It's Delicious--Yum! Yum! Yum!

GILES PLAYFAIR is a former London barrister now living in New Canaan, Connecticut. He is the author of a biography of Edmund Kean and Singapore Goes Off the Air, an account of his war experiences as Productions Director of the Malaya Broadcasting Corporation.



IT WAS contrary to all I had been led to expect as an Englishman nurtured in the traditions of the BBC, but from the moment I began to listen to the American radio I found the transcribed singing commercials enchanting. They were more entertaining and more cheerful by far than the recorded popular songs. The latter seemed to be suffering from an attack of the doldrums from which, so far as I can make out, they have not recovered.

And yet to my shame it soon became apparent that the carefully chosen words of the copy writers made no more correct impression on my memory than the haphazard effusions of the popular lyricists. For example, one morning not long ago I was singing lustily in my bath: —

I like Chickwith’s candy-coated chewing gum.
I am going out right now to buy me some.
They’re as snappy as can be.
Teedee-woo, teedee-wee

when my wife interrupted rather impatiently, admonishing me to shut up, on the ground that to her certain knowledge there was no such chewing gum as Chickwith’s.

This particular ditty was shortly afterwards replaced in my affection by another of the same genre which on sunny mornings I represented as: —

Benzine! Benzine!
Sing the Benzine way!
It’s delicious, you will say!
Benzine chewing gum!
Benzine chewing gum!
Hip! Hip! Hip! Hooray!

In this instance I reached the conclusion, without prompting, that I was at fault, for it seemed most unlikely that there could really be a chewing gum called Benzine. The name, though not unrespected, gave a somewhat unappetizing impression. And yet I could swear that I had often heard them singing about Benzine chewing gum on the air.

I came soon to realize that singing commercials have a more profound purpose than to provide a means of expression for early morning exuberance. I happened to attend a radio executives’ luncheon and learned there that it is the duty of us listeners, if we want bigger and better programs, to encourage the advertisers by purchasing the wares they extol. I was quite ready to do my bit. Regrettably, though, results up to now have not been satisfactory.

After a prolonged course of really intent listening, which has often included putting my ear bang up to the receiver, I have concluded that commercials deal with products falling into two categories: (a) those which are either non-appealing or repugnant, and (b) those which I might be tempted to buy if I could be certain of name and/or nature.

In the first category I include all such non-utilitarian goods, from the male point of view, as household cleaners and rinses, and goods which are ruled out by established habit, like brands of cigarettes which one has not already been smoking for years. I also include in this group products which one could not buy without confessing an affliction or without insult — such products as those which allegedly “clean your breath while they clean your teeth.”

The second category has caused me a number of keen disappointments. I recall being awakened one morning by a particularly pretty ditty about ladies’ shoes. I gathered that the shoes had the triple virtue of being long-wearing, inexpensive, and fashionable; and as it was near Christmas and I am a shopper of small imagination, I thought it would be an admirable idea to buy a pair for my wife. I got up especially early next morning to listen as attentively as possible, but alas! though the general purport was clear enough, the essential word escaped me. In my ears the ditty sounded: —

So be like the ladies on Fifth Avenoo.
Buy A. S. Uhhhn — your favorite shoe.

I did not think I could go into a store, without serious risk of embarrassment, and ask for a pair of A. S. Uhhhn shoes. But though I listened several times afterwards in a near-frantic effort to arrive at a more plausible interpretation of the trade name — A. S. Uhhhn it absolutely remained.

I should add, perhaps, that I have heard a number of even less revealing commercials. I can only describe these as surrealist, for while I have been able to make no sense out of them at all, they have given me a certain amount of aesthetic pleasure. One of my favorites, spoken not sung, goes (or used to go, for I think it is now withdrawn) something like this: —

FEMALE VOICE (seductive): Lye?
MALE VOICE (authoritative): Right. That’s extra at no extra cost!
MALE VOICE: Right. That’s extra at no extra cost!
MALE VOICE: Right. That’s extra at no extra cost!
Three extras at no extra cost!

But on the whole I think this surrealist type is less tantalizing than the kind whose general meaning is clear but whose all-important climax is lost on me. For example, I have long been tempted by a beer of Broadway fame of which they sing: —

It’s delicious — yum! yum! yum!
It’s delightful — order some!
Nasty Bandit
That’s the name!
Feels like beer of Broadway fame.

It would take a lot to persuade me that such an obviously distinguished beverage is really called Nasty Bandit. Indeed the appellation seems entirely inappropriate to beer of any kind — even one whose fame does not transcend rural limits. The adjective “nasty” when used to qualify so virile a noun as “bandit” produces an uncomfortably effeminate effect — and who would care to deny that beer is a manly drink? Certainly not I. Brutal Bandit would be more plausible, although it is difficult to believe that any libation thus called could “feel like beer of Broadway fame.” However, that is by the way, for I do not hear Brutal Bandit. What I hear, despite a continuing effort over a lengthy period to hear differently, is still — inexorably — Nasty Bandit.

As I write, a singing commercial which is new to me is exciting my interest. Admittedly my ears are not yet attuned to it, but at. the moment the words seem to be: —

Tee va tee see la la.
Tee see tee tra rip rip.
The finest buy
That money can buy
Is all-purpose drip.

Of course “drip” must be wrong. My school-age daughter tells me that a drip is a person of no great commendability. An all-purpose drip, I take it, would be quite outside the pale.