Let's Raise a Glass to High School English Teachers Everywhere
One of the avocational hazards of adopting a Fitbit-obsessed lifestyle is that we end up spending an inordinate amount of time watching television while pedaling to nowhere. Thanks to the progress made by modern gym design, we can at least watch an equally inordinate amount of commercial television. Thus, we come to see the same commercials that run in the morning on MSNBC over and over again.
With nothing much more to think about than attempting to count how many times I see the same ones, I have started to notice a new (to me, at least) phenomenon. The power of grammatical irritation as a communication device. My hypothesis: When we hear and notice a genuinely wrong use of our language there’s an immediate frisson of superiority that is remarkably ratifying and then each time that commercial repeats we notice it much more powerfully than others which have done a better job with the language. If we are so lucky as to see the commercial actually corrected, then there is a genuine jolt of respect and affection released each time we re-experience the commercial and our personal backstory.
A case in point: Trop50 from Tropicana. Jane Krakowski tells us all about the joys of the new orange juice, which has, she excitedly relates, “50 percent less calories.” At which point, our inner grammarian autocorrects: 50 percent fewer calories. Day after day for the entire three-week flight, she keeps insisting “less." Augh. Then, suddenly several months later, we see her again and this time, her voice-over explains this miraculous new product has “50 percent fewer calories.” Elation. And the wonder: Did somebody’s high school English teacher write in? Was there a groundswell? Whatever happened, it is charming. We are charmed. An advertisement far more memorable and personal for having stumbled and then righted itself.
Now, I’m awaiting the nice folks at Ancestory.com to explain to the Zuccolis that Eric’s ancestor doesn’t look like him. Indeed, that it is much more genetically likely that Eric looks like his ancestor.