The Birth of a Prescriptive Grammarian

Remember these? It was a clever marketing ploy by Kellogg’s to increase sales. In effect, the idea was good – but unless the package was opened with surgical precision using razor-sharp instruments, you usually ended up with a leaky carton and milk all over everything but the cereal. Others have blogged eloquently about the phenomenon, so I won’t go into the relative merits and drawbacks of the concept (the patent on the Kel-Bowl-Pac was cancelled in 2003, by the way, so it’s up for grabs if you want to use it.)

Kel-Bowl-Pac 2

When I saw this picture the other day, it brought back a memory that, in retrospect, makes perfect sense.


I couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 when I realized that the instructions on this box irritated me; it was the seminal moment. “Pac” is not how “pack” is spelled, morons. Also, you’re missing the definite article: “the”. The sentence should read, “Eat from the pack.” (Attention! Notice that the French translation doesn’t say “Mangez dans paq.”) I was convinced that “Kel-Bowl-Pac” itself was an abomination: they should have called it the “Kellog’s Bowl Pack.”

Yes, yes, it’s all rather irrelevant. It’s Madison Avenue. They did it to save space. Yadda yadda. But looking back, I realize that language was important to me, even at that tender age, and continues to be so. I remember being disturbed every time I read that on one of their little boxes;  I’m still embarrassed when I make a grammatical mistake through fatigue or haste, because split infinitives, dangling participles, and misplaced or misused apostrophe’s (sic) task me[1]. I feel like taking in my sign, that’s all.

The Old Wolf has spoken. Hopefully without any errors.

[1] Despite the “sic”, I’m sure someone is going to write me to point out that I misused the apostrophe here. It’s called satire for the sake of emphasis, bitches. By the way, does anal-retentive have a hyphen?

5 responses to “The Birth of a Prescriptive Grammarian

  1. A hyphen is the preferred usage… And they went with the compound term “Kel-Bowl-Pac” because it has to be a unique name to be trademarked – Kellogg’s is already trademarked, but the words Bowl and Pack are too common otherwise. .

    There is another reason these bowl-packs are dead – School children are not allowed to (GASP!) take a sharp knife to school to open the boxes anymore. They’re putting the cereal into a real disposable plastic bowl with a printed peel-off heat sealed foil and paper lid. No knife required, and lower waste without a separate box and liner

    Don’t sweat the small stuff like absolutely perfect grammar – as long as it sounds right to you (and to us), go ahead and dangle a participle if it gets the message across.

    You can spend hours scouring and proofreading and buffing the document to a fare-thee-well, rebuild each sentence five times till it’s precise and concise… There is *always* going to be something that gets past you. Guaranteed. And you won’t spot it till an Ohnosecond after you hit Send.

    • Thank Mogg you didn’t spot “every time I read that one one of their little boxes.” No, I’m not now and have never been a grammar proscriptionist – I balk at the use of the Oxford Comma even though one of my editors thinks I’m a godless heathen and is constantly browbeating me if I miss one; being a professional linguist, I decided long ago that usage trumps Strunk and White every time, because language is historically fluid… but Kel-Bowl-Pac is still an abomination, and I don’t give a rat’s South-40 what their reasons were for using it. The question about “anal-retentive” was, by the way, rhetorical.

      • One of the “Rules Of The Internet” is: All spelling and grammar flames will contain a spelling or grammar error. Recursive rule is recursive – and infuriating – so don’t sweat the small stuff..

  2. Gosh, I had totally forgotten about this little invention!

    I’ve still got some of the little spoolie hair thingies and love remembering using those – my head had indentations for hours after being removed to show curls that lasted a few minutes.

    Grammar – Punctuation — lost art and getting more lost with each reduction of aid to education. Soon there will be only texting – and all cursive writing will be gone.

    I have to learn how to find two pieces of flint, in case fire disappears. Language supposedly evolves but to my way of thinking, it’s going back to sign language and grunts. Listen to most ‘educated’ folks and hear and read “people that” instead of “people who.”

  3. Pingback: The Kel-Bowl Pac: Good ideas never die. | Playing in the World Game

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s