coffee mugs

It’s pledge drive season here, and every public radio station has its usual array of guilt-inducing rhetoric and thank-you-gifts that serve as status symbols. I know that pledge drives are necessary, and I do donate from my meager grad student budget when I can, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to analyze what they’re doing during these drives.

Both the local jazz station and the local classical station have interesting pseudo-commercials regarding their coffee mugs that are functioning as thank-you-gifts. The classical station has a bunch of people commenting on the quality of the mug: “oh it’s so sleek and shiny!”, “the sky blue color inside is just gorgeous!”, “it’s the perfect size for my hand!” All of these are reasonable things to say about the mug, I suppose, but the fact remains that these people aren’t actually selling the mug. They’re championing all of its amazing qualities in an attempt to get listeners to give $80 to the radio station — I don’t care how amazing it is, no mug is worth $80. Yet the pseudo-commercial, and the announcers on air themselves, are acting as though they are salespeople with the most amazing coffee mug ever.

The jazz station, in a similar but quite different vein, featured a bunch of normal-sounding people narrating the things that they could do with a coffee cup, as though they are selling a brand new invention.

“I might have a cup of coffee in the morning and then use it for good old H2O later!”
“Soup! I love eating soup out of a mug!”
“I would put oatmeal in it and make it in the microwave!”
“I could keep it at work for my coffee!”
“I could drink tea out of it!”

And, are you ready for this? Are you ready?

“You could drink just about anything out of this mug!”

This reminds me of the classic taxonomic relationship grading evident in the difference between cup, mug, and bowl. When is a cup a mug? When is a cup, in fact, a bowl? How do you define them? There’s this idea of “fuzzy set theory”, or that the boundaries between our definitions of objects are pretty fuzzy, and some things can fall into either category.

However, I don’t think there’s anything fuzzy about the idea that you could, in fact, drink things out of a mug. I wonder if anyone is shocked at the idea of drinking water from a mug.

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