Let’s talk hats; let’s talk non sequiturs


I’d never thought of a hat as a non sequitur until I saw this ad in my local newspaper.

You know what a non sequitur is, right? (Yes, it’s a comic strip – a good one. But that’s with capital letters: Non Sequitur.) I mean the grammatical non sequitur, a term that means “it does not follow.” It usually applies to sentences in which one clause has absolutely nothing to do with another, as in:

“Born the seventh son of a seventh son, he ate oatmeal and toast for breakfast every morning.” Or, “The jury foreman, who repairs oil burners, read the decision in the courtroom.” (That last one is a real sentence, by the way, written by a real reporter covering a real trial. I think he was bored.)

You can add this one to the list: “Visit Colorado, Get a Free Hat!”

(I wonder if they have semicolons or periods in Colorado, or whether everyone there talks in comma splices. )

I can think of many reasons to visit Colorado: mountains, wildflowers, rivers, wildlife, hiking, skiing, Denver, Boulder, Glenwood Springs, ugly ball cap. See. It just doesn’t fit – in the sentence, not on my head. It may not fit on my head either, but my head has nothing to do with the sentence.

To confuse myself further, I visited the Colorado online site that the ad listed. The home page had a scrolling slideshow that had me looking, following  left, looking, following left, looking, following left – getting dizzy now.

“Let’s Talk Memories of a Lifetime,” the stationary headline on the home page said, with the text below adding: “Let’s talk sunshine. Let’s talk whitewater. Let’s talk Colorado.”

What about those of us who wanted to talk about hats?

OK, so there was a picture of a park ranger wearing a hat, but the ad didn’t say “Visit Colorado (comma splice), Get a Free Ranger Hat.” It definitely didn’t say ranger hat. Just hat.

I imagine that if it had said ranger hat, though, the headline in the ad still would have had a comma splice. Comma splices are rampant. Some people act as if they’ve never seen a period. In case that’s you, a period looks like this:


It’s a really useful device. Sometimes you’ll even find one on a hat. Probably not on a Colorado hat, though.

The Colorado ad writers did use periods on the online page. I’ll give them credit there. They also used lots of adjectives, gushing about their state with words like “regal,” “horizon-wrapping,”  “sky-grabbing” and “vivacious.”

Is that allowed? Calling a state filled with mountain peaks “vivacious”? I guess it is, as long as you don’t add va-va-voom. And to their credit, the Colorado ad writers didn’t use va-va-voom anywhere. Neither did they mention non sequiturs. There was a dangling modifier, though:

“With an average of 300 sunny days a year, the sky-grabbing peaks of the Rocky Mountains, some of the world’s most sought-after whitewater rafting rivers and unbeatable Hot Deals, now is the time to visit Colorado.”

You see, now may be the time to visit Colorado, but now does not have 300 sunny days a year. Now does not have sky-grabbing peaks and now definitely does not have whitewater rafting. Colorado has those things; now doesn’t. That’s what makes the sentence a dangler.

I was glad to see, though, that “whitewater rafting” was used correctly. Remember the earlier whitewater section? “Let’s talk whitewater,” it said. That’s like saying, “Let’s talk wet” or “Let’s talk murky” or “Let’s talk blue.” Doesn’t work. “Whitewater” is an adjective, unless you mean the city in Wisconsin or the Clinton real estate scandal, but we’re not talking about those things because that would be off-topic.

Looking past the adjective-turned-noun and the dangler modifier, the Hot Deals headline caught my eye. So did the ones for award-winning resorts, local artisans, picture-perfect wildlife and – wait! Yes! There in the scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, keep those pictures scrolling Rawhide slideshow at the top of the page was the hat.

free-hat-giveawayAnd not only was it the hat from the newspaper ad, but the little box that held the hat said Colorado was having a Free Hat Giveaway.

I love free giveaways. It’s those pay-through-the-nose giveaways and those free hats for only $25 deals that I hate. This promised a Free Hat Giveaway, though. So I clicked.

I was transported to the hat page – how cool is that? – where I was told that this is “no ordinary hat.” I knew that already. It’s a non sequitur hat from an ad with a comma splice routed through an online page with a dangling modifier and a click-through box promising a redundancy.

Oh, sorry. That’s what I called it. The Colorado folks called it “this beauty” with an embroidered likeness of a Welcome to Colorado sign. Actually, they called it the “world famous ‘Welcome to Colorful Colorado’ road sign.” (Mountains, skiing, wildlife, wildflowers, aspens, Denver, Boulder, hats – road signs?)

There was no mention of whether the hat – sorry, “this beauty” – is one of those one-size-fits-all jobs or whether it has a plastic doohickey on the back so you can change the size. (I really hate those.)

But wait! The hat has a Velcro doohickey on the back! I found that out by clicking on – are you ready for this? – the “360° hat viewer”!

With the “360° hat viewer” fully engaged, you can make the hat do the cha-cha.

Click-click, cha-cha-cha. Click-click, cha-cha-cha. The hat wiggles around from front to side to back to side to front. Cha-cha-cha.

These Colorado folks sure know how to have fun. Grammatically, they have issues. But you have to give them credit. They promise that their hat – the hat, “this beauty,” the one they are giving away free – is a “surefire conversation starter.”

And they are right.

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