Picture the scene- a businessman walks on to the set of reality TV show Dragon’s Den (which, would you believe, originated in Japan as Manē no Tora?). He sets a briefcase down on a black leather stool, adjusts his necktie and, staring the affluent entrepreneurs straight in the eye, confidently proclaims:

“Dragons, I am here today to present to you a marvel of modern technology. The pinnacle of human engineering. Never before has humankind witnessed such a feat of industry. I am about to present to you… a notebook computer thinner than a single one yen coin!”

The dragons look at one-another in awed silence. All five of them lean forward in their seats.

“Thinner than a coin?? That’s incredible!” splutters one of the millionaires, his hungry eyes flashing.

The businessman clears his throat, the confidence suddenly draining from his voice quicker than the blood from his face.

“Well…” he stutters, “when I say ‘thinner than a one yen coin;’ I mean… if, you know, you stand the coin up on its edge.” <cough>

The dragons laugh; the businessman breaks into a sweat, has an asthma attack, and promptly leaves.

Japanese electronics giant Toshiba Corporation is that unfortunate businessman.

Already making headlines on internet forums and tech websites, Toshiba’s advertising campaign, heralding the arrival of a new laptop computer “as thin as a one yen coin!” has been met with jibes and laughter as, it turns out, the company meant “a computer as thin as a one yen coin is tall”.

Photos of the ad, taken from the top page of the company’s own e-zine, surfaced late last week, and were promptly met with responses ranging from “hilarious” to “what trickery is this, wizard?”

It would seem that, to most people’s minds, the concept of “as thin as a single coin” conjures images of a coin lying flat, rather than being stood on its edge. Suggesting that something is “as thin as a sheet of paper”, then revealing that the paper has first to be balanced on its side, thus measuring about six inches in height, might garner a similar response…

Let’s take a look at some of the commenters’ highlights in response to Toshiba’s “thinner than a one yen coin” claim:

“Yikes; I didn’t see that one coming…”

“Oooh, you mean standing up thin?? Oh, OK…”

“Hey now; not so fast there…”

“I don’t think I could possibly feel any more swindled, haha”

“Oh, you sly fox, you!”

“I don’t think you’re quite understanding the expression, guys…”

“Haha, no that’s not quite right!”

“Come on, now, don’t take the piss…”

If we’re talking about “thinness”, it would be perfectly natural to expect to discuss the two objects being compared in terms of their relative thinness, not the thinness of one and the height of another. If we’re going to start mixing things up- “Jeff is as tall as a London bus, once laid on its side…”, for example- things might get a little confusing!

But let’s forgive Toshiba for this piece of cheeky advertising. A computer being thinner than-a-one-yen-coin-is-taller-when-stood-on-its-edge <phew> is still pretty slim, after all.

That being said, upon comparing our own RocketNews24 team’s laptops to a one yen coin, it would seem that some other companies, Samsung (top) and Sony (bottom) may have already beaten Toshiba to the punch…

[ Read in Japanese ]