Ban this Phrase: Not Available in All States

With apologies to Billy Mays, why do advertisers and marketers use the phrase “Not Available in All States”? This phrase, submitted by a reader, has the total opposite meaning than what it should have and has to be one of the stupidest phrases devised by marketers and businesses, and no doubt lawyers as well, since all the states became the United States.

Now wait! Before this article is over, YOU WILL WANT TO KNOW what to do about this! SO STAY TUNED! Everyone, EVERYONE, WILL NEED THIS INFORMATION TO ORDER!

If one is selling a widget, gadget, doodad or geegaw, one would assume said widget, gadget, doodad or geegaw would be available everywhere possible to maximize sales. Hucksters all over the media—TV, web, newspapers, radio, magazines (did I miss any?)—constantly try to sell you widgets, gadgets, doodads and geegaws. Widgets you need. Gadgets you didn’t know you need. Doodads you really don’t need but wish you did need. Geegaws galore. Things, in some cases, not available in all states.

So, how are you supposed to buy this thingy YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE if, as it’s advertised, it’s not available in all states? From Alabama to Wisconsin, Hawaii to New York, Minnesota to Texas, Alaska to Florida, Maine to California—no matter how you slice it, dice it or DOUBLE-THE-ORDER-FOR-FREE twice it—you just can’t get this gadget you’re now absolutely convinced YOU MUST HAVE. Why? Well, because the marketer who wants you to buy this contraption is also telling you it’s “not available in all states.” Not available in all states means just that: IT’S NOT AVAILABLE IN ALL THE STATES, IT’S NOT AVAILABLE IN ANY STATE, IT’S NOT AVAILABLE ANYWHERE.

So, how are you supposed to buy the hoojamajigger if it’s not available?

Lawyers would no doubt quibble that the lack of “the” before “states” makes it more than clear. Really? Have you ever read a legal brief? How about “Not available in all of the states.” No, that doesn’t work either, as this phrasing, too, is still a negative of the whole.


Lawyers would also say that residents of Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia could order the doohickey since those states call themselves commonwealths. Ah, a technicality. A loop hole. But no. Commonwealth originally meant state, and still does, therefore the two words are interchangeable, even though commonwealth has a more traditional, old English/British tone. (Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia I can understand an old English/British tone, but Kentucky?)

And for those saying they’ll move to Puerto Rico to be able to buy the MUST-HAVE thingy OF THE CENTURY, forget it. It’s also classified as a commonwealth, even though it isn’t a state. Yet. Those lawyers. Heh. Go figure.

Of course, some would say that I’m quibbling on all this as well. Perhaps. But in cases (please excuse the legal pun) such as this, I must get involved. That’s my job. I’m a word geek.

I will concede, grammatically and legally, that people living and/or working in Washington, D.C, our nation’s capital and neither a state nor a commonwealth, can buy the whatchamacallit that is not available in all states. Lucky dogs.

MARKETERS, HUCKSTERS, BUSINESSES, ADVERTISERS, AND TELEVANGELISTS—LISTEN UP: Perhaps you should change the wording to “Not Available in Some States”; I’m sure that would satisfy the lawyers, not to mention the grammarians.

Sorry, Billy. “Not available in all states” IS BANNED. May it REST IN PEACE.

Of course, you can always order the damn thingamabob in Canada. They have provinces there.


Ban this Phrase: Out of the Box

Ban this Word: Allegedly

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