Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Seven Dirty Words You Can't Embroider on Pillows

By Kevin Guilfoile

Last week my wife went out looking for a vase she could fit inside another vase and then one of the vases would have a candle in it and the other would be filled with a bunch of seashells. I'm not really sure, I just know that I needed to watch about fifteen minutes of Enter the Dragon to top off the masculinity lost while she was describing it to me.

She ended up at a crafts and hobby chain store called Michael's and she found the vases and they actually looked pretty cool on our dining room table. Kung Fu panic completely unnecessary.

As she was arranging them she said, almost as an afterthought, "There was this sign right at the entrance to Michael's advertising a special on Novelty Country Planters, whatever those are. Except on the sign, they misspelled country."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"They misspelled country."

"Misspelled it how?"

She rolled her eyes, and not in the sexy way.

"Holy crap!" I said. "Really? At Michael's?"

She said, "It was printed from a computer and they cut it out and arranged it with a bunch of other specials so the display looked sort of like a flower. It was all appropriately crafty."

"Did you take a picture?"


"Why not?"

"You can't use your imagination?" she said.

"I could," I said. "But I'm pretty sure at the meeting when some engineer first proposed putting a camera in a phone, a marketing guy asked what people would do with such a thing, and the engineer said, 'Someday a woman is going to encounter an unintentional obscenity in a suburban craft store and she'll want to take a picture of it to show her husband.'"

"Did the engineer mention that the husband has the maturity of a twelve-year-old boy?"

"He said something about that," I said. "Only in Japanese."

This Saturday, a full week later, she came home from running errands and she said, "Oh, I took a picture of that sign."

"What sign?" I asked.

"At Michael's. Country Planters."

Now I'm not sure what disturbs me most about this, the ignorance or the apathy. I'd like to assume it was just a typo, that any Michael's employee with computer and scissors privileges would know how to spell the word country. Then I remember the night 15 years ago when my buddy Jim and I went to a Blackhawks playoff game at old Chicago Stadium. Our seats were way up in the balcony and when we got up there I handed my ticket to the usher so she could direct us to our seats. She glanced at it and said, "Walk down the concourse to ay-zuhl E and go up the steps."

As we walked away, I turned to Jim and said, "Could you be a bigger failure as a stadium usher than to make it all the way to the end of the season and still not know how to pronounce the word aisle?"

Aside from the mistake, bad as it is, how could this sign remain up for a whole week? Have we just become so hopelessly distracted by the rising price of gas and the falling values of our homes and a war that won't end that we don't even notice an in-store advertisement containing one of the last words that can still get a rise out of us?

Of course we noticed it and could have taken the manager politely aside and quietly pointed out the error so he could correct it.

That sounds like the responsibility of someone who doesn't have a blog.


Just to bring this back on topic, yesterday's Trib had an interesting piece about Dave Kaczynski, who famously turned his brother Ted into authorities and also developed a friendship with one of the Unabomber victims. The Kaczynski brothers grew up on the south side of Chicago.

Related, here are a series of excerpts from an interesting and long piece that appeared in the now hard-to-find third issue of McSweeney's, detailing the correspondence between Ted Kaczynski and psychologist Gary Greenberg, as well as Greenberg's failed attempts to write about the experience. Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five.


Dana King said...

It's not the pre-occupation with gas or the war. About ten years ago I stopped at a TJ Cinnamon's bakery for a sticky bun. While waiting, I notoced "cinnamon" was spelled wrong on their sign. It was kind of obvious, being part of the name and all. I thought it was kind of funny, the store being open for about a year by that time, and I pointed it out to the clerk. (Or "bun-ista," or whatever they call them.) Talk about someone getting an instant case of red ass. I guess they preferred it to be wrong.

Marcus Sakey said...

Dude, you made me spit water on my keyboard. Nicely written. ;)

There used to be a ministry of some sort across from one of my favorite bars, the Hopleaf, that had a biblical quote from a psalm on it. Thing that killed me, this is a ministry, and in the attribution they spelled it "pslam."

As in, "I'm gonna pslam some godliness into you heathens."

Or, "I'm gonna go across the street and pslam me a beer."

Barbara D'Amato said...

You're assuming it was unintentional? Those may be some really disgruntled employees.

Maryann said...

Having just gotten back from Portland where my kids and I attended the Mississippi Pizza Pub's weekly Spelling Bee, I can tell you there are plenty of people who know how to spell odd words...and some who don't. I in fact won $15.00 for being able to spell stollen (to be fair, the pronunciation is 'schtolen')but who knew how to spell the word pronounced 'toffeefobia'? Not me...
still, 'country'? From Michaels? Wow! Good post, Kevin...I needed that chuckle :o)

Lenny Pincus said...

Our family used to play Boggle every Saturday night. Once I noticed that the "c" word was quite evident on the game board, but I didn't dare go for it. When my mother recited her list of found words, to our shock she said the dreaded noun. However, she mitigated the impact by using a long "u". She wanted those points.

Michael Dymmoch said...

Check out the Type-O personalities in the Chicago Tribune article.