Saturday, July 30, 2011

Headline Writer Misses the Joke; Column Writer Amazed by Discovery of "Secret" Product

Brett Slattery puts his tongue firmly in cheek and launches his advertisement for "Goof Off-Rust Stain Remover" (thinly disguised as column) by telling readers to paint their "home driveways and sidewalks rust-colored" to hide hard-water stains.

The kids on the copy desk decided that would make a dandy headline, entirely missing the part where the Goof Off promoter says, "On second thought, forget about painting your home driveway and sidewalks rust-colored," and gets on with urging readers to buy a "secret" product that he found "amazing" for keeping his house-for-sale signs tidy.

Sun Coast Media Group readers are accustomed to strange headlines emanating from the copy desk because the kids are yet not fully comfortable with the concept of reading. What subscribers are less accustomed to is a "columnist" who hasn't read the product label of an "amazing secret" that he's promoting.

The label Slattery isn't reading says his "amazing" and "secret" product is a 10-percent concentration of oxalic acid laced with a touch of hydrofluoric acid. Of course this reactive compound removes iron stains, as any high school chemistry student knows. It's a process called chelation, a multiple-ion bonding (chelate is Greek for "claw") that takes place at room temperature. It's simple: an oxalic acid molecule grabs on to several Fe2O3 (rust) electrons and forms a complex molecule that's highly water soluable. The new compound is ferric oxalate, and it rinses away with water.

It's neither "secret" nor "amazing;" it's 11th grade chemistry.

And by the way, do what Slattery forgot to tell you: Buy oxalic acid crystals for less than a buck a pound at the hardware store and dilute it yourself -- but be sure to read the label. It can be nasty stuff.

1 comment:

  1. Kids in Florida high schools don't take chemistry any more. The science requirement stops after a 9th-grade-tiptoe through general science, which usually includes a unit on how the earth was created in seven days about 4,000 years ago when god deposited all the fossils. You're showing your age, Old Word Wolf: back when an education was an education.