Today's Paper Digital FAQ Obits River Valley Democrat-Gazette Newsletters NWA Vaccine Information NWA Screening Sites Virus Interactive Map Coronavirus FAQ Crime Razorback Sports Today's Photos Puzzles

WATCH YOUR LANGUAGE! Silly labels on products are puzzling

by Bernadette Kinlaw | November 16, 2020 at 2:05 a.m.

I've been paying a little too much attention to product labels lately.


I have to start with "fun size" candy bars. I have always been cynical about this use of fun. Since when was a smaller chocolate bar fun? Sad size is far more accurate. Stingy size. Meager size. Skimpy size. I could go on and on.

I learned a ton about candy-bar sizing. During the Depression, candy makers offered a smaller bar because so many people were poor. The junior size was meant to be an inexpensive choice. Sometime between the Depression and the 1960s, the name changed from junior to fun, muddying up the truth, in my opinion.

And in the '60s, Americans started worrying about extra weight and healthier eating. A couple of candy companies started to make fun size bars. Mars Inc. tried to keep the fun name to itself, and it sued the Curtiss Candy Co. Curtiss essentially argued that Mars was pretty nervy thinking it owned the word fun. Mars eventually won trademark rights, but those expired in 1998. Now everyone is free to use that misleading description.


My liquid soap promised its scent was like a Fresh Breeze. I'm so happy they chose that scent over Stale Breeze. One air freshener has a Clean Linen scent. Again, excellent choice over Dirty Laundry.


I never understand why packaging has to announce a new look. I saw this on a bottle of mouthwash. Sure, I care about the look of my dining room table. I care about what my winter coat looks like. But I could not care less what my mouthwash bottle looks like. I just want the stuff to do its job.


One muffin mix says it has new blueberry-flavored bits. Bits? Sure, I'm happy it's not old blueberry-flavored bits, but if I'm going to make blueberry muffins, I want it to contain blueberries, not flavored bits of random stuff.

I wasn't the only one to notice this. A King Features article answered this pressing question decades back:

A. Ruth Stone of the Chelsea Milling Co.'s customer relations department tells us that the blueberries in the mix are actually little bits of apples that are flavored and colored to look and taste like blueberries.

Why does [the company] do this? Two reasons are given. "An apple," Stone says, is a very nutritious and healthful food, and we chose that from which to make our blueberries for that reason. Also, natural blueberries have very little flavor."

I'll withhold further comments on this.


A few frozen pizzas claim to be hand-tossed. I doubt this is true unless the pizza assembly line has hands strategically attached. I looked closer and noticed under the giant letters spelling hand-tossed some much tinier letters saying "style crust." So it's hand-tossed style. Hmm.


In a decadent-looking ice cream bar flavor was double caramel. I immediately questioned the word double. Is it double what other ice cream bars use? Is it double what the bars previously had? I found no answers.


Two-bite brownies sounds pretty controlling. Do I want to eat a snack that insists on telling me how many bites I will take? I don't think so.


One container of honey has conveniently printed, right on the front label, some excellent advice: Remove inner seal. My first thought was, "A seal is swimming in there?" No, not really. But I would love to hear how many calls the honey company received from people who couldn't figure out how to get the honey out of the darn bottle before this useful tip was put on the label.


A snack maker offers us rice crisps. At last, truth in advertising. The rice cake industry has gotten away with false advertising for decades. That circular food item shares none of the traits I associate with cake.


Nabisco has a product called Easy Cheese. You can press the nozzle on the can and cheese will spritz out. Silly me, I always thought the opposite of hard cheese was soft cheese.


A baby oil, which moisturizes skin, has this warning: Keep out of reach of children. Don't they deserve smooth skin, too?


A brand of olive oil says the spray version is great for Salad. Pasta. Drizzling. Which food group is drizzling in?


A container of light bulbs says the product is crisp and refreshing. Did they steal the adjectives from an iced tea mix jar?


The label on one brand of peanut butter has a bright yellow section that says, No preservatives, artificial flavors, or colors. That's followed by an asterisk. Move your eyes down a teeny bit, and you'll see what the asterisk is all about: Similar to all peanut butters. The company says this product has this great trait, but, oh yeah, all other products like this have the same trait. That's a little weird, isn't it?


I love when I visit someone with a sense of humor who also happens to have a bottle of vitamins for older people. The vitamin companies are nice enough to call people older than 50 mature. So when I find a bottle and I know the person well enough, I like to add an im so that the bottle reads, for example, Vitamins for Immature Adults.

Sources include Time magazine, South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Reach Bernadette at [email protected]


Sponsor Content