Papa John Trifles
by DCDave

Has anyone taken particular note of the short, punchy three-line form of expression that the people at Papa John pizzas have turned into a slogan?

Better ingredients,
Better pizza,
Papa John.

I think it has the potential to be used poetically much like the Japanese use haiku, but the meter is such that it sits much better with the English ear. Maybe with practice one can recognize a haiku expression as soon as he hears it, but I almost always have to count the syllables to be sure, and that sort of spoils the appreciation of the thing. And how appropriate to America that someone on Madison Avenue would come up with this new form of literary expression instead of one of the pointy-headed crowd!

Now let's give it a small, poetic trial run:

The dogwoods are blooming;
The tax forms are sent;
Spring is here.


The smell of the lilacs,
The sound of your voice.
Let's hold hands.

Okay, so they're a little longer than the Papa John slogan, but they share the three lines and the descending number of syllables per line. This modest little art form needs a name, and because of its number of lines and its overall modesty we might play on words and call it a "Papa John trifle," or, if you will, a "DC Dave trifle," or just a "trifle" for short, and the context will show what you mean. Of course, if someone else can come up with a better name, I'm willing to listen.

Here's an almost "trifle," taught to me as a high school cheer by a native of the subject city:

We don't drink;
We don't smoke;

Last line's a little too short, I think. Let's try this one in a subject area with which I am most comfortable:

Best of intentions,
Worst of results,
Janet Reno.

Looks like too many syllables in the last line, but the beat is right so I'd say it works. Now how about:

Sham prosecutor,
Cover-up kid,
Kenneth Starr.

Now we're cooking. Here's one inspired by a tee-shirt I saw:

"So many interns,
So little time."
Bill's lament.

On a more serious and even more topical note we have:

The Serbs are intransigent;
Our troops can't go in.
Bombs away.

And finally, we have this warning of what can happen when you have complete control of the air but no other military advantage. It's Bernard Fall's summing up of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, the climactic siege of the French phase of the Indochina War, from his book, Hell in a Very Small Place.

Ten thousand prisoners,
Five thousand dead.
A lost war.

I would like to encourage others to try their hand at a "trifle" or two, or with whatever they might want to call it.

David Martin
April 22, 1999

p.s. Readers might have noticed that some years after I wrote this, Toyota came up with something of a Papa John copy-cat slogan, "More choices, better choices, Toyota."  (March 17, 2005)


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