Grammatically Incorrect Slogans

apple-think-differentI’ve always been both fascinated and righteously indignant about grammatically incorrect advertising. I’m not a grammar fascist — frankly, my grammar’s just not good enough to qualify and I still have flashbacks to trying to learn how to diagram sentences in Mr. Grimes’ sixth grade English class at Gilman School in Baltimore. But overt linguistic fouls annoy me. Maybe it stems from having two English majors as parents who always insisted on speaking and writing correctly. It’s not like they slapped me with a ruler if I used “good” instead of “well,” but if I delved into the realm of lousy grammar at home I generally heard about it.

Now, I’m not as bad as my mother who would often call over a poor, unsuspecting waiter to complain about a typo or grammatical sin on the menu. It didn’t matter if it was a fancy French restaurant or a truck stop. This usually had to do with a missing or extraneous accent mark, though even I had to agree when “Chicken Franchise” showed up on a menu in the Poconos when what they meant was “Chicken Francaise.”

I also remember my dad talking about grammatically incorrect advertising slogans like the old cigarette tagline “Winstons taste good, like a cigaretteimages should.” Of course it should have been “Winstons taste good, as a cigarette should.” 

This got me thinking about current or recent advertising that plays fast and loose withe the rules of grammar. I’m sure you can think of others but here are a few along with how they should read.

Eggo Waffles: Leggo my Eggo — Let go of my Eggo

Milk: Got Milk? — Do you have milk?

Subway: Subway, eat fresh — Subway, eat freshly

Apple: Think Different — Think differently

McDonald’s: I’m lovin’ it — I am loving it

Staples: We got that. — We have that.

What others can you think of? (and yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition).





Stress Head — Exploded!

602024_10202047098678388_1598411184_nEveryone’s been posting their Myers-Briggs “Stress Heads” on Facebook the last few days with comments like “Yup,” “Sums it up,” and “Nailed it.” As an INTJ I’m supposed to get stressed out by things like procrastination, indecision, and not having enough time to change plans. This is all true but there are other more specific things that that make me crazy and stress me out. Here are ten of them:

Bad coffee

Dead iPhone battery

Watching the Orioles/Ravens lose

Middle School math

No WiFi

People who have no clue how to navigate a traffic rotary

Scott Gunn

Vestry meetings that go past 10:00 pm

Kids who are “starving” when bedtime is announced (you know who you are!)

People who never stop talking


By George

So after keeping us in suspense for a few days, the royal baby has finally been named: George. Actually there were a few other names attached to this but I’ve forgotten them. Two or three middle names seems to be a monarchy thing. As you’ll see below, I’ve done some research on William and Kate’s influences in coming up with the name. Oh, and just for the record, Americans don’t deal kindly with English kings named George. Just sayin’.


Cover Boy

130717-rolling-stone-cover-vmed-2p-522x710People around here (Boston) are livid about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s appearance as the cover boy on this month’s Rolling Stone magazine. He comes across looking like a teen heartthrob you’d see on the cover of Tiger Beat, complete with Armani shirt and rock star hair.

You can feel the anger and raw emotion emanating from Facebook, Twitter, and talk radio and Boston Mayor Tom Menino released an open letter to Rolling Stone. At best it’s a crass, clumsy attempt at PR — we’re all talking about it, after all, and when was the last time Rolling Stone was relevant? At worst it glorifies evil and retraumatizes the families and victim’s of the Boston Marathon bombings.

The reality is that this is nothing new. Evil has graced the cover of countless magazines over the years, including a previous issue of Rolling Stone. Our fascination with characters like the Unabomber and Charles Manson and the Boston Strangler drive this. Heck, in another era Judas might have been named Time’s Man of the Year.

None of which is to justify what Rolling Stone did — it’s not just the cover that irks people but the sympathetic portrayal of a terrorist. It’s simply to put all of this into context.

hitler-timecharles-manson-lifecolumbine-killers-timecharles-manson-rolling-stoneShah_NewsweekNewsweek Cover - [Osama bin Laden] The Hunt For bin Laden8_12_91_205x2731101800107_400


Columbus (and his companions)

The large and ever-growing staff at Clergy Family Confidential ** decided it would be nice to mark Columbus Day in a positive manner. The explorer gets a bad rap these days for such minor trifles as spreading fatal diseases to native populations and taking credit for places long before “discovered.” So in the spirit of martyrs celebrated with their “companions” (see Perpetua, Constance, etc.) we thought we’d highlight Columbus and his Companions.

First, the man himself. What adventurer/visionary doesn’t spend hours as a child dreaming that one day a mid-sized city in Ohio will be named after him? Every child in America knows the year that Columbus sailed the ocean blue but only because he didn’t delay his trip until 1493.

St. Columba, one of the popular 6th century Celtic saints, also had a sea-faring adventure. In what may be the first reference to the Loch Ness Monster, it’s said that he once saved a swimmer from a monster in that body of water by making the sign of the cross.

Another one of Columbus’ companions might be the rumpled TV detective Columbo. By now you’ve seen that this post has nothing to do with anything but the similarity to Columbus’ name, the root “columb” meaning “take the day off and hold a parade.”

Columbia University may be in the internationally-reknowned Ivy League but it’s also made it into this post. Or at least the subway stop. If you miss New York, don’t worry — this is a scratch n’ sniff photo.

** By “large and ever-growing staff” I mean that I have rewarded myself with several new titles: along with writer I am now the executive producer of Clergy Family Confidential, director, key grip, stunt double, and best boy.

I hope you’re enjoying the day off (if you have a nice boss). I clearly need to get back to work first thing tomorrow.

Sprinkles vs. Jimmies

One of the great mysteries of the world is the difference between sprinkles and jimmies. Okay, it’s not much of a mystery because there IS no difference. But why do some portions of the country refer to those small candy coated chocolates that accessorize ice cream and donuts sprinkles while others call them jimmies?

Jimmy Carter

This was a major conundrum for my boys when we moved from New York to Massachusetts two and a half years ago. On moving day, we walked down to Nona’s, the homemade ice cream shop down the street. They ordered something chocolatey and then were faced with a dilemma posed by the teenager wearing a Red Sox cap behind the counter: “Do you want jimmies on that?” She may as well have asked the question in Swahili because they literally had no idea what she was talking about. Fortunately for them, mom and dad used to live in Massachusetts and thus we turned into on-the-spot translators.

Jimmy Connors

Thinking about this recently, for some reason, I did some extensive research (thanks, Google) on the subject. It turns out that in the 1930s the Just Born candy company (the same folks that bring us Peeps) were cranking out boatloads of sprinkles. The guy who operated the sprinkle-making machine was named Jimmy. People started calling them “Jimmies” and the name stuck. I’m still not sure how it became a regional thing but whatever. It’s a good story.

Jimmy Cliff

Ben and Zack still refer to them as sprinkles — either old habits die hard or it’s their way of sticking it to the Massachusetts “man.” But ultimately they don’t care as long as they get them on their ice cream. And at least we didn’t move to the Midwest to get embroiled in the old soda versus pop debate.

Jimmy Hoffa

Super Committee meets Supertramp

I don’t often get political here and, well, I’m still not. But if the congressional “Super Committee” was a model for all things “Super,” the world as we know it would be flipped upside down. Here are some examples:

Superman would be reduced to a kryptonite-fearing, pathetic little man curled up in the fetal position on the floor of a phone booth.

Your Super Sized Coke at McDonald’s would come in a shot glass.

Super Tuesday would resemble the Iowa Straw Poll.

The Super 8 Motel would consist of a sleeping bag in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

The Super Dooper Looper roller coaster at Hershey Park would be synonymous with “tea cups.”

The graphics on Super Mario Brothers video games would be on a par with Pong.

The Super Bowl would be as compelling as the Tufts-Middlebury game and the commercials would all be tests of the emergency broadcast system.

The Super Dome in New Orleans would be renamed for former President Bush.

The British rock group Supertramp would be…well, they would stay about the same.

Rick James’ Super Freak would be as hip as your average accountant singing La Bamba at a karaoke bar.

The Super Soaker would be little more than one of those fake squirting flowers clowns wear on their lapels.

That’s all I got — I’m sure you can come up with others and, if so, please post them. Unfortunately this is what happens when I have a day off…

Graduation Survival Guide

So a federal judge ruled yesterday that two Connecticut public schools can’t hold their graduation ceremonies in a church because it would be an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. I get that. Although the judge’s claim that the district was “coercing” students to support religion is a bit loony: “I hereby grant you this diploma AND baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

I’m not going to go all postal and rant about the moral decline of America. That’s not really my style. But I would like to remind the judge that churches aren’t the only places with religious symbols. Heck, you could argue that even the most benign high school auditorium is teeming with them. Here are a few examples:

The Clock. You know, the large industrial-sized time keeping mechanism announcing the time left in the all-school assembly that just..will…not…end. The one that seems to tick backwards every time you stare at it in hopeful anticipation of freedom. Yes, the clock is an overt reminder that God is the master of all time and space. “For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past” (Psalm 90:4)

The Chairs. Sure they’re uncomfortable and have wads and wads of gum underneath them but they are clearly symbols of heaven. Scripture tells us that Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Yes, in a chair. Thus it’s impossible to look upon even a metal folding chair without reflecting upon the glory of God.

The Curtain on the Stage. Every auditorium, like many church parish halls (for some reason), have stages. This is not just reminiscent of the recent mediocre production of High School Musical. It is obviously symbolic of the Temple curtain that was rent in two as Jesus breathed his last upon the cross.

Pencils. Presumably you’ll find a broken No. 2 pencil on the floor left over from a frustrated student. This is a not-so-veiled reference to the Book of Daniel and the omen of the handwriting on the wall. In this case the omen may well pertain to the coming parental debt of trying to pay for college.

Diplomas. There’s a reason school administrators roll these things up to hand out: they’re scrolls. Any diploma is basically the Torah in miniature.

Funny Hats and Dresses. Graduations are known for the ubiquitous cap and gown. Clergy are known for variations on the same theme.

Processions. Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance” is the academic equivalent of a processional hymn. Please, no flash photography.

People. Can’t have a graduation without ’em and you can’t hide the children of God. The world is crawling with them.

So there you go — your guide to surviving a secular graduation ceremony. Just make sure there’s no minister floating around to give a benediction.

Just Imagine

What does a $12 million statue of John Lennon have in common with the Episcopal Parish of St. John the Evangelist in Hingham, Massachusetts? My parishioner Bruce Replogle. You see Bruce, a veteran rock band promoter and manager, once served as John and Yoko Ono’s publicist. Some current connections led to his handling of the sale of a well-known life-size bronze statue of Lennon.

John, Paul, George, and Ringo meet Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? I’m not sure but I have proposed that Bruce have it installed in front of the church. Talk about an opportunity for evangelism, St. John’s (no relation to Lennon) could become as big as Graceland! The only thing standing in the way is $12 million. And perhaps the bishop. Sure he once boasted that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” But it’s Lent and he’s dead so we can forgive him.

According to the artist Brett-Livingston Stone’s website, “This is the only statue of the uniquely talented and legendary John Lennon created during his lifetime. Sculpted between 1979 and 1980, this work of art honors John Lennon’s life and his vision for world peace. The statue has been unveiled in Los Angeles in 1981 by LA Mayor Tom Bradley, and in New York by Andy Warhol. It has also been exhibited worldwide in the 80s. In the 1983 US festival it joined Bono and U2 on stage for a concert with an audience of over 300,000 people. The Lennon statue was also showcased by the Grammy Awards Music Academy in Los Angeles for close to a decade. In the early 80’s Rolling Stone Magazine received over 250,000 signatures petitioning to overcome a park moratorium to have the statue placed in New York’s Central Park. With such a unique and wonderful history, the valuable original statue has been appraised in excess of $12 million by museum appraisers. The statue is mounted on a polished marble base in which the word ‘Imagine’ is carved. ”

Interested? Well, in any case, Bruce is a fascinating guy — not your average Massachusetts Episcopalian. Check out his bio and listen to music on the web page for his company Rock Management USA. And if you’d like to contribute to my “Free John Lennon” Statue Relief Fund just mail your checks to my house.

RIP Captain Jack

St. Ann's School, Brooklyn Heights

I still have them. Herodotus, Plato, Thucydides lined up on a bookcase in my living room. The black spines of the Penguin Classics versions creased from use. Well, except for Herodotus’ The Histories — I guess I never finished that one. The books have traveled all over the country since being assigned for my 11th grade Ancient Politics class at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn. They’ve been to San Antonio, Baltimore, Chicago, back to Baltimore, back to New York, and now Massachusetts.

I took a look at them for the first time in a long while this evening after learning that my teacher, Jack McShane, died yesterday. Mr. McShane — I’d still never dare call him “Jack” — was the single most inspiring teacher I’ve ever had. On any level. I took his classes every chance I got which translated into three full years if memory serves. He taught American History and politics which were my two passions growing up.

But to merely say he “taught” them would be to limit what happened in those classrooms. He broke open the world of the past and the present and brought them to life with a quick, dry wit and a passionate enthusiasm for his subject matter. You never knew what you’d get when you walked into that classroom — he might lecture a bit or, more likely, draw you into the midst of a lively debate. He made you think, not regurgitate which is a rare quality indeed at any level of learning.

Walking into his classroom was like walking into a sacred space. Unlike other rooms were we’d go bounding in like trapped monkeys, you entered Mr. McShane’s room with respect and building anticipation. It didn’t hurt that his whole existence was shrouded in mystery. We didn’t know much about him except that he came in from Hoboken, New Jersey. Being arrogant, young New Yorkers we deemed it our God-given right to mock those from the Garden State. To paraphrase Nathanael’s question to Philip (John 1:46), “Can anything good come out of Hoboken?” Evidently.

The other thing about his class was that everybody wanted to be there — or at least most of us. Mr. McShane was either someone you “got” or you didn’t. Those who couldn’t keep up with the repartee and humor often left the room bewildered. He was either your favorite teacher or a complete mystery. But I adored stepping into his class, as did my close friends, because we knew we’d laugh and learn and be challenged in creative and life-giving ways.

The most memorable classes began with Mr. McShane sitting with his feet up on a desk reading the New York Times. Once everyone had arrived he’d throw out the relevant topic of the day — whatever was happening in the news in the mid-1980’s — and away we’d go. 

It was in part because of Mr. McShane that I majored in Political Science at Tufts and went on to a career working on and running political campaigns for 3 1/2 years. I even met my wife Bryna while serving as the Field Director on a 1993 Westchester County Executive race. I like to say that although our candidate lost, we won.

But this is only a portion of the influence Mr. McShane had upon me. The Swiss theologian Karl Barth famously said that you must read “with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” While I rarely bring politics into the pulpit I always seek to bring theology and spirituality into the everyday and visa versa. Mr. McShane had the unique ability to integrate the classics with the modern world which is not dissimilar to my approach to ministry. 

I stayed in touch with Mr. McShane for a number of years after I graduated in 1987. He even kept talking to me after I joined Army ROTC at Tufts — not exactly the usual St. Ann’s career path. But in time life moved on and I lost touch with him. I’d get reports every so often from my friend Chris Mellon, a St. Ann’s classmate who returned to teach at the school soon after graduating, like me, from Tufts. I hadn’t talked to Chris for many years until he called to share this news with me this afternoon and I look forward to renewing this relationship. Deaths like this often pull people together.

I can only trust that Mr. McShane knew the impact he had on me and countless others over the years. I wish I had told him in so many words before he died. But this is also a good reminder to do just that for the people who have touched you and shaped you and help make you into the person you have become. Family members, teachers, mentors, clergy, friends. We’re all who we are because certain people along the way cared passionately. Jack McShane was one of those people.

May the soul of John Shelley McShane, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.