Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Got A Match?

Maybe you’ve noticed this: the heads of matches have shrunk to the point you can’t get a decent light from one – you need two or three to get a respectable flame.

Probably it’s a money saver. The match companies use less chemical and cut the cost of manufacturing.

Probably, they have a non-justification justification for this, like “it makes for a more efficient building process,” or “we found that people want lighter lights,” or “shrunken heads don’t matter because we’re using materials that flame hotter.”

All of that may be true. But the final result is you use more matches.

A careful examination of the facts, performed at the Wessays Secret Seaside Laboratory: Today’s matches are no hotter than older ones with full size heads.

They do not burn any slower.

Further, in testing, using the famed “burned fingertip test” developed at Cal Tech in the 1960s, scientists at the Secret Seaside Lab have determined that not only are the match heads smaller than they used to be, but the stems are weaker.

Hence, it is easier to burn one’s fingers, using the “burned fingertip test.”

Not a pretty picture. And painful, unless you’re Gordon Liddy, who advises us in “All the President’s Men” that the secret is “not minding that it hurts.”

We’ve come to accept that the chocolate cartel reduces the size of a candy bar without raising the price or reducing the size of the packaging. They even have a legitimate claim to the idea that the smaller amount means fewer calories, less fat, fewer carbs and less sugar, which may mean healthier candy.

We’ve come to hope that the car makers will reduce the engine size if that’s what it takes to use less gasoline.

It’s even okay that a two-by-four is less (sometimes significantly less) than two-by-four.

The match makers have no such justification.

Or do they?

Perhaps there is a metaphor here.

Why not carry this so-far shady idea into other areas of life.

Like reducing the number of words in any legal document.

If a contract were short and simple, you might be willing to pay your lawyer extra for the clarity.

Take a 5,000 word deed and turn it into this:

“Here is a house. It’s address is 409 Sandcast Boulevard, Moote Pointe, New York, 11566. Its assessed valuation is $483,000 as of 11/1/05. It’s owner is Philip J. Curtainrod.”

You’d pay big bucks for a three line deed.

How about reducing the number of letters in some common words: Kidnaped. Exces. Veranzano. Delicatesen. Wesays.

Even the alphabet can be cut. Why do we need both “c” and “k,” when “k” and “s” cover pretty much everything with those sounds. Eliminate “c,” and you have a sleeker, more efficient alphabet. (the “ch” sound could be replaced by “kh.”

Yes, take a tip from the matchmakers. There’s something to be said for a weak stem and a little head.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2005

1 comment:

John G said...

Ha! I got in before the business with the offers types did this time.

In India the "c" is used only for the "ch" sound. I think that applies to Italy also.

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