Once, while traveling across Pennsylvania on a wet snowy night, my partner and I stopped at a dismal little Burger King in a mountain town along Route 80. Greeting us just inside the door was a large white poster with a chart containing simple line sketches of characters from the animated feature The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And under each sketch was a phonetic spelling of the character’s name: ES-muh-REL-duh.
Strange marketing, we thought, then it dawned on us that this wasn’t marketing at all. It was a pronunciation guide that Disney had sent out so Burger King employees could say the names of the promotional toys they were handing out. It was meant to hang in the break room.
Clearly, neither the manager nor his team understood what this poster was or where it belonged. We found it sad and poignant, yet none-the-less humorous, that an internal, administrative tool like this had been posted so proudly for the public to see.
Twenty years later we can still crack each other up by articulating character names from the movie when we come across something tragically stupid.
I thought of this recently when I visited the website of a major American arts organization and found a tab on the primary navigation bar that said “Community Engagement.” I won’t use the name of the organization because it’s just too embarrassing, but they actually published intra-industry administrative jargon on their website as if it were promotional language, and beneath it a pull-down menu of programs and promotions designed to offer ways for the community to engage with them!