The Poetry of
Jack Scott


Dec 14

Semantic Evenings

Dave Jones and I had several things in common: we had both been English majors, we were both writers, we were stubborn and we had both been fired from jobs for those reasons.

I was the editor of the Baltimore Guide, nominally a weekly “newspaper” in Highlandtown, factually an shopping advertiser. It was my job to plagiarize news from the Sunpapers, write local feature articles and edit the non-advertising content. Things went well until the owners hired a managing editor, a retired Army sergeant name Charles Crowley. His one-job resume pretty much described him, and he was humorless.

We survived some minor skirmishes, but when the Boy Scouts planned an area get-together it hit the fan. I wrote the article, headlining it “Local Scouters Plan Jamboree”. Crowley argued that if a word wasn’t in the dictionary it wouldn’t go in the paper. He told me to look up “scouters” in the dictionary; it wasn’t there. Scouter, however, was: “An adult or a boy who is a member of the Boy Scouts movement.” By extrapolation I argued that the plural of the word accurately described Scouts, Scout leaders, relatives and friends of the attending Scouts and intended to publish it. He said that he would fire me if I did. I told him that he didn’t hire me. The publisher did fire me because I steadfastly held my position to the end. The final headline was “Local Scouts Plan Jamboree.”

Dave worked for an advertising agency that had the area account for Volkswagen. The advertising for that car was much appreciated for its eye- and mind-catching excellence. Dave was in charge of developing ideas and copy for that account. This involved print media, radio, television and billboards. He was fired for coming up with perhaps the best concept I have ever come across. It was diabolically clever and simple: a picture of the car with a one-word description- Ubiquitous, which means “being present everywhere at once”. Perfection. His superiors, however, very strongly thought otherwise. They argued against using a word of which nobody would know the definition. He argued that it would coax those people to their dictionaries and that, thereafter, they would not forget the word. Moreover, the word would become forever linked with the word Volkswagen. They strongly refused to accede to his campaign and he, equally strongly, refused to abandon it. He was fired.

Dave and I had other things in common. For one, we were both beer drinkers and spent many a semantic evening in the Tavern bullshitting and trading stories.


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