On March 3, the town board of Huntington, New York took decisive action to maintain public order by banning the sale of Silly String within 1,500 feet of a parade route. It joined several other U.S. communities in doing so.
Dangerous times call for drastic measures, ladies and gentlemen.
Silly String, originally known as "Foamable Resinous Composition," which I think is also an early Pink Floyd song, is a liquid sprayed from a can that comes out in string form "because of the structural properties of the plasticized resin" in the liquid. (That's from the patent.) Basically, a skin forms on the outside of the spray when the stuff hits the air, and this keeps the contents in a relatively stringy shape. (That's not from the patent. I don't think patents use the word "stuff" very often.) More technically, it's this:
(I'm sure there's a reason why that last sentence can't say, "Such a combination is substantially silly," but this is not really my field.) The Huntington experience suggests, however, that Cox et al. underestimated the tackiness of their resinous composition. The board's measure, which passed 4-1, was apparently prompted by concerns that the string can damage the paint on city vehicles.
Those were the concerns raised by 80-year-old Ruth Fahlbusch, one of three citizens who showed up at the board meeting (and appear in the website's video clip). "It's gotten out of hand," Fahlbusch cried. "It's not only the children and the teenagers, it's adults. I really want the town to ban the use of Silly String. It really ruins a parade." (Fahlbusch then loudly announced that she had fallen, and could not get up.) At the other end of the spectrum, 18-year-old Jessica Schulz, who obviously doesn't care about western civilization, said people shouldn't spray Silly String at vehicles, but otherwise "it should be fine."
The only board member to vote against the ban, Mark Cuthbertson, did not think the ban would be effective and feared it would put the city on a slippery slope. "I don't know where you draw the line," he said. "Do you ban whipped cream next? Or toilet paper? I just don't see this as an area into which we should delve." I think we can all agree that banning toilet paper is not an area into which they should delve.
"We certainly don't want to ban Silly String totally," said the town supervisor, Frank Petrone. According to the report, Petrone said he was "hoping residents take it upon themselves to use Silly String responsibly," but there was no indication that he suggested how anyone could actually do that.
In other ridiculous Silly String news, reports in 2006 and 2007 said that U.S. troops were using the product to help find tripwires set up as bomb triggers, but that they were having trouble getting enough of it. A New Jersey family that collected over 80,000 cans for the troops was not allowed to send it for many months because the product, which of course is an aerosol, was considered too dangerous to ship.