Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Invaluable E-mail!

A local camera shop e-mailed me info about its upcoming “Tent Sale & Cash For Cameras Event!” Having a couple of older cameras—two of them film cameras!—collecting dust around the house, I read on:

    KEH will be on site to evaluate and purchase working, used camera equipment for CASH!*

Ah, but of course: an asterisk, universal shorthand for “Not really.” Ordinarily one expects to see an asterisk after the word free, where its function is to transform the meaning of the word to “not free,” so naturally I wandered down to the excruciatingly fine print at the bottom of the message:

    *Cash for cameras items subject to appraisal and may not be purchased if deemed invaluable.

I confess to a momentary confusion there. Invaluable, after all, means valuable—in fact, it means really, really valuable. If my camera were “deemed invaluable,” why would the Tent Sale & Cash For Cameras Event! people not want to purchase it? You’d think they’d want to snap it right up!

The solution to this mystery might lie in this definition of invaluable that I found at

    in·valu·able adj valuable beyond estimation : PRICELESS [providing invaluable assistance]

An invaluable camera? Or a valueless one?
Well, there you have it! If my 30-year-old completely manual Canon TX should prove to be “deemed invaluable,” of course the Tent Sale & Cash For Cameras Event! people would have to decline to purchase it, since there is no way to estimate a fair price on something whose value is beyond estimation. It’s all so logical. Truly an invaluable piece of e-mail! Asterisk.

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