Friday, September 10, 2010

Product "Placement"

My plughole is clogged.

Sorry, this isn't some sort of seedy backseat Taxi Cab confession, it's an actual problem. The drain (plughole) in my kitchen sink is stopped up and given that I have no dishwasher this is quite the situation. I've never been what one might call handy, so it's off to the local grocer in search of the English equivalent to Drain-o.

Grocery shopping is always an interesting experience because it is one of the few times I remember I'm not in the United States. Sure, in essence all the products are the same: fruits, vegetables, cereal. The packaging, however, is what interests me. In England, "Mr. Clean" defers to "Mr. Muscle," "Cheerios" gives way to "Crunchy Nuts," and Arugula masquerades as its flashier alter-ego "Rocket." These subtle variations on the same theme are both funny and unsettling, kind of like the Care Bears and the Care Bear Cousins. For those of you who might not remember, the Care Bears were a happy lot of multi-colored bears who through some unusual birthmarks on their stomachs vanquished evil through the force of their combined kindness, punctuated by their famous line of "Care Bears stare!" Sounds ridiculous I know, but it was cute and kids liked it. After awhile, I guess the Care Bear stock began to drop and in stepped the Care Bear Cousins. I'm not really sure of the Cousins' origins, as all I can remember is that they weren't bears. The leap from bears to other furry mammals may not seem like too big of a stretch but I recall it being quite alarming. Instead of the Care Bears, whom I generally accepted were born into a race of do-gooding bruins (species Ursidae Cura), the Cousins seemed more like cheap knock-offs, more akin to the awkwardly spliced creations of Dr. Moreau's island. In short, British products = Care Bear Cousins. This isn't to say products made in the UK are inferior, just different (to me), in that bizarro world kind of way. I'm sure the British would be equally puzzled by a cleaning product whose spokesman is an overly muscled, seemingly cheery, eunuch. This cross-cultural-perception-thing being a two way street, has lead to the recent discovery of one American product sure to bewilder (if not insult) our British Brethren-- the fanny pack.

The fanny pack, friend of the uber-tourist, companion to the severely diabetic, and bane of fashion aficionados everywhere. Much like slap bracelets and hyper-color shirts the fanny pack had its hay day in the early 90's but has somehow managed to linger around. The actual term "fanny pack" is generic, referring to any number of waist bags on the market that can be worn with the pouch slung over your ass or "fanny." It is an annoying yet relatively innocuous product. So what could the English possibly have against them?

It's all in the packaging.

You see the term "fanny," a word often taught to American youngsters in lieu of other more vulgar expressions, does not mean "bum/buttocks" in the Queen's English; rather it refers to a woman's intimate parts, her mons veneris if you will. OK, fanny means vagina and "fanny pack"... well, use your imagination.

Oh the learning experience. Perhaps this is what Samuel Johnson meant when he penned, "By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show." And show the world can, from plughole to fanny in fact.

Next week's lesson: Prince Albert, monarch or unadvisable fashion statement?

1 comment:

  1. But wait - can't a "fanny pack" be worn with the pouch in the front? Would this not make the British meaning of "fanny" very apropos in this case?

    And don't get me started on Care Bear cousins ...