[SOUNDSTAGE!] Doug Schneider is the Publisher of SoundStage!
Please send comments to
Monthly Editorial by Doug Schneider
April 1998

New York Mu-phoes

Around the corner and down the street from where I live, there is an excellent little store with a fabulous magazine section that I frequent often. In fact, I am in there so much that I have come to know the owners fairly well. As a result, they let me browse through all the magazines I want -- free of charge. It’s much like the Internet in that regard, and I appreciate it. In exchange for their courtesy I make sure I compensate them by making all my lottery-ticket and small food purchases there.

The owners are a husband and wife who alternate shifts to make up the entire work day. They are a friendly couple who get to know their clientele well. They do well at this business, despite not being from Canada or having English as their native language. You would never know that they only began speaking English a couple years ago because their command of the language is much better than that of many at the university down the street. Still, a few words slip them up on occasion.

It was another night like many others, and I was scanning through all of the current month’s audio magazines. Then, like other times, the wife spoke up to ask me to translate a word that had given her problems for some time.

"Doug," she started, "what is a mu-foe?"

"A mu-foe?" I replied. She had me on this one. Still I wanted to know more because it certainly was a strange word, and I wanted to find out what it is.

"That’s with an M, right?"

She nodded in agreement.

"Is that a P-H or an F in the middle?"

"P-H," she quickly responded.

I stared at the ceiling and twisted my mouth in thought when she added, "and they’re from New York too!"

"New York?" Now I was confused.

"Yes," she said. "They are New York Mu-phoes."

Finally I said what I should have said at the beginning. "Where exactly did you see this word?"

"On those magazines, the ones on the top shelf in the back. The ones where the women have no shame. They talk about the Mu-phoes every month."

Uh yes, a quick look revealed exactly what she was talking about. There they were, a whole line of some of the world’s finest in gentlemen’s reading peeking over from the back of the shelf, all clothed in cellophane. On more than half of the magazines the New York Mu-PHOeS were emblazened in banner type -- engaged in "Hot-Three-Way Action," "Ready and Willing" and many other things that would not be described as loving acts. Captions guaranteed to sell more issues than all of the audio magazines combined.

I turned back to the store owner and began to explain. After she overcame her brief exercise in redness she understood perfectly what was being discussed in these magazines. Suddenly, it all made sense.

I too learned something that day -- a single word out of thousands of words can send a person into a state of confusion. A single word that’s misunderstood or misinterpreted, regardless of what the rest of the words convey, can send a person in the wrong direction.

Such was the case of a reader who wrote to me angry over a single word in one of our articles. He had interpreted the word in a very negative way, while our writer had different intentions. In fact, our writer was being very complimentary toward the product discussed. Prior to publication I knew the writer’s viewpoint on the product, so when I read his copy, I took it as being complimentary too. The message this reader got sure wasn’t what we intended.

Regardless, incidents like these have taught me plenty about getting feedback. Product reviews are serious business, and it is vitally important that we get the exact wording and tone of the review across properly so there is no room for error. So for some time now at SoundStage! we have made it a formal practice that reviews go through several stages of editing. We not only want to clean out any errors (although a few always slip through), we also want to ensure that the message is getting across clearly and properly from person to person -- that it is exactly as intended. Still, it doesn’t always happen.

"Communication," one professor defined to me, "is the transmission of understanding." Meaning? It’s not the method that matters, but rather the result. If both people have a clear and consistent understanding, regardless of the method, communication has resulted. It’s also a two-way street. We need to hear if we’re getting across to our readers properly.

So whenever you read a review, keep in mind that we enjoy getting your feedback. Was the article well written? Interesting? Did it give you a thorough understanding of the writer’s perception of the product? Answering these questions, and others, is exactly why you will always find our email addresses published along with our work. Don’t be afraid to use them -- whether you’re from New York or not.

Copyright 1998 SoundStage!
All Rights Reserved