Guard Your Words

The Purple Cow


I never saw a Purple Cow, I never hope to see one; But I can tell you, anyhow, I'd rather see than be one.

Chances are, if you have ever heard of a Purple Cow, it's because of the famous poem by Gelett Burgess (quoted above).  Burgess wrote this verse as a "blurb" (a word he invented) for a magazine he was launching.

The poem, the magazine, indeed Burgess' entire career was shaped by those four nonsense lines. In fact, a few years after the poem received so much notoriety, Burgess was already sick of the association.  He desperately wanted to write something MORE important - more famous (he never did).

Burgess tried to distance himself from the verse with this sequel:

Ah, yes! I wrote "Purple Cow" --- I'm Sorry, now, I Wrote it! But I can Tell you, Anyhow, I'll Kill you if you Quote it!

It's funny how words can take on a life of their own even if you're not a professional writer.

Every tweet, status update, and comment is subject to scrutiny and immortality.

Even though words come easily, they aren't necessarily light.

They fly out of the mouth, or into the email, or text and land with the receiver who may or may not pick up on one's "intention."   Sometimes the meaning is perfectly understood, but often it's not.

Try and remember this fact before you communicate ...  We don't get to choose which of our words stick.

Just ask the guy who invented the Purple Cow