"He was a hardworking farm boy. She was an Italian supermodel. He knew he would have just one chance to impress her."Ad for some sort of penile enhancement technique? For the latest line of designer clothing, perhaps?
Wrong. It's the ad for something called the Rosetta Stone, an interactive language learning software of some sort (the ad calls it 'the language tool of choice' - making me suspect that it may be a penile implant after all), which appears with predictably regularity in the New Yorker (no doubt brought to you by the same people who promote the Pokeboat).
I'm not quite sure what to make of this. Are we to assume that the Rosetta Stone software is specifically designed to help you pick up hot women in the language of your choice? (In which case I would suggest that the $296.10 they're charging for the whole package is way too low) Or is the logic here that the supermodel in question will be so blown away by the fact that Junior speaks real Italian (as opposed to all other Italian men who speak English, only with a fake Sicilian accent) that she will fall into his arms without paying attention to what he's saying? Or is the idea that since his chances of getting an actual living supermodel are statistically zero, the software, speaking fluent Italian, will be a good substitute - because clearly it's her fluent punctuation that makes her so ravishingly attractive to him (Rosetta Stone! Gee whiz! Any relation to Sharon Stone?)
Now, me, I know nothing about charming women and I've never met a supermodel in my life (at least I don't think so - though I'm one of those people who are bad with both names AND faces), but it seems to me that if you're a barely literate farm boy trying to win a woman's heart, then long, poetic speeches or witty repartee are not the way to go . You're much better off playing the strong, silent type, preferably with your shirt off. It's the old core competence story. Not to mention that you're probably better off going after farmer's daughters, who, let's face it, have a lot less choice.
The picture that accompanies this marvellous piece of prose is even funnier. It features a fairly dim looking young man standing in the middle of what is indisputably a field, gawkily clutching his baseball cap and looking woeful and concerned. This despite the fact that in his other hand he clutches a box containing the magical Rosetta Stone software. Apparently in order to learn Italian you don't actually need to plug the software into your computer. All you have to do is walk around in the fields holding the box in your hand and look as if you're concentrating and before you know it you'll be quoting Petrarch and Dante. Isn't technology wonderful?
One can almost hear the argument behind this picture: "We should have a shot of him outdoors, otherwise how will people know that he's a farm boy?" "No, no, we need to have a shot of the product in there somewhere. Didn't they teach you anything at advertising school?" "Guys! guys! stop fighting. What say we compromise?" So what if the productivity of European agriculture (such as it is) gets halved because a whole generation of farm boys are wandering around doing their chores with a copy of the Rosetta Stone software in their hands? What do the makers of the software care? It's not their problem if all of Europe starves - just as long as they starve while talking to each other in a dozen different languages. Corporate greed, I tell you.
The ad also goes on to tell us about Rosetta Stone's Dynamic Immersion method ("Help! I'm drowning here!" "No, you're not. You're just dynamically immersed") which makes it "so effective that NASA, the U.S. State Department, and a variety of Fortune 500 executives have made it their language tool of choice." That's a lot of people with a yen for Italian Supermodels. How many of these supermodels are there anyway? Is there a way I can buy futures in them?
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this ad is side-splittingly funny or heart-breakingly touching in the original Italian and it just doesn't translate well. Maybe hardworking farm boys with the hots for Italian women are the fastest growing consumers of language software worldwide - which is why pitching this thing as a product for corporate use would be ineffective. Hell, maybe the reason I can't get a date is because I'm talking to women in English, when I should be wooing them in Esperanto. In qualche modo, non penso così.
 Which, given how most language learning sessions go, is probably something like "Excuse me, could you tell me the way to the railway station / airport / bus stop, please?"
 You could, of course, try the Love Actually approach - say completely random things in a language she doesn't understand, with a suitably soulful expression on your face "I try not to feed my cows hay that's more than a season old - it gives them the runs" can seem charming and lyrical if spoken with the right intonation.
 To be fair, the Rosetta Stone software is available in 30 languages. So it's not just Italian supermodels. It's also supermodels in Spain, France, Germany and Japan.