Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Like vs. as: Smokers weigh in

This column from the Winston-Salem Journal on cliches that annoy readers wasn't too enlightening on the cliches.

But I did read for the first time that there was an uproar among grammarians and grammar teachers in the 1950s when Winston cigarettes came out with the slogan "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should." That like should be as, they said. (And most today would agree.) Enough noise was made that Winston addressed the issue in a follow-up campaign: "What do you want, good grammar or good taste?"

Had I read Geoffrey Nunberg's book "The Way We Talk Now," I would have known this already. Hougton Mifflin has an excerpt here:
The year was 1954. The top-rated TV show was I Love Lucy, sponsored by Philip Morris, and close behind was Your Hit Parade, sponsored by Lucky Strikes, whose "Be Happy, Go Lucky" jingle had won TV Guide's award for commercial of the year. And Otto Pritchard, a Pittsburgh carpenter with lung cancer, filed the first liability suit against a tobacco company.

In that year R. J. Reynolds introduced the new brand Winston, which unlike other filter cigarettes stressed taste rather than health. Reynolds ran a singing commercial with the tagline "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should." Like instead of as-as grammatical sins go it was pretty venial, but the purists went to the mattresses over it. One critic called it "belligerent illiteracy"; another suggested that the writer who came up with the ad should be jailed. The Winston people were delighted with all the free publicity. They capitalized on the controversy in a new campaign that featured the slogan "What do you want, good grammar or good taste?" Soon after that Tareyton got in on the act with a campaign headed "Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch," and the whole dance went round again over pronouns.
Despite my tender age, I know the Winston jingle. I can remember my dad telling me as a kid that he and his friends had changed the words to: "Winston tastes bad, like the one I just had. No flavor, no taste, just a (clap clap) 50-cent waste."


At 3:33 PM, February 01, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You must be slipping -- that example's used in "Lapsing Into a Comma."

At 3:53 PM, February 01, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

Geez. I must be.

I have the book at work instead of at home. I'll have to reread that tomorrow.

So, perhaps if I'd read the Nunberg book I still wouldn't have known ...


At 10:04 PM, February 02, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

In "Lapsing," Bill wrote:

I'm just old enough to remember TV beore cigarette advertising was banned, and one classic was Winston's "What do you want, good grammar or good taste?" campaign. The jingle would go "Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should," and a voice would correct: "Winston tastes good as as cigarette should."

(I'm not sure how I could forget that. It's classic.)


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