or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Fire and Music

From an interesting Salon.com article about a new Nike ad campaign:

But the most memorable -- and funny -- thing about the Nike ads isn't even the images, but the voice of the campaign, those little ditties that veer all over the map and often end up in crazy-land, beginning with those butt-as-border-collie and space-heater metaphors.

Do most people even know what "ditty" means any more? Judging from the dozens, maybe hundreds of misuses I've seen over the years, no. They think it means "a bon mot" or "a little poem" or "any little piece of writing", such as a piece headlined "Little Ditty About Writing"; it would be nice if someone writing about writing knew what she was writing about.

A ditty is a little song. It has to have music to it. It's just barely possible, I suppose, that a short poem that could theoretically be set to music might metaphorically be called a ditty, but that's a stretch. Those chunks of free verse in the Nike ads? Not ditties. That piece about writing? Not a ditty by any possible definition of the word. Ditty? Gotta have words: gotta have music. Period.

A ditty bag--since I have to get my quota of the word "ditty" into this piece--has nothing to do with the song: nobody knows where it got its name. It originally meant "a bag used by soldiers and sailors to carry small personal items" and has expanded in popular meaning to mean any small bag of that sort, usable by anyone.


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