Thursday, 20 March 2014

Keep Calm – it's A Bottle of Red

There are certain High Street establishments which, however professional their service, seem compelled to employ a supposedly humorous title. The hairdressers, who clearly think it immensely amusing to make wordplay on ‘cuts’, or ‘crops’, or ‘heads’. The fish & chip shops, whose owners are presumably laughing so hard that they never think to see if anyone else has punned on what a great ‘plaice’ they are.

It’s a bit sad. In the same vein, I have always regarded car bumper stickers and slogan t-shirts as graffiti for people who can’t write their own. 

Perhaps it will all die out now that Twitter provides everyone with 140 characters of opportunity for wit. (Although Twitter has led to some particularly feeble product humour…) 

Some things deserve to be taken seriously. True, there is a firm of building contractors entertainingly called Underpin & Makegood. And I’m sorry to say that there is a rather good wine merchant called Philglas & Swiggot.  But where wine is concerned, that is as far as I am prepared to go.

I don’t want my wine turned into a joke. I don’t laugh at wines with names like Longue-dog, Goats Do Roam  and Chat-en-oeuf.  I doubt whether the people who get the jokes on Languedoc, Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf find them hugely entertaining. Except, perhaps, those who also run hairdressers or fish & chip shops.

And even they might struggle to be amused by A Bottle of Red.

In case you’ve had your head in a bucket for the last few years, the story of the rediscovery of Keep Calm and Carry On, a World War II information poster designed to be used if Britain was invaded, is detailed here

It became incredibly popular when our current government started using the term ‘austerity’, as if we were all going to revert to powdered eggs and ration books. And when we didn’t, and it became clear that we could still afford haircuts and fish suppers, those who thought they had a sense of humour revelled in altering the slogan to read Keep Calm and… make bacon pancakes/go shopping/have a beer/eat chocolate/do nothing…

It became so popular that you can now go on to websites, insert your own words, and create your own version to put on to mugs or t-shirts. Or, presumably, wine labels. Which is quite possibly what happened with this bunch of wine-marketing muppets.

Let’s have a laugh, they presumably thought. Let’s pinch the Keep Calm… design. Let’s package a wine as if it’s a 1940s utility product. Let’s sell it for £5, not £4.99, just to reinforce how down-to-earth it is. Let’s put government-style instructions on the labels. 

And nobody said…let’s not.

As my old school teacher used to say, it’s not clever and it’s not funny. Particularly when the actual product is as poor as their sense of humour.

They have taken the utility product “joke” on to the back label. “We reserve,” it says, “the right to restrict supplies of this product to one per household during times of national crisis.” Well, let me tell you chaps, you don’t need to worry, because once I have wiped the tears of mirth from my eyes, I shall be restricting supplies of this product myself, to the one my household had the misfortune to take in.

There are only two words on the labels which actually describe the flavour of the wine itself, and both of them are what (to continue our connections with wartime) Winston Churchill would have described as terminological inexactitudes. The wine is neither ‘soft’, nor ‘fruity’. More accurate descriptions might include ‘acrid’, ‘bitter’ and ‘singularly unpleasant’. It is a powerfully nasty wine, with little flavour but an overwhelming astringency; it does, as befits its concept, recall essential household products, but Brasso, Copydex and Airwick are not intended for consumption. 
Perhaps purchasers imagine they will get a (brief) moment of amusement, when they present this to a host, and quip “Well, you said to bring A Bottle of Red – and here it is!!” Collapse of stout party.

But sadly, after that, you have to get through something significantly longer lasting than any moment of amusement. Someone is going to drink this stuff. 

And believe me, you won’t be laughing then.


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