Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Novel-tee of Good Grammar

As far as I know, Big Dogs clothing stores do not exist outside of America's outlet malls. This notion first occurred to me as a little girl on family vacations when my parents would take us to the outlets to find bargains. I don't know why my family had such a penchant for patronizing outlet malls on our vacations, but I distinctly remember stopping at one outside of Las Vegas, one in Florida, and another somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. My parents just really like bargains.

As a kid I loved dogs. But I never appreciated the rapier wit of Big Dogs' novelty clothing enough to ask my parents for a St. Bernard-branded piece of apparel. I've never owned a Big Dogs shirt, boxer shorts, pajama pants, sports bra, or Frisbee. For years, finally far from the pseudo closeout deals of our fine country's outlet malls, I actually forgot about the lumbering canine's existence. I can honestly say it's been years since I've seen an item of Big Dogs clothing outside of the musty racks of the Salvation Army. I've never known anyone who owns a Big Dogs novelty t-shirt, although I have definitely judged the strangers who do.

Imagine my surprise when yesterday I discovered that this company is still in business! For some reason, probably the result of a conversation about our nation's obesity problem (who actually remembers the origin of the seed that spawns most Google searches?), my fiance and I found ourselves at

I can say that not much has changed since Big Dogs' groundbreaking misogynistic, machismo, and semi-relevant parodic t-shirt designs first came onto the scene in 1984. Although there are more fecal jokes than I remembered from my youth. Phrases like "If you're not the lead dog the scenery never changes!" and "Gasoline is like sex: self service is always faster, easier, and cheaper!" and the oh-so-piquant, "Bleep You You Bleeping Bleep!" (I imagine that there is an understood comma after the first "you") burst forth from these oversized tees that cost as much as $21.99. Seriously, what is this? American Apparel? You can buy hideous shirts like this on the boardwalk for $5.00.

That brings me to the point of all of this. Whilst browsing through hundreds of sexist, trashy, and mostly unfunny designs, I found this little number:

Yes, this is a ladies tee design, although it's also available for men, in a much more "masculine" typeface. I'm sure your mental image of what kind of woman would actually wear this shirt is just as good as mine. Keep in mind that this design is also available for women in 2X.

For those of you who have even the slightest mastery of the English language, the incorrectly placed apostrophe in the word "costs" should be glaringly obvious. It was to me, though admittedly, I am a freak when it comes to spotting these things.

Now usually when it comes to grammar and spelling, I know how to pick my battles. Editing so much writing on a daily basis has taught me that sometimes as long as the information is understood by its reader, then everything's okay. If I spot a distracting error on the website of a company I admire and respect, I might send the webmaster a quick email to report it.

This is a tough one. On one hand, I think that this error is printed, en masse, and sold as a product. That makes this a bad product. Someone should say something about that, right? When I was shopping for wedding invitations and noticed that one company misspelled a day of the week on an actual printed invitation in their portfolio, I reported that to them. It was an awful mistake for an invitation printer to make, and it could turn away tons of customers. But on the other hand I think, whoever wears this Big Dogs shirt is probably a total dolt who either doesn't recognize the extraneous apostrophe, or doesn't care, and could potentially sit on me and break all of my ribs.

And then there's this sick part of me that wants to email the creator of the wearable fart joke and experience what it is like to correspond with that person. So I do. My email to Big Dogs Clothing:

Good afternoon,

I am emailing to make you aware of a grammatical error on one of your shirt designs. I happened across your website and saw that the "Gas Costs So Much" design has an apostrophe in the word "costs." Obviously, there shouldn't be an apostrophe in the word costs, as it is not possessive.

I don't know if this error will prevent you from selling this shirt, but I wanted to bring this to your attention regardless.


Marissa DeSantis

I tried to remain professional. I tried not to go all David Cross ala his open letter to Larry the Cable Guy, even though I really, really wanted to run train on Big Dogs. My politeness must have paid off. Surprisingly, they actually honored my email with a response!

Dear Marissa,

Thank you for your email. Big Dog graphics are fun for wear and are not meant to be grammatically correct. Just as with the Redneck Grrrl, Girl is not spelled correct. You will find from time to time, that not all graphics will be spelled correctly. We do appreciate your feedback and the fact that you took time to send us this email.


Big Dog Sportswear
Customer Service Department
800-642-DOGS (3647)

Alright, so this is ridiculous. The phrase "fun for wear" is just silly. And creating a product that isn't "meant to be grammatically correct" is only cool if you're making an inspirational poster that says "Nobodys Perfekt" with a kitten making a mess in a bowl of spaghetti.

The sentence "Just as with the Redneck Grrrl is not spelled correct," is not actually a sentence. Also, yes, there is a design that says "Redneck Grrrl".

Acknowledging that their products often contain spelling and grammatical errors just shows that they think their customers are careless and stupid (which, hey, is a pretty easy assumption to make). It shows that they know they don't have a product that is 100% quality 100% of the time. So here's my response to that:

Thanks for your response.

I understand stylized spellings of words like "Grrrl". I get it. It's a pun, and it's also a slang term born of the riot grrrl movement of the early 90s. Clever spellings of words are fun, and I'm sure you use them a lot to fit your "dog" theme.

I just think that an apostrophe in "cost's" is a clear error. It does not serve any joke or enhance the shirt design in any way, except that it's funny to people like me because it's a grammatical error on a professionally printed shirt.

I don't want to be snooty. Clearly, you do a good business since you've been printing novelty shirts since I was a kid. I'm grateful that you actually took the time to respond to me, and please don't feel like you have to respond to this, but I still don't understand why an incorrectly placed apostrophe is fun.

Oh well, I've obviously spent way too much time thinking about this. Again, no need to respond. I just wanted to further justify my complaint.

Best of luck to you in your business pursuits,


Yeah, that showed 'em! Seriously though, "costs" isn't misspelled to be clever. If it were, it would say something like "clawsts". You know, a dog pun. Because those are hilarious. I doubt that I will receive further acknowledgment from Big Dogs. At this point they're probably aware that I have no intention of purchasing any products from their line.

If there's anything that this exchange has taught me, it's that some companies cash in on the stupidity of their consumers to turn a profit (see: Miller Lite Vortex bottle) and some companies are just stupid. I'm still not totally sure which one of these Big Dogs falls under. But I do know this: next time you see a huge dude walking around the hood wearing a t-shirt with a foul-smelling grammatical or spelling error, blame it on the Dog.

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