Pelmanism - A capital idea.

This ad from a 1948 issue of Picture Post urges us all to "Take up Pelmanism". It must be a cult. Jesus isn't going to like this. Either is David Koresh, who kind of looked like Steve Jobs and Jesus combined. So what the heck is/was Pelmanism?

Well, it wasn't a cult, despite their ad having all the earmarks of creepy culty language. A) Not telling you exactly what they're on about B) "We will fix all your problems." and my absolute favorite of old-timey sales pitches, C) Wanton use of capital letters.

"If you had studied Pelmanism, you'd
remember how crazy I was."
Advertising exists in it's own relativistic fairyland of grammatical craziness in which you can capitalize a word any time your desire to move product becomes too much to bear. The copy writer would probably call it "emphasizing key words". "They become Iriritable and Morose. They have fits of bad temper, their thoughts become Morbid." The Pelmanites capitalize "Irritable" and "Morose" like they're personal friends, while leaving "fits of bad temper" un-capitalized in the lower-case ghetto of language. Hey Pelmanoids, What did "fits of bad temper" ever do to get on your bad side?

The Onion's book "Our Dumb Century" is a treasure trove of unnecessary capitalization. It's almost as if grammar had just invented the idea of capital letters and everyone was all excited, capitalizing anything they thought was important. Wait. I've just been informed that the rules of capitalization have indeed changed over time. The Wikipedia article on the subject says that "To the modern reader, an 18th century document uses initial capitals excessively." I'd like to find a newspaper headline from the day the rules changed. "Extra! Grammar Bullies release New Rules of Capitalization. Reading to become much less Lumpy from Now On!" Long story short, if you're hoping to fake your disappearance and want to make it look like you were kidnapped by a chimney sweep, leave a ransom note and capitalize everything but "a", "the", and "crikey".

Anyway, Pelmanism was basically a system to improve your memory. That's it. Presumably, the confidence that comes from having a sharply-trained memory would fix all your other problems with frustration and anger and large areas of your city having been bombed to rubble by the Nazis. It's just a little ironic that this ad ran in a year wen I would have thought England had a few things they'd like to forget.

Click for big.


Fil said...

Weird Al Yankoresh

Taissainthekitchen said...

When I was a kid in the 70s I would play a card game with my grandmother - basically turn over two cards from a face-down deck laid out on the table, and if you find a pair you can turn over another two cards. Most people would call this 'the memory game' or 'matching pairs' but she called it 'pelmanism'.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Aha! Another piece of the puzzle! Thanks for contributing, Taissa!


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