Lou Figg had watched all three recent TV segments about Ernest Hemingway. Tonight he would try to write good and become famous, like old Hem did.
But he knew he would fail. Figg was 90 years old but had never won a Nobel Prize. He had never been shot at. Nor had he screwed up the lives of four wives the way Hem had. How can a writer achieve greatness without doing those things, Lou wondered.
Lou Figg's topic tonight was slogans and mottoes, and how they had influenced world history. He began by researching the difference between mottoes and slogans.
Motto comes from the Italian "motto." How simple. Lou liked that. He was a simple man. He worshipped clarity. He hated linguistic bifurcations.
The web told Lou that "motto" is a saying attached to a herald design. Whatever that means. At that point Lou's head began to ache, because he had once lost a girl friend to a sleaze-ball named Harold De Sein.
"Slogan" also has a simple origin. It is Gaelic for "battle cry." It was used by Scottish and Irish clans as they fought each other, as well as common enemies such as the British.
That's enough history for now. Moving forward to the present, Lou learned that mottoes, slogans and similar catchwords are scattered throughout American language. They have many purposes, such as telling people how to think, what to buy and who to vote for.
Two political examples come to mind. When President Roosevelt ran for his third term, in 1940, his Republican opponent — Wendell Willkie — was a lawyer and businessman most Americans knew little about. To fill that gap, the GOP came up with the slogan "Win With Willkie." It sounded upbeat and hopeful. Plus, it had alliteration, i.e., three W's. Those assets didn't help Willkie to waltz into the White House, but so what? At least he tried.
In 1952, the Republicans chose a candidate whose full name — Dwight David Eisenhower — posed a major challenge for sloganeers to shrink into a pithy mouthful. The solution: come up with three short words that provided a rhyming title for a catchy song: "I Like Ike."
Ike's D-Day leadership helped get him elected, as did the Democratic Party's wishy-washy reply: "We need Adlai badly." But that's part of the sloganeering game.
As Lou Figg did his research for his motto-slogan column, he wondered what Donald Trump's ultimate slogan might be. The possibilities seem endless, especially for persons who didn't approve of Donald's behavior and language. If he decides to run for office in 2024, his friends as well as his enemies will have another chance to come up with mottoes and slogans.
For advertising copywriters and other wordsmiths, there are few ground rules for producing slogans. Outright lies are permissible. Exaggerations are expected. The slogan doesn't even have to make good sense.
Example: A current slogan for a major TV company is "Exfinity: the future of awesome." Ain't that a grabber, folks? Doesn't it give you a bundle of enlightenment? Not if you've been alive for the last 40 years, during which the all-purpose "awesome" has been (and still is) applied to everything from a major earthquake to the smile of a newborn baby.
In the 1970s and thereafter, the catchy "flick your Bic" slogan helped to sell carloads of butane cigarette lighters. But somewhere along the line, the expression began to sound obscene to many smokers, and/or their wives.
But that didn't slow Bic sales, then or now. Just goes to show you: With mottoes and slogans, just find the right idea and the right words, and the sky's the limit. But don't quote me on that.