My breakfast cereal talks to me. It doesn’t snap, crackle, or pop, but the packaging is full of important messages. The front of the box informs me that the cereal contains real bananas. Wait, is there any other kind?
The box also informs me that the cereal contains specially selected walnuts. Does that mean that the manufacturers (or, more likely, underpaid workers from Mexico) stand there and inspect each walnut, saying “I’ll take that one and that one and that one, but not the others”? Do they taste each one to make sure it’s delicious?
But the nonsense on the front of the box is as nothing compared to the “inspirational” message on the back.
“We should all aspire to live like bananas,” it begins. “They are on a permanent vacation, living in lush, tropical rainforests.”
I won’t even get into whether rain forest should be one word or two (Merriam-Webster on-line has it as two), or whether “multi grain clusters” (which appears in the continuation of the message) needs a hyphen (it does). So the company is too cheap to employ a copy editor (copy editors can’t agree whether that should be one word or two) but it can waste money on a copywriter who spews mental garbage.
If I aspire to anything, it’s to eat cereal that doesn’t try to tell me how to live my life. And anyway, I hate humidity. Rain forests, feh!
More Hebrew inventiveness
The onomatopoetic Hebrew word bak’buk (bottle, flask) is as old as Methuselah: It appears in the Hebrew Bible in Jeremiah 19:1. Today, when wineries talk about bottling, the verb they use comes from the same four-letter root, actually a doubled two-consonant root (bet [b] and kof [k]). So if you wanted to order people to bottle some wine, you would say “Bak’beku!”
And that seems to be the inspiration for a new construction I came across recently in a message from an organization that was trying to stir up a grassroots response. Modern Hebrew has incorporated the loan word “talkback” for a reader’s comment on an item on a Web site. The organization suggested a variety of means of getting its message across, and one of them was “Talk’beku!”
Text copyright 2011 by Esther Hecht. No part of the text may be used without written permission of the author.