Sunday, August 5, 2007

Product Plug: Lever 2000

I occasionally catch myself talking like people in a TV commercial. You know, those people who are always avidly discussing a product in a way one would swear no one actually talks. And yet I do. I'm afraid this adds to the mountain of evidence pointing to my stupidity.

One of the products I sometimes feel compelled to "plug" is my soap of choice, Lever 2000. I first encountered it when someone gave me a bottle of the liquid soap, along with a shower sponge, for Christmas. I guess it was a hint. I used up the bottle of soap and thought it was OK. But then I went back to my regular brand of bar soap (Dial, I think) and was surprised to realize that I could actually feel a residue sticking to my skin after each shower. The surprise was that I really could tell the difference between the clean feeling I had after showering with Lever 2000 and the scummy feeling Dial left me with. I haven't used anything but Lever 2000 since then, though I have switched to the bar soap variety.

Catching myself talking like a fictional character is nothing new to me. When I lived in Minnesota (in the Brainerd area) I was very offended by the film Fargo, in which many of the characters spoke in what I considered a cruel exaggeration of the way Minnesotans speak. I was particularly disgusted with the performance of Frances McDormand, who won an Oscar for her role as the pregnant sheriff of the county I actually lived in, whose dialogue was liberally seasoned with "Yah" and "Sure" and "Youbetcha." Then, one day when I was still fuming about this, I stopped to listen to myself as I responded affirmatively to three successive questions. My answers were (1) Yah, (2) Sure, and (3) Youbetcha. I slapped my forehead and screamed, "I've become Marge Gunderson!"

I also tend to write and speak like characters in books that I've been reading. When I review a book by Dickens, I have to be careful not to write sentences that could be eligible for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest. After reading The Catcher in the Rye I have to concentrate on not talking like Holden Caulfield (I really do). And my seminary paper on Schleiermacher was virtually impossible to understand, even for me. I am that most-to-be-pitied creative writer: the natural mimic who just wants to be original. But it really irritates me when I catch myself imitating voices that I neither respect nor trust.

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