Forum: Luke Seemann05.01.98
Altoids offer more
than minty breath
The candy that has been a hit in England for 180 years is now causing quite a sensation here in the States.

Sadly, its legend may go the way of alligators in the sewer and men on Mars: fantastic stories once widely accepted as truth but ultimately proven as hoax.

I write, of course, of The Great Altoids Legend. As far as creating sparks in the dark goes, Altoids apparently trumps wintergreen Certs.

The legend is this: Altoids, the curiously strong mints, possess certain erotic powers. That is to say, the electric feeling that one feels in one's mouth after having an Altoid can be transferred to other things put in one's mouth.

This being a family newspaper, I can't elaborate on the particulars. But if you've got a good head, you know what I'm talking about.

According to reports on the Internet, an empty box of Altoids has become a desktop trophy in some offices. "Care for an Altoid?" is in some circles parsed as, "Busy later? Want to be?"

The Great Altoids Legend may just be oral folklore. It may be a mint of our imagination. Granted, it is a bit hard to swallow.

But, if true, it could go down as one of mankind's greatest discoveries.

Curiously strong, indeed!

When wind of a story like this falls in a writer's lap, so to speak, research is called for. I present my findings:

Exhibit A: In England, Altoids -- described by one American fan as "deliciously clean and long-lasting" -- won the 1989 "Queen's Award to Industry."

Exhibit B: On the Jan. 15 episode of "Seinfeld," Jerry's girlfriend-of-the-Thursday was prominently seen taking a box of Altoids from her purse.

There is no reasonable explanation for why Altoids was mentioned.

Jerry makes $1 million an episode: He has no need for tacky product placements. There is no explanation for the Altoids' presence, other than that it showed that Jerry -- and his girlfriend -- is a believer.

Exhibit C: For a while there were two kinds of boxed candies displayed on the counter of the Norris Center convenience store. One was Valentine's Day candy, the heart-shaped variety with messages like "Be Mine" and a chalky taste. Its neighbor -- a natural companion, perhaps -- was Altoids.

What a great, affordable gift. Never have men been so eager to receive candy for Valentine's Day. Who knows: Perhaps women will add it to their wish list, too. Everyone can get in on the act!

I called Altoids to see if I could get a blow-by-blow account of how the legend came to be.

"I already know what you're going to ask, but ask it anyway," said Jon Lyon, an Altoids spokesman. I proceeded with appropriate discretion.

Although he couldn't confirm the legend's accuracy, Lyon said that he's been aware of it for several months, but he had no idea how it got started. I was hardly the first reporter to have called.

"All we can really say is, it's certainly not the intended use of the product," he said. "We really have no other position on it."

Clearly, then, more study is called for. I expect members of the NU research community to be on the job soon.

I'm sure it's something they'll be able to sink their teeth into.

-Luke Seemann is a Medill senior. He can be reached at [email protected].

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