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Want to make gooder your English?

June 14, 2011

This is one of the many “Shamed by your English?” ads that used to appear in comics. I’m not questioning the credentials of Don Bolander, but I’ve always been curious how a pair of glasses awkwardly held to the side promoted the premise that this was a man not only of intelligence, but one who could take the shame out of a person’s reading game. A cursory Google search shows that Mr. Bolander made this pitch from the early ’50s up to the ’70s (at least) in not only comics but also magazines ranging from Popular Mechanics to Ebony, often accompanied by that very same (sometimes reversed) picture. It was plagiarized and spread across the Atlantic, in an early version of “going viral,” and was also parodied in Alan Moore’s wonderfully nostalgic (and subversive) 1963. Quite a career for a simple advertisement and its variants.

Everybody has their hustle. Even bespectacled men of letters like Mr. Bolander.

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