Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tic Tacs


In the check-out line at a grocery-store the other day, I looked again at the items for sale near the cashier's post--magazines, gum, breath-mints, candy, batteries, and so on. I wondered what percentage of a grocery-store's or "super-market's" net income springs from sales of such items and how much money I've spent in my lifetime on such items.

I looked once more at the Tic Tacs in their transparent little box. I have purchased Tic Tacs a few times over the years, but I've decided I don't like them. They're candy, and they look kind of creepy, and I remembered that I'd written a little prose-poem about them:

Tic Tacs

by Hans Ostrom

This little glass box once held a tiny kingdom’s jewels but now imprisons maggots. Or are they petrified eggs of the world’s smallest dinosaur? A message glued to the box orders me to “collect points and get incredible stuff.” I will do so. I will remove the maggots and the eggs, and I will seal the points and incredible stuff in the demitasse casket, bury it in a little cemetery in Luxembourg or Rhode Island. On a headstone made of one small mosaic tile, I will etch the words, “Tic” and “Tac” and with bad breath mutter tiny prayers for the soul of incredible stuff.

Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom

For the heck of it, I looked for "Tic Tac" on the internet, and of course there is a site: tictacusa.com. The tag-line of the site reads as follows:

"Tic Tac
Breath Mints Are Fresh Entertainment For Your Mouth."

To some degree, this line is more surrealistic than my prose-poem. One imagines sending away the very tiny stand-up comedians, jugglers, singers, and actors that had been providing entertainment, like micro-Lilliputians, on the precarious stage of one's tongue. And one imagines going to a microphone and introducing a new entertainment-act to one's mouth: "Put your teeth together for Tic Tac Breath Mints!"

In what sense do breath-mints entertain our mouths? Should they be called breath-mints, in fact, or mouth-mints, or something else (besides Tic Tacs)? What were the other names in the running when the company named this little candy? An auto-company once had the bright idea of inviting poets to submit names for a new car, and the company approached noted American poet Marianne Moore. She came up with "Tyrolean Turtle-Top." Certainly poetic, but probably not good for sales--except to poets, perhaps.

Good luck resisting that final purchase before you pass through the cashier's gate at the "super-market."
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