Some of the best lines I’ve ever seen are nothing to do with advertising, or journalism, or any professional writing.
They’re written by (gasp) ordinary people.
They’re simple and powerful, and occasionally funny.
But they’re all things I wish I’d written.
Lat year, I was in a traffic jam in central London.
I pulled up really close to the lorry in front.
On the back of the lorry, at the end of my bonnet, was a sign.
It said, “IF YOU CAN’T SEE MY MIRRORS I CAN’T SEE YOU.”
How powerful is that?
If he doesn’t know you’re there he could reverse and crush you.
So it’s not just his problem, it’s yours too.
From then on I left enough room to see his mirrors.
Another great line I saw on a lorry was in America a few years back.
It was a bumper sticker for The Teamsters Union.
It simply said, “IF YOU’VE GOT IT, A TRUCK BROUGHT IT.”
Think about that.
Not another “Working together for a better future” mission statement.
A line that says, here’s why you need us.
Two other lines I love are from my art school days in New York.
In those days it was fashionable to refer to the police as “Pigs”.
One day I saw a police car cruising around with a large bumper sticker.
It just picked out the letters P.I.G. as follows, “Pride. Integrity. Guts.”
I love that.
Don’t argue defensively.
Just turn your competitor’s attack around, and let it do the work for you.
Another great bumper sticker from that period, I saw on a police car.
It simply said, “IF YOU DON’T TRUST THE POLICE, NEXT TIME YOU’RE IN TROUBLE CALL A HIPPIE.”
These lines always remind me of Ed McCabe’s dictum.
A really great line should read as if it began, “HEY SCHMUCK”.
That’s terrific advice.
But, like all advice, not always true in every circumstance.
Another of my favourite lines is from a launderette in Muswell Hill.
It’s called Wishy Washee.
And the sign above the shop reads, ‘WISHEE WASHEE, SPLISHY SPLOSHY, CLEANEE KNICKEE, VELLY QUICKEE.”
And, no: it’s not racist.
My wife, who’s Chinese, and all my Chinese in-laws think it’s very funny.
As Dawn French says, “When it’s funny it’s not bad taste. And when it’s bad taste, it’s not funny.”