“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.
Seattle city (and King County) buses, with alleged bus riders saying “I do make a difference by riding the bus.” But it raises a question to me:
Who the heck was the copy writer on this?There are four ways you could use this basic sentence:
I make a difference by riding the bus.This is the answer you would give to the question “How can you have an effect and promote a green lifestyle?” The response is simple and factual. Riding the bus is the important thing here.
I make a difference, by riding the bus.This is the answer you would give to the question “Can you have an effect and promote a green lifestyle?” Yes, you can (hello Obama), and here’s how I do it. It’s a little more forward. It stresses that you can make a difference, with riding the bus being one person’s answer.
I do make a difference, by riding the bus.Here, the response would be to a question like “Can someone really have an effect and promote a green lifestyle?” There’s a bit of disbelief in that, requiring the refutation word “do”, and then the clarification of how the person makes a difference.
I do make a difference by riding the bus.But this is the version actually being used. This is the response to “I don’t think one person riding the bus can really have an effect and promote a green life. Prove it.” The response is refutational, and petulant, and ultimately inadequate. There needs to be a little foot stomp and the follow-up line “I do, I do, I do, I do, I do!” (And I don’t mean to reference an ABBA song here.)
In other words, they opted for the worst of the four options, the one that carries the least weight and the most whining.
But you know, maybe there are other potential values to the wording. Maybe if we look at the meter of the line?
i DO make a DIFerence by RIding the BUS.Hmm, okay. But as I said, that seems a bit whining with the emphasis on “do”. If we remove the “do”, we get this:
I make a DIFerence by RIDing the BUS.The meter here ends up falling on the first syllable instead of the second, but then swoops into the same meter for the rest of the phrase. That’s not a bad thing, since it then stresses personal responsibility, but it results in no reason to include “do”.
(Note as well that the ad chose to emphasize “make a difference” and “bus”. While that's arguably a design choice, it runs counter to using the meter to influence the meaning by forcing emphasis that goes in a different direction.)
So meter is out as a reason to use this wording. Anything else?
Oh lord, no.
“I do.”Could this be a subliminal gay marriage thing, maybe? By putting those words — which hold a lot of symbolic power in our culture — in front of thousands of people every day, are we keeping the concept of marriage in the front of everyone’s subconscious? And since marriage really only gets coverage in light of same-sex civil marriage these days, is reminding people that it exists a subtle way of pushing for tolerance?
Or am I a conspiracy theorist today? <grin>
[Thanks to the Seattle Transit Blog for the image.]
[Thanks to William Shakespeare for the entry title reference.]
Updated on January 25, 2010