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Jocelyn Paine

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

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December 20, 2010

In some New Statesman literary competition, I once read the following quatrain:

I love my Kellog's All-Bran,
It fills me with elation;
It's quick and easy and ensures
diurnal defecation.
For those who don't know, I should explain that: All-Bran is a cereal that looks like twigs, designed to deter constipation; Kellogg's is a very very rich cereal company. And was founded, apparently, as the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company in 1906, by Will Keith Kellogg, being an outgrowth of his work with his brother John Harvey Kellogg at the Battle Creek Sanitarium following practices based on the Seventh-day Adventists. Thank you, Wikipedia.

That All-Bran poem was a submission to a competition that asked readers to praise some household product in the same way that the following quatrain praises Carnation evaporated milk:

Carnation Milk is the best in the land;
Here I sit with a can in my hand —
No tits to pull, no hay to pitch,
You just punch a hole in the son-of-a-bitch.

There are several versions of the Carnation poem. Here's another:

Carnation Milk is best in the land;
it comes in a little red-and-white can.
No tits to pull, no hay to pitch;
just poke a hole in the son-of-a-bitch.
That one, I found at's Carnation Slogan Contest, from their collection of pages which explain the history of famous advertising promotions, and debunk some urban legends about them.

I think I first came across the poem in David Ogilvy's book Confessions of an Advertising Man. He writes:

Unless you have some special reason to be solemn and pretentious, write your copy in the colloquial language which your customers use in everyday conversation. I have never acquired a sufficiently good ear for vernacular American to write it, but I admire copywriters who can pull it off, as in this unpublished pearl from a dairy farmer.

The Marketing Sleuth agree. In their blog posting The Best Language For Writing Copy, they say:

Don't say things like —
  • engage next-generation functionalities, or
  • enhance killer web-readiness, or
  • monetize visionary technologies, or
  • leveraging webinars to sell services
Or any bullshit like that. No one wants to know how clever you are. They just want to know what your product will do for him or her. And they want details in language they can understand.

But I must go. I'm just off to enhance my killer Java-hacking-readiness by demonetizing my wallet and leveraging caffeine into my bloodstream from a cup belonging to my local Summertown Costa. It shall engage my neurotransmitters, implementing within me an entire next-generation level of coding functionality. As my American friend Pat Nicholls used to say, bullcrap. And the bull didn't even need to eat All-Bran.

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