Take it from the man on the can

Another adventure in dubious commercial names and slogans. In the past few days the hyperkinetic tv pitchman Phil Swift — the id of the Flex Seal company, the Billy Mays of liquid rubber — has been assaulting my senses with a slogan that annoys me every time — just the way it was supposed to — because I get the sleazy sense of the commercial’s slogan

Take it from the man on the can

(‘from the guy sitting on the toilet (doing his business)’) instead of the innocent sense ‘from the man whose picture is on the label of the can (of Flex Seal)’. (In passing, I note the mini-festival of metonymy here: the man isn’t on the can, his picture is; well, not on the can itself, but on the label affixed to the can.) Let me start with a photo of an exemplary Flex Seal can:

(#1) You will note the absence, on the label, of a face of any person whatsoever, much less Phil Swift; as far as I can tell, the labels are all like that, and that’s no accident: Swift’s face is entirely beside the point — you’ll see that plenty in the commercials — because the ad’s all about taking your thoughts, memorably, into (or onto) the toilet

The commercial is so new that I haven’t been able to find it on-line. But here’s screen shot from a breathless TikTok announcement, apparently from 7/14:

(#2) [accompanying text on TikTok, from the company:] Fact – to be the man on the can, you gotta know your stuff. And when it comes to trusted quality products that work, Phil Swift definitely knows his stuff. Inside and out. Check out Flex Seal’s new commercial, premiering TOMORROW at 3PM EST. on YouTube! Link in Bio.

The Flex Seal story. From Wikipedia:

(#3) Swift posing with the object of his enthusiasm

Flex Seal is an American brand of adhesive bonding products made by the family-owned company Swift Response in Weston, Florida. Founded in 2011, the company employs 100 people led by its pitchman and chief executive officer Phil Swift. Flex Seal has become a popular internet meme because of its television advertisement demonstrations of the product in absurd and exaggerated situations, such as a boat sawed fully in half and made seaworthy again with the product.

The company makes a line of adhesive bonding products that are based around the concept of liquid rubber.

Flex Shot was released as an alternative to a caulk gun. Flex Tape was released as a waterproof tape. Flex Glue was released as a fix-all adhesive.

Cans: the lexicographic story. From OED3 (Sept. 2016), selected subentries for the noun can-1, with the indices for the crucial ones boldfaced:

I. 1. a. A container for holding liquids; (originally) one made of any of various materials, and of various shapes and sizes, including drinking vessels; (now generally in more restricted sense) a container, usually larger than a drinking vessel, typically made of metal, and often cylindrical in form, with a handle for carrying. [attested from OE on]

I. 3. c. Chiefly North American. A large container or bin, typically cylindrical in shape, made of metal or plastic, and serving as a receptacle for ashes, rubbish, etc. [1st cite 1872] [metaphorical extension of I1a, based on similarity, in both form (hollow, cylindrical shape) and function (as a container)]

— II. 4. b. slang (originally and chiefly U.S.). The buttocks, the bottom. [1st cite 1913]

— II.4. c. slang (originally and chiefly U.S.). A woman’s breast. Usually in plural. [1st cite 1946]

II. 5. North American slang (originally and chiefly U.S.). A toilet; the room containing this. [1st cite 1900] [the hardware / appliance sense is a metaphorical extension of II3c, based on similarity in both form (hollow shape) and function (as a container for waste material); the room sense is then a metonymy from this, the two senses being exactly parallel to the senses of standard toilet)

— II. 6. slang (originally and chiefly U.S.). Chiefly with the: a prison, a jail; a cell in a police station. Also: imprisonment, time spent in prison. [1st cite 1912]

One Response to “Take it from the man on the can”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    Ad report, 7/19: another brand-new “Take it from the man on the can” commercial has just gone past me (not available anywhere on-line, so far as I can tell). Swift turns the can around, and there on the back side of the label is a photo of his face. So he is indeed the man on the can.

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