Morton Girl
From a longer work of criticism entitled
The Meiotics of Robotic Eschatology
by Tristan Davies

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Q. Are the Meiotics akin to the concept less is more?

A. That phrase is the idiotic expression of an idiotic concept jointly and variously ascribed to certain architects, musicians, furniture designers, creative writers, and comparative zoologists. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Meiotics as even the most superficial survey of the literature will indicate.

The term’s origin is what is called a learned borrowing from the Greek verb meaning “to lessen” or “make less.” However, I don’t think that it is a borrowing. I think that it belongs to me. It is mine.

“What it the definition of ‘opposite?’” This is the real Meiotics.

Q. Is there a Meiotics of food?

A. There is a Meiotics of salt.
           
Salt lies at the center of man’s transition from a nomadic to an agricultural being. It was salt that allowed for the preservation of foodstuffs, thus eliminating the need to migrate according to predation. It’s use as a robotic element—that is something that achieves an intended goal remotely—allowed early man to remain rooted to a single locale throughout the year. Salt was, in a sense, the first nanotechnology.

The perfection of salt as a robotic element, however, took much longer.
Some background: Salt, which comes from either brine or mineral rock salt, has a tendency, even after milling, to return to solid masses. This condition, commonly known as caking, is easily remedied by the addition of appropriate amounts of sodium carbonate, which combines with trace amounts of magnesium. The resultant magnesium carbonate is a stable, soluble white powder that slowly absorbs moisture from the surrounding medium, discouraging caking action.

In 1911, the Morton Salt Company began adding magnesium carbonate to its table salt. In 1914, the firm introduced the Morton Umbrella Girl and the phrase on its packaging “When it rains it pours,” stressing the product’s anti-caking qualities in periods of high humidity. The Morton Salt Girl and her accompanying trade phrase then went on to become inseparable from the corporation and its product.

Certainly, even the casual reader, possibly a newcomer to the Meiotics, will find it strange for a corporation, even in those quaint Wilsonian years, prior to the coarsening cannonades of August, to pick as a slogan an idiom that means, essential, “bad things come in bunches.” However, of course, Morton’s men would deny and then demur. A transposition had been performed. By negating a negation, the principal statement  “It never rains” has been turned into a conjunctive conditional, “When it rains.”  Net to be eliminated is the conjunction. Now the compound object in the first phrase becomes the subject of the second. And, thus, the main clause reads, “it pours.”

In the process of transposition, an interesting linguistic event occurs, if you will: a meiosis. In the first phrase, It never rains but it pours, the two pronouns, “it,” both refer to the weather. In the resulting phrase, When it rains it pours, the pronouns, the its have now a reference divided. In the new version the first it (When it rains) refers still to the phenomenon of the weather.

Being a meiosis, in the process of separation, the formally diploid saying—It never rains but it pours—reduces itself to two distinct haploid clauses. The it of the second daughter segment, which in the mother phrase refers again to the weather, now serves to replace the noun salt, specifically, as it is trademarked, Morton brand salt. We are intended to understand the new saying to mean: When it —the robotic agent that underlies all metaphysical reality, specifically in this case, weather—rains it —the sodium chloride NaCl with the addition of the robotic element magnesium carbonate (MgCO3) or, later, a calcium silicate (CaSiO3, et cet.))—pours.

This new phrase should then be punctuated with a comma, whether it is intended to be restrictive or otherwise, because the subjects of the two independent and coordinated clauses now differ significantly. The phrase should read:

When it rains, it pours.

Which in turn begs the next question: Is this apparently innocuous commercial claim restrictive or not? What will happen when it rains? Certainly the good burghers of Morton, International (since 1999 a Rohm and Haas Company!) do not intend the shopper to be misled. Undoubtedly, these foodstuffs manufacturers (the food salts subdivision of Rohm and Hass, “one of the world’s largest manufacturers of specialty chemicals”) don’t intend for us to assume that, were it to rain, their cylindrical container—made of cheap paper stock, bound in a loose blue wrapper, and crowned with the simplest aluminum spout—would suddenly spring to life and begin spewing its white contents all over the floor.

What they must mean instead by all this—this confusing phrase and confused phrase, with its familiar illustration of a girl in the yellow dress—is that if it rains, the salt will still pour.

On their web site, The Morton International people (Rohm and Haas: “Where the possibilities imagine the possibilities”—this motto itself being a perfectly realized meiotic expression) provide, via a helpful www-address, the history of the Morton Umbrella Girl.

In 1914, she debuts as a chubby child awkwardly holding a golf umbrella, its handle turned to resemble the head of a putter. From her canister, held like a loaf of bread, salt pours directly downward in a powerful torrent.

By 1921 she has grown considerably, lost her baby fat and curls, received a stylish haircut, changed umbrellas, and taken her first step forward. This allows her escaping salt, still pouring from a carton clutched like a football, to fall in a more graceful curve.

In 1933, her flapper’s hair has acquired a permanent wave, her dress a peter pan collar and a good deal less provocative cling. Her salt stream has grown an insouciant, if gravity defying, tail.


By 1941 she has acquired pigtails, a polka-dotted dress in yellow, and a wholesome smile. Her presentation is so mature and knowing that one wonders exactly why this young woman, certainly old enough to know better, would be carrying this carton at all, let alone allowing its contents to drain carelessly from the spout.

The year 1956, the country is in the grips of profound national confidence and a Republican president—the rain has lessened, the salt turned to flakes of gentle snow, the dots on her dress have prospered to become additionally the adornments of a matched skirt hem and oval collar. Still locked in the first step that she has been contemplating now for twenty-five years, her head has assumed a mischievous tilt, as if to ask “Why do you think I’m giving the ground a gentle dusting?”

Then come the sixties, those saucy and reflective sixties. For the first time she averts her gaze. For the first time raindrops bounce from her umbrella. Her hair, once again short and bobbed, curls at its edges winningly. She looks downward, as if finally, after nearly sixty years, interested in where that first step might take her. The shadow of her umbrella is now pale lavender and her short dress an unadorned yellow, but for it’s pleated skirting. The salt spreads out gracefully like the train of a gown behind her. She is fully a woman-child now, sexually aware. Scattered salts mark her way.

The Morton Umbrella Girl: one can’t help but wondering if the good men and women of Rohm and Haas might not one day notice this odd, post-orgasmic creature, out for a romantic walk in the rain, returning home, perhaps, from an afternoon’s stolen bliss on the labels of its product.

What if some concerned citizen were to write the fine folks of Rohm and Haas, and they were to be distracted momentarily from their busy behind-the-scenes work in the paint and coating industry? They might consider, as we have, the Morton Umbrella Girl. And might they, being good neighbors and responsible corporate citizens, come to the obvious conclusion—that this woman-child, protected from the effluvia of love by her trusty prophylactic, its moist interior glowing with a distinctly post-coital nimbus, is out for a stroll in the rain—not a walk of shame, but a cleansing jaunt on which she might recall all the feints and jousts, puts and calls of her most recent conquest, the salty tears of joy, now dried on her neck? And might they ask, what is salt but the spice of life? As a company that operates at the highest levels of integrity and ethics, might they decide to raise themselves upon their rightful throne of indignity? Might they then strike the harlot who walks ten million times a day from her lover’s bed, out into the gentle rain on the familiar blue cylinder of America’s oldest and best-known salt?

Q. Do you mean to suggest that the image on a container of Morton salt represents a woman of indeterminate age who has just engaged in sexual intercourse?

A. I didn’t realize the point was contested.