April 6, 2003
On The Punctuation of Soda
I wrote this a while ago, but it’s just too much fun to not share here. This mini-essay was prompted by an online game on a message board I frequent. You can see the whole thread here.
The essay prompt:
The carbonated soda Dr Pepper does not have a period after “Dr”. The standard notebook screen is 15″. Reconcile these two disparate statements. Refer to quantum mechanics, the 1980’s savings and loan scandal, and the decline of teen pregnancy in the 1990s.
Dr Pepper, as we all know, was originally marketed as a prune-based nutritional supplement. Because it was pseudo-medicinal, most people assume that there is a missing “.” after “Dr”, but this is not the case. The name is actually a phonetic shortening of the phrase “Der Pepper,” which is German for “The Plum,” and has nothing to do with doctors.
This shortening of the name was a mistake caused by the use, at the time, of small notebook screens (around 2″ diagonal). The graphic artists, though attempting to fit the entire name in the logo, were unable to do so because the dots on the screen (also known as “pixies”) become crowded too close and, unsure of what to do, burst into flames. This is because of the quantum mechanical principle known as the “Hindenburg Uncertainty Principle.” In fact, it is quite a testament to the talents and perseverance of the graphic artists that they managed to get as recognizable a logo as the one that graces cans of Dr Pepper to this day. Prior to that logo, their best efforts resulted in a kind of spiral pattern with the phrase “De Ppr,” which was unacceptable to the company because it is the beginning of a popular German dirty limerick. Also, there were scorch marks.
To avoid the problems of pixie pyrotechnics and letter loss, notebook screens have been increased in modern times at great cost to a more reasonable size of 15″
This advance had the obvious effects on the financial markets in the 1980’s, which led, inexorably, to the lowering of teen pregnancy rates a decade later because teenagers, unwilling to enter into such an important commitment to another human being lightly, wisely put plans for procreation on hold until such time that they could again trust the banking institutions in which they had invested for their futures.