Crisis = clanger + hypothesis

August 30, 2009

There is a much-repeated linguistic canard that the Chinese word for crisis combines the characters for danger and opportunity. It doesn’t really, but the popularity of this misconception testifies to its inherent appeal. We like to imagine that our often self-inflicted disasters have solutions that will propel us into a better future, solutions embedded in the very structure of these disasters and echoed in an ancient language we don’t understand.

It’s a nice idea.

Consider this photograph:

Stan Carey - Pharmacy - we are, therefore we care

The loss of a letter C from the façade of this pharmacy suggests the activity of vandals, gravity, or an audacious magpie. One hopes that the other letters are not in danger of theft or collapse, and even if they were this would not constitute a crisis. But there is an opportunity here. If you’ll indulge me:

Already the accidental result makes a kind of crude existential sense:

We are . . . WeCare

Incorporating the green medical cross as a plus symbol also works:

We are [and] WeCare

Or they could go all out and replace the cross with a therefore symbol (.·.), thereby transforming their name into a compelling slogan:

We are, [therefore] WeCare

…albeit a slightly pretentious one readable only from certain angles. Not alone would this recall one of the founders of modern science (on which at least some modern pharmaceuticals depend), it would also make unexpectedly good syntactical sense.

(I have heard that Descartes’s inspiration for his catchy line was an angel who visited him in a dream, but it would probably be best if I didn’t get into the implications of that here.)

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