Thursday, December 18, 2008

scope problems

Recently Disaronno has been running commercials for different cocktails you can make with their liqueur. The two I've seen recently are "Disaronno on the rocks with milk" and "Disaronno on the rocks with ginger ale". These strike me as very odd. It's not that you can't have a mixed drink "on the rocks". While I most readily associate the phrase "on the rocks" with straight liquor (viz., scotch), it's quite common to order a margarita on the rocks, or a manhattan on the rocks. The problem for me lies with scope.

"Scope" refers to how much of a given sentence or phrase a word modifies. For instance, the phrase "dirty blond hair" could mean either someone with blond hair which is rather darker than "blond" hair ([[dirty blond]hair]), or someone with blond hair who hasn't showered in a while ([dirty [blond hair]]). In the Disaronno commericals, I think my problem is that to me a drink is on the rocks or it isn't. You can have a scotch on the rocks with a twist, but not a scotch on the rocks with soda. The latter would be a scotch and soda on the rocks. Likewise, "Disaronno on the rocks with milk" annoys me, because I feel like "on the rocks" should have scope over the entire drink, not just the liqueur. "Disaronno with milk on the rocks" is fine, but the way they phrase it clashes with my usage.

P.S. I'll be out of town for winter break for the next two weeks, so the next new post will be 1/5.


Anonymous said...

Actually, it is more of an ad copy issue rather than a linguist one. The ad guys were probably told to keep "Disaronno on the rocks" as the point message for the brand. So, "with milk" and "with ginger ale" could easily be (and might be!) "Disaronno on the rocks with dirty blonde hair" or "Disaronno on the rocks with a cold shower in a waterfall."

Disaronno on the rocks. Are you still sober? ;-)

PS. Welcome to! Your blog kicks ass.

Anonymous said...

Too much of advertising can kill a brand. And Disaronno is not an exception. Unfortunately for the fans of the "on the rocks" drinks.

Anonymous said...

I knew those commercials bothered me but I couldn't put my finger on why. You are correct!

Anonymous said...

I'm just glad I stumbled on this and found my frustrations to be both a grammar stickler and a bartender these commercials really grind my gears