copyright © 2001 Lee Moyer


By Lee Moyer


Shakespeare’s golden virgin Juliet, loving her enemy, declares "that which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet". But without a word how would it smell?

The Bible talks about another doomed lover- Adam.

Adam named the beasts:



Spiny Echidna


And by the act of naming, he separated himself from their lot and became their master. How much closer to God was he, than the dumb animals of his kingdom?

My wife and I were in England last year, and one thing became clear to us - that Americans have a way with words. For every Englishman who declares that "in America, they haven’t spoken English for years" there is an English street sign that says "Give Way" in place of "Yield".

"Yield" is much better. It’s 3 characters shorter. It’s a single word written on a single line. It can be identified by its shape. The British however, stick with "Give Way". They’ve seen the better choice, but are too stuck up and hidebound to use it.

What we do best in this country is read the signs, learn from mistakes, transcend tradition and make headway. What follows is Progress, and what follows Progress is Profits. It’s the American Way.

I’ve spent the last 4 years designing words and pictures that work online — thinking "outside the box". My company won awards for our fast-moving innovating upwardly-mobile selves.

Do you know what single trait it took to be a CEO in the Internet economy?



Before the bubble-economy burst, our best and brightest brought this country to the highest point in the history of history itself. We gained in science, industry, productivity and wealth. We made English the Lingua Franca around the world. Something the English were never able to do (despite Agincourt, the Raj and the Chunnel). The French aren’t too happy about it either.

Just last night, David Letterman helped me as I was writing this piece. He listed the Top 10 Words in the World. The Number 1 word in the world: Toyotathon

We invented and own the world’s top brands - Kleenex, Coke, McDonalds - words that somehow signify more than facial tissue, carbonated water, and fast food. They are specific, They are universal. They are valued. They allow us efficiency, community and commoditized commerce.

My years of innovating, thinking "outside the box" have been for naught. The bubble has burst, the worm has turned and as an Art Director I am unemployed. As a freelance illustrator I am underemployed. As a person I am depressed.


As an American and an avid Scrabble player, I can spell "Hubris".

And then I can move on.



Except I can’t.

Something unspeakable happened last month.

How can I describe?

It seems some people threatened innocent travelers and rerouted an airplane.

OK - a hijacking

But then these people replaced the pilot.

OK — an Ambitious Hijacking.

But then these people killed themselves and everybody else onboard by crashing the plane.

OK — an Ambitious Kamikaze Hijacking.

But there were at least 4 planes involved…

OK — a Really Ambitious Kamikaze Hijacking Conspiracy.

But they destroyed thousands of people and the buildings they hit largely through the application of surfeit jet fuel.

OK — a Really Ambitious Kamikaze Hijacking Arson Bombing Conspiracy.

Not OK.

Not even conceivable.



They say a picture is worth a 1000 words (In my Illustration practice, I tell my clients that a picture is really worth 2,500 words). We all sat speechless and watched the pictures replayed over and over, from every possible angle. The calming TV anchormen buckled under the weight and broke down on Mr. Letterman’s show just like we would. Speechless…


Some people claim that America has the finest PR machines in the world, and before last month I’d have believed them - We can’t even comprehend the global branding that we’ve gotten.


I finally realized one of the reasons that I was so shaken. I didn’t have a word for this thing. This … unspeakable … thing. It made me speechless for too long. So I spent days trying to think of a word.

Now that I finally have it, I can try to move on...

The trouble is, it’s not really specific enough. It doesn’t begin to suggest how "outside the box" this thing is, or how deep the sadness of the coming days will be, but it is a classic of its kind. Adam knew it-

The word is Evil.












"Toyotathon" debuted October 5, 2001.

Performed at Best of No Shame on November 15 & 16, 2001.

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