Monday, June 16, 2014

What Flavor is Volapuk?

What flavors do you have?
There’s a Monty Python sketch in which John Cleese plays a concessionaire selling an albatross to theater patrons. Terry Jones plays the hapless patron who wants to know what flavor it is. “It’s bloody sea bird flavor.” Having settled that question, maybe Cleese’s character of the woman selling snacks can answer the question asked in that title: what flavor is Volapuk?

The question is raised by an advertisement published in the June 16, 1888 Capital City Courier, of Lincoln Nebraska. Apparently the new soda fountain there (a $2,000 fountain) has flavors that include peaches and cream, mandarin, and—first on the list—Volapuk.

This was to be available on or about June 1, 1888. There was probably some mixup, and the person who placed the advertisement probably was none too happy. Probably some word was misread by the compositor as “Volapuk,” or some other sheet had the word on it and the compositor swapped the two (in which case we might find classes for speaking “vanilla” somewhere else in the newspaper).

There’s one other problem with the advertisement. It’s not clear where you go to get your Volapuk soda. Is the ad for “Ladies’ and Gents’ fine shoes” below it part of the same advertisement? The double line below that clearly separates it from the advertisement for the bicycle shop, but that same double line separates soda and shoes. An additional double line sets off an advertisement for refrigerators, crockery, lamps, and art glassware. S.C. Elliott was clearly so confident of their name recognition that they didn’t bother to put their address in it, just the firm name. So, perhaps, our vendor of Volapuk soda didn’t feel a need to tell people where to find them.

But what flavor is it?

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1 comment:

  1. Reading this made me think of that classic Two Ronnies sketch, set in the ice cream parlour: :-)


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