I have never understood why Circus Peanuts (orange, gooey, diabetic coma-inducing, peanut-shaped candy) are still available. I have never known anyone who actually likes this candy and I have asked everyone I know. So, Cecil, can you give me a little information about who invented this candy treat, why they are colored orange, and any other interesting tidbits you could provide.
--Margaret Husfelt, Houston, Texas
Cecil has mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's not like we're trying to put second-tier candy makers out of business. On the other hand, if you've sampled much Brand X candy, you can see why this stuff is no threat to Snickers. Based on our informal survey, consumer reaction to Circus Peanuts falls into three categories:
(1) Fear and loathing. Sample comments: "Ewwwww! I tried one once. It was like eating a dead finger." "They taste like they're stale even when they're fresh." "Like orange-flavored Styrofoam." "I think they are the horror that is the circus, that flat tin taste of fear and clowns and little lost children amid the cotton candy stink and the piles of elephant doo-doo and the clamor of the midway and the tinny sound of the circus band endlessly wheezing its way through yet another soulless circus fanfare." You get the idea. My assistant Jane found that the few stray Circus Peanut molecules escaping from an unopened package made her gag.
(2) Grudging acceptance. Sample comments: "Yeah, I like them. When they get hard enough you can use them for building material." "It wouldn't be my first pick, but if there was a bowlful at grandma's, I'd take a couple." Cecil personally falls into this category. Having done this job 25 years, I can put up with anything.
(3) Don't like 'em, but have an older/younger relative who thinks they're great. Sample comment: "The only reason I would buy them is for my nieces and nephews. I could have them in the house without temptation."
No one we heard from would admit to a personal enthusiasm for (as opposed to tolerance of) Circus Peanuts. Wait, I take that back. We did get this comment: "Circus Peanuts! Nature's perfect food!" But I wouldn't take that too seriously; the guy is obviously sick.
Despite a public response that can charitably be described as tepid, Circus Peanuts are available from several companies. In other words, people compete to sell them! So apparently what we've got here is a product that survives not because anybody is genuinely fond of it, but because less than 100 percent of the populace is totally repelled. Strange, but people have used the same principle to become president of the U.S.
Circus Peanuts are a traditional candy that's been around since the 19th century. Until the advent of polyethylene packaging in the 1940s they were sold in bulk at the penny-candy counter. For some reason they were considered a seasonal product, available chiefly in the spring. This might explain their somewhat dense consistency. If you're trying to sell a bulk candy that's going to be sitting in the bin for months, you want something with the shelf life of a brick.
What accounts for Circus Peanuts' unusual taste and appearance? Cecil found an answer in some publicity material from Spangler Candy, "a producer of superior Marshmallow Circus Peanuts." The following pretty much sums it up: "Over the years the best-selling item has been orange in color, banana in flavor, and peanut in shape."
MORE ON THE SEARS TOOL CATALOG
Regarding the Sears penis photo [November 21], I looked at your normal-size reproduction of the page and said, "Whoa! That dude's totally hangin'!" It seemed pretty obvious to me. But then I checked out your 200 percent enlargement, and much to my surprise, you were looking at the other guy! I don't see a damn thing on that dude. I've included a cropped shot of "guy B's" groin region, with an arrow pointing to the offending member. I don't know about the fellow you close-upped on, but this other guy is all head!
--Ron Spiegelhalter, Manchester, New Hampshire
Whatever you say, Ron. All I know is, I'd hate to be the one giving you the Rorschach test. Anybody interested in seeing Ron's picture plus the two we previously posted can check out the Straight Dope Web site at www.straightdope.com.
Is there something you need to get straight? Cecil Adams can deliver the Straight Dope on any topic. Write Cecil Adams at the Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611; E-mail him at email@example.com; or visit the Straight Dope area at America Online, keyword: Straight Dope.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Illustration by Slug Signorino.