or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, April 18, 2005


A clerihew is a light verse form simultaneously rigid and wide-open. It must consist of two rhyming couplets both amusing and unexpected; the first line must be the name of a person; and the couplets need not--in fact, should not--scan. Within those restrictions, there are no rules at all, leading to such clerihews as

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

(Well, this one scans rather nicely, as it turns out; but it was one of the earliest efforts of Edmund Clerihew Bentley, the man who invented the form. Others later improved on it, and there's no reason that the lines can't be as wildly varied as those in this poem by Ogden Nash:

I find it very difficult to enthuse
Over the current news.
Just when you think that at least the outlook is so black that it can grow no blacker, it worsens,
And that is why I do not like the news, because there has never been an era when so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.)

The manufacture of consumer products, it will come as no surprise to anyone, is a big, high-stakes business. It costs millions of dollars to shepherd one product from conception to launch, and many millions of dollars more to wedge that product's identity in the public mind. So no expense is spared to make sure that everything about the product is perfect: the colours used in the packaging, the product name, the typefaces in the logo, and the words that are printed on the box.

I like picking up new products in the stores and checking out the packaging. A new, moderately expensive skin-care product called ReNoviste caught my eye in a drugstore the other day (glimmery silvery packaging, I'm a raven, I couldn't resist), and so I was glancing at the ingredient list when it caught my eye: the Holy Grail for proofreaders, the thing that is never supposed to happen--a typographical error on a commercial package, and what's more, a typo that no mere mechanical spell-checker could ever have caught, a typo that proves someone was sleeping on the job and is now likely looking for other work:


Can I even express how happy that made me?


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