A Real FA-Q to Customers

Here's a question not asked frequently enough -- how do companies dream up their FAQs? Who are these ultra-inquisitive customers? Is this how corporations view the public?

Back in 2003, in my role as research assistant on Why Business People Speak Like Idiots, I scoured the information superhighway for FAQ comedy. And while poking around my archives yesterday, I found the results.

McDonald's, for example, sees its patrons as McEnthusiasts. Who among us hasn't wondered "How do I find out what my Happy Meal toys are worth?" or "How do I buy McDonald's merchandise?" The same die-hard fans must also be cheap and neurotic world travelers, hungry for discounts: "Can I use U.S. McDonald's gift certificates in foreign countries?"

The fine folks at Arby's were understandably tired of hearing "Arby's sounds like exactly the franchise I'm looking for and I like the quality and uniqueness of the food as well as the new building design. Whom do I call for more information?"

Many a produce manager at A&P has been peppered with one burning question - "What can you tell me about lettuce?"

Clumsy people can stop crying over spilled RC Cola ("Can you help me remove soda stains?" Yes!) The jobs of those investigating Dr. Pepper's ingredients just got a little easier ("Does Dr. Pepper contain prune juice?" No!) Coke addicts are rejoicing ("Is there any connection between soft drinks and kidney stones?" No, only obesity and tooth decay!)

The handful of people watching Miss Match have lit up the switchboard at NBC. "Who performs the Miss Match theme song?" is the first (most?) frequently asked question, with "Where can I find out about music featured on a Miss Match episode?" not far behind.

"What's wrong with rodeos?" asks PETA. Apparently, you won't be the first.

For some reason, Howard Dean supporters are asking "Why Dean rather than Kucinich?" Skeptical Kucinich followers are just asking "Didn't you bankrupt the city of Cleveland?"

Whoever said there are no stupid questions must work in PR.

[Like I said, these are a few years old. I'm sure the level of idiocy has only increased, and welcome any examples you may have stumbled upon.]

Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.


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