Take two UN-ASPIRIN® and call me in the morning.

POSTED BY John Rousseau on May 27, 2009

I have a small packet of acetaminophen (the common pain reliever popularly known by the brand name Tylenol?) that has been on my desk for several months now—awaiting a sudden headache, fever or sufficient motivation to write about this semantic enigma. I haven’t experienced either of the first two, so here we are.

Zee Medical, recognizable for the common white and green first aid kits seen in workplaces everywhere, makes the product shown above. According to their web site, Zee is “North America's #1 van-based provider of occupational first aid and safety products, training and services.” I would never have guessed that a large medical supply company is apparently based in a van (down by the river?) or that maintaining an office first aid kit requires regular delivery service like drinking water or organic produce. Yet, since conducting this informal research, I now rest easy knowing that more gauze is somewhere—in a van—on the way.

I’ve shown this little packet to a few people, who are generally amused and/or puzzled by my enthusiasm for its contradictions. The exchange goes something like this:

Look at this.

Where did that come from?

The first aid kit.

We have a first aid kit?

In the kitchen.

Look at the name. It starts with “UN” and only describes what isn’t in the package—which could be anything except aspirin.

Which is doubly clear, because “contains no aspirin” is printed below the large all-caps type that reads ASPIRIN.

And it’s even trademarked—because you can’t be too careful with a name like “UN-ASPIRIN?.”


Don’t get me started on “extra-strength.”

WRITTEN BY John Rousseau

Add a comment