Asterisks and Oranges

When I’m reading the side of a juice carton, I don’t expect Shakespeare. But check out this gem:

Hold on, hold on. That’s a perfectly valid question.

Wait — what’s a question?

*   *   *

A little further down and there’s an equally dubious snippet of copy:

Now we all know this kind of asterisking, where packaging or signage simultaneously offers us something and makes clauses in case it doesn’t work out. At its most insidious, it allows the Man to proffer radiant, but unsubstantiated claims about his product; at its most innocent, it defends the product’s company against crackpot/opportunist consumers who might insist on testing any claim made.

It just seems strange that in this instance the number 24 is the asterisked, arguable piece of information. Personally, if I had to pin the tail on the maybe, I’d go straight in for this:

Oranges have juice; this is orange juice, after all. But ain’t no-one gonna prove these ones are juicy. That’s an opinion, my friend, and that’s the first thing out the window when it comes to what is.

And yet it seems that, precisely because it’s untenable, juicy is something that can be gotten away with. Twenty four, on the other hand, is a very definite statement.

You know an orange? Right? Well, it’s twenty four of them.

Of course, it’s unreasonable to imagine that the same number of oranges go into each carton; we expect the howsoever many millilitres we bought in for, regardless of how many units it took to produce it.

It’s almost like some oranges are more juicy than others.

But even if someone froze the carton’s contents and reconstituted it into twenty four icy orange baubles, we’d be unable to say how many oranges worth of juice went into the thing. It could have been one giant orange. It could have been a thousand tiny oranges. Maybe oranges helped to juice the other oranges — how do we count them?

Besides, maybe they blitz the peel but they must at least strain out the pips. Clearly the logical sign would be this:

Although, if we’re anticipating nitpicking as to the nature of an orange, we ought also to think about this:

It seems we could go either way — the nature of the content, or the units of content contained. A philosopher might dabble with this:

Do you really know it’s there? Can you be sure? This might all be a dream, after all. A juicy, juicy dream.

Here’s another school of thought:

These guys are more comfortable in their belief of external reality, and even start to factor in probability. There are twenty four oranges; this is not untrue. But where they might be — that’s another issue, and one that we cannot answer with certainty.

Conversely, the astute marketing decision might be as follows:

Not only are there surely twenty four oranges, they’re also indubitably juicy. They’re even in a carton. It just might not be yours.

Decisions, decisions. One alternative — which I have to say many wisely practice — is to relocate the asterisk to the end of the blurb:

This way, we know something in the sentence may not be the case — but we aren’t even advised what. It’s the perfect crime-slash-disclaimer. And yet to cover all its assertions, this particular carton seems to be headed for something more like this:

It’s like a pumpkin with piercings being swarmed by bees.

I’ll show you how it’s done:

Understated, wordless, and unquestionably orange.


This entry was posted in Advertising & Packaging, Foods & Drinks, stinker writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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