The Ecphorizer

Creative Reading
Gareth Penn

Issue #50 (October 1985)

Everybody who goes to college these days takes a course or two in creative writing. I've never heard of anybody taking a course in creative reading. There is a great need to be filled here. Creative reading is an endless source of amusement and [quoteright]possibly even of edification. Let

Is laiD something you get when you take a shower?

me give you a few examples so that you can go out and get started on your own.

One of the oldest means of creating a trademark is to encode a message in it by writing it backwards. Those over 35 may remember Serutan, the natural laxative for those over 35. As you can readily see, the trademark is "Nature's" spelled backwards. Just so you don't think this is over-interpretation on my part, let me point out that the Serutan commercials used to bring out that fact a dozen times every day over the nation's airwaves.

I don't know if it still exists, but back in the Great Plains area there used to be a chain of grocery stores that went by the name Ak-Sar-Ben. Write that one up to local patriotism. Then there's Adohr dairy products, probably named after somebody's wife. Or maybe it was named after his girlfriend and written backward so the wife wouldn't find  about it. Finally, there is a product called Lanacane, which is apparently supposed to suggest to consumers what they can do with it.

Well, this tendency in commerce is tantamount to opening Pandora's Box, if there are any creative readers around. A lot of big companies should have thought twice about giving their products the trademarks they bear. Is laiD what you get when you take a shower? How about drinking beer made out of somebody's s'hortS? Creative readers with some Latin would hesitate to put a stercuS in their mouths. If you owned a car-rental company, would you name it after the Hindu god of destruction (sivA)? Would you buy a computer whose name caused you to associate it with rodents (gnaW)? Would you fly on an airline that was likely to turn on you (ASP)? You might have a hard time peddling television sets made on skid row by ynoS. How about a Grapes of Wrath wristwatch for okieS? Last but not least there are those who could use some Tide to clean up their creative writing.

If you think that Big Business has pulled some boners (see above), just think about what  has done with your tax money. When they tried doing funny things with highway signs, they just fell flat, like the trucker-directed ones on US Highway 50, e.g. CRANK HER DOWN. Caltrans is at its best when its bloopers are unintentional. Here is a small sample, accompanied by translation, courtesy of creative reading.

 "If you have to throw something out of your car window, make it a McKinley. That'll be fine."
 "Stand on your brake pedal as soon as you hit the oil slick on the road."
 "Who did?"
SLOW  "Watch out for dyslexic owls."

I'm into graduate studies now. That involves, among other things, redivision. Has it ever occurred to you that "therapist" is just another way of saying "the rapist"? How does that make you feel about your shrink? Then there's "He died insolvent." That could mean either that his debts exceeded the value of his estate, or else that he drowned in a vat of TCE. When I got my tetanus booster the other day, the nurse used a hypo the size of... well, I can't think of an appropriate simile, but you get the point. I did. As soon as I get done with my current blockbuster screenplay, Ghandi with the Windy, I am moving on to another dynamite marriage of genres, this inspired by creative reading. How can I lose in Hollywood with a title like The Devil in Diana Jones

GARETH PENN's article off creative reading reminds us of one of our favorite freeway off-ramp signs. It is in Hayward, CA, and proclaims simply "A Street Downtown." Yes, but which street? — foto by fiona

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