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Scatisfacturing Dissent

In 1957 the Brazilian visual poet Décio Pignatari turned a famous marketing slogan against itself by manipulating the Portuguese translation of "Enjoy Coca-Cola" into repulsive word-shapes like "drool" and "cesspool." Pignatari's work has been on my mind recently, ever since a peculiar ad campaign for Snickers candy bars hit town.

The concept is simple enough: invent new, hunger-inducing words from pieces of other words and deploy them in Snickers's iconic font, thereby inspiring the target with an irresistible desire to buy and eat delicious Snickers candy. For whatever reason the bright lights at Snickers settled on using CTA buses to carry their neologism-ads to Chicagoans. I'd like to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting. ("Hey, buses are kind of shaped like Snickers bars! And our research indicates 73% of commuters eat candy!")

A week ago I encountered my first Snickword, "PEANUTOPOLIS," rolling its way down Milwaukee Avenue. This seemed like a cruel method of transporting the mentally ill - Nuthouse Express, please watch your step! - but the passengers looked comfortable with it. Actually, my opening impression was that "PEANUTOPOLIS" was as good a description as any for our schizophrenically-run city on the make. It also conjures dystopian visions of a citizenry scraping by for peanuts meted out by mad, stingy overlords. Crazy, I know. Further deconstruction yields a single "NUT" connected to a stretched-out "PE-N-IS." Taxpayer-funded studies disproved the nipples-in-the-ice-cubes effect decades ago, but here it lives - on the side of a city bus, no less. I guess sometimes a candy bar is more than a candy bar.

Shortly after my brush with "PEANUTOPOLIS," I met "HUNGERECTOMY" at the Grand Avenue stop. If you've ever squeezed aboard the Grand bus exiting the Loop at rush hour, you've undoubtedly felt the need for an "-ectomy," along the lines of "another minute crammed into this fellow passenger's umbrella and I'm gonna need an umbrellectomy." But wait! What on earth is the word "RECTOM" doing in an advertisement for candy bars? Have these copywriters not seen Caddyshack?

"NOUGATACITY" sounds like Chicagoese for white flight, or a fight over who should flee. ("No! YOU get outta da city!") I find nougat unappetizing enough, reminiscent of packing foam, that for me calling attention to it serves more as warning label than sales pitch. On this score, the word succeeds.

At least "NOUGATACITY" provides some public benefit. "SUBSTANTIALISCIOUS," meanwhile, resuscitates the unfortunate fad of generating adjectives by suturing the suffix "-alicious" to nouns ("rockalicious," "groovealicious"). Note, however, the added "s," forming a mildly evocative "-liscious." I suppose that's meant to reference "luscious," or maybe "conscious," as in, "Somehow, I've become conscious of how deliciously substantial this candy must be." But I also can't help but sense "viscous," which inevitably calls to mind motor oil. Anyway, after "RECTOM" I'm probably just paranoid by seeing the "AN-AL" in there.

My newest discovery, "SATISFECTELLENT," manages to summon both "disinfectant" and "repellent," fitting terms following all this rectal activity and nougat. But alas, we're back to the drawing board with "TIS FEC-EL," which may appeal to representatives of the constipated candy-eater demographic but is unlikely to do much for the "regulars," other than remind them how viciously/viscously a fierce chocolate-nut combo can propel through the human body.

So what's Snickers's game? According to Webster's, to "snicker" is to "laugh in a covert or partly suppressed manner." Am I merely a pawn in a sophisticated marketing scheme? "Step one: unveil a series of ads that slyly mock the product, evoking comparisons between it and anuses, motor oil, etc. Step two: ride free media from misinformed 'clever' types running snarky responses to campaign. Step three: await massive sales increase as snarky responses drain from public consciousness, leaving only a nougaty residue on the unsuspecting consumer mind. Step four: laugh in a covert or partly suppressed manner." Suddenly, somehow, I've become conscious of how deliciously substantial Snickers bars must be.

CORRECTION: My thanks to the readers who pointed out my misspelling of "NOUGATOCITY." I may have given the Snickers people too much credit by unconsciously linking nougat with sagacity or tenacity to form "NOUGATACITY." It's a better word than the actual one, which after all is just a letter away from "NOUGATROCITY" (a redundant term for any product that contains nougat).


Posted on July 28, 2006

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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