Right, the content manager where we work (for now *evil laugh*) recommended this for us on Thursday morning. Why? As we’re childish. But, also, because it’s a fine example of concise writing.
Short, sharp, sentences. Hemingway style—think of The Old Man and the Sea. But with a cat in a hat and lots of greenery. Sam-I-am? Super!
Green Eggs and Ham
Of course, this is a book for kids. But it’s also a demonstration of how concise writing works in the copywriting you see in marketing.
For good copywriters don’t use big old pretentious words. It’s all about getting to the point using clear and simple English—kind of playing on George Orwell and his rules for writing (see Down and Out in Paris and London).
Anyway, there’s also a book for children here! Published on August 12th, 1960, it’s a simplistic story, but with some rather glorious artistic flourishes. Behold!
In the name of brevity, Dr. Seuss (real name Theodor Seuss “Ted” Geisel—1904-1991) set himself the challenge of only using 50 different words for this work.
Writing challenges aren’t uncommon in the world of literature. Just think of Georges Perec and his “e” free work A Void.
The plot involves Sam-I-am, who tries to convince a grumpy older individual into trying out green eggs with ham. Here they are in action.
The cantankerous one is most displeased with this development. And over the course of the wonderfully artistic adventure he eventually gives in and has a taste.
The result? He likes it and the two end up as friends. Moral of the story? Don’t be a bloody stuck-up prude who refuses to try new things.
Even if it’s cauliflower cake, you may very well like it!
As people who can’t stand fussy eaters faffing about refusing to eat things (usually vegetables), this story certainly resonated with the 35-year-old us.
But for the purposes of a book for children, there’s always that multiple purposes of offering a visual delight, an interesting message, and fun writing.
Green Eggs and Ham certainly manages all three with considerable panache. Behold the style of prose—a singsong quality:
I do not like them in a box. I do not like them with a fox. I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. I do not like them here or there. I do not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.
So, yeah, we get it mate. You don’t like the idea of eating the green eggs and ham. Which is a common thing with fussy eaters, we find.
“I don’t like that, me!” And have they actually tried the dish in question? “No, I just don’t like [something randomly relating to it], me.”
Anyway, we’re 35 but did find the book positively joyous. What a treat for kids, eh? And adults who run a site called Professional Moron. Right up there with Calvin and Hobbes, we think.
Highly recommended for any young ones you know.
Dr. Seuss’ use of flowing visual splendour and lyrical machinations make for a wonderful combination. And that’s no doubt why it’s sold eight million copies.
Green Eggs & Cartoon Adaptations
The 1960s adaptation takes the book rather literally. But also adds in psychedelic Woodstock 1969 type vibes. Far out.
Whereas the Netflix production plays fast and loose with Dr. Seuss’ book.
Launching in November 2019, it’s a full series that’s met with critical acclaim. Although (shame on us) we haven’t watched it yet.
In fact, Dr. Seuss’ work entirely passed us by when we were younger. Not sure why, but it just didn’t feature in our childhoods.
But we can see why he remains such a beloved author for children’s books. The artistic standard is exceptional. The stories are accessible and great fun.
And now you can watch, read, and enjoy your way through his various works rather easily (thanks to the internet, stupid).
Green Eggs and Ham? Indeed! There’s also a subliminal message to take environmental initiatives seriously. Well done, that man!
Reading Dr Seuss out loud is a linguistic treasure
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It has a charming appeal for all ages, there’s no doubt.
I know it wants to encourage kids to try new things, but if I saw green eggs and ham in real life, I think I’d assume they were past the expiration date. Still a classic children’s book any way you slice it.
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I’m sure there were plenty of kids out there going, “Mummy, can I eat green eggs and ham!?” Or just chewing on the book. Bon!
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