mailbox. I then realized, to my utter embarrassment, that the husky lady thought I meant "jumping over a broad," as in her. I backpedaled, cupping my hand over my mouth (to stifle a raucous laugh) as I explained that I didn't mean that at all. The whole office was almost doubled over; her response was "you're just looking to get pummeled, aren't you?" She was kidding...I think.