Thursday, January 16, 2014

English Understatement

One of the many things I know I'll miss when we move to the US is English understatement. American enthusiasm is often welcome, and I do like that Californian sunny sensibility that leads people to be overwhelmingly positive about even fairly mediocre things.

But there are times when a spade needs to be called a spade. The people who write the labels at Sainsbury's Basics know it's true. I meant to write a blog post about this a couple of months ago, when I noticed that their cat litter packaging bore the legend 'Does the job'. Brilliant. No high faluting claims about odour control, clumping, environmental impact, and so on. It's just cat litter.

They've updated the cat litter bag now but here are some other prime examples.
'A little less tidy' is a genius way to make lettuce snobs question their prejudices.

'No lookers', so don't come complaining that they're all outlandishly big and have gnarly black eyes all over them

Someone had a bit of fun with this one, didn't they? It's a nice little pun which makes it okay that their 'peeled' tomatoes actually might not be peeled.

Just tuna, innit?
'Takes your breath away' - I'm guessing this won't be one of the more subtle garlic bread experiences

'Some broken'. Oh well. Tastes the same, eh?

'Not quite as soft' / scratchy as heck tissues. 'Still handles a sneeze', after all, you're only wiping snot, what do you need it to be soft for?

My favourite. 'For the table, not the cellar'. If you're buying wine to lay down, maybe steer clear of the £3.50 bottle.

I thumb my teeth at your fancy packaging! Piffle to it! My big bar of chocolate only cost 30p!

We only started shopping at Sainsbury's since we moved to Saltburn, so I read a sort of Yorkshire drollery into these labels. They're the exact opposite of all those overstatements, the pretensions, puffery and hype I used to post about under a Emperor's New Clothes tag in New York. And the chances of seeing anything as dour in the land of year-round sunshine and megawatt smiles are slim to none.

So I'm enjoying them while we're here, taking special misty-eyed detours round the aisles to soak up any labels I haven't seen yet. Yes, I know that's weird. I'm getting sentimental, indulge me.

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