99 and 44/100% pure

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at NETSCAPE.COM
Thu Dec 28 02:00:04 UTC 2006

On Wed 12/27/06 12:04 AM Alison Murie <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM> wrote:

I wasn't attempting to provide a defensible etymology for this advertising slogan, just passing on common scuttlebutt.  OTOH I don't see that it makes more sense to accept the tales a corp tells about itself as any more reliable than any other form of advertising.  While no aficionado of websites,  I'd guess that they are fertile soil for all kinds of romances in the interests of self-promotion.

1. The quote I gave from the website was "advertising" only in a marginal way.  If the website made a claim that Ivory Soap was a good product because of x, y, or z, that would be advertising in that it would be soliciting you to buy Ivory Soap.  However, the quote I gave was background history and most likely a reader of that portion of the website got there because s/he had already heard of Ivory Soap and was curious about the _origin_ of the slogan.

2.  Corporate websites, when not engaging in self-promotion or product promotion (and the quote I gave was neither) are no less (and no more) reliable than other sources.  If, for example, you were writing a paper which included some history of Procter and Gamble, advertising slogans, etc., you would of course treat that website with caution until you were able to establish its reliability, or lack of, by comparison with other sources of known reliability.

3.  Numerous other websites tell the same story about the chemical analysis of Ivory Soap.  I used the Procter and Gamble website because it was closer to being an original source than the blogs and miscellany that showed up on the first page of the Google search I made.

4.  I heard the same story about the origin of the slogan long before the World Wide Web was invented, so if the story is a fabrication it is a fabrication with whiskers on it.

5.  Procter and Gamble has an archivist, and there is the possibility that he was consulted by the authors of the website.  If somebody were seriously interested in finding out the true story, s/he would contact that archivist for the primary source materials.

6   David Feldman in one of his "Imponderable" books gave the exact quantities of the 56/100% that was not pure soap.  This means that either the story is true or somebody went to the trouble of concocting a fake report from that so-far unnamed chemist.  (I don't recall if Feldman cited his sources on this one.)

     James A. Landau
     Test Engineer
     Northrop-Grumman (world's second largest defense contractor!)
     8025 Black Horse Pike, Suite 300
     West Atlantic City  NJ  08232  USA

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