I saw this ad last night at the ferry terminal downtown. I have some questions, including "What?" and "Huh?" and "I'm sorry, what is happening?" Who made this? Who thinks "cancer" is a beautiful word? The only person I can think of who thinks cancers are beautiful is Dave Segal (rimshot!). I think of cancer as a "disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body" or "a practice or phenomenon perceived to be evil or destructive and hard to contain or eradicate," as the dictionary says. Maybe I'm just old-fashioned.
CHI Franciscan is a Catholic hospital—and, yes, I have a lot of problems with those—but anyway maybe the point is God made cancer so it must be beautiful, because everything God made is flawless? Am I on the right track, Jesus? Send me a sign.
Maybe a sign that's been copyedited? One of my other problems is the grammar. No, not the sentence fragments. Fine with fragments. Doesn't bug me. But I would argue that "cancer free" should be hyphenated (as "cancer-free") because it implies that what we're looking at is a cancer-free kayaker. Also, because hyphens often take the place of "of," so "cancer-free" also reads as "free of cancer." But "cancer free" reads like a box of free books that have been left out on the curb that says "books free." Here, take some free cancer!
If the hyphen was there, though, that opens up a box of other problems with the text below it, because it would make "Cancer free" one word (because hyphenates are grammatically considered one word) so then the fragment below that ("Two beautiful words") would need to be something like "One beautiful word" or "One beautiful phrase" or "A beautiful hyphenate," none of which sound good. And none of them have that nice internal rhyme ("Two" and "beau"). Even though they're more correct, in my opinion.
Yet my mind keeps circling back (like so many kayaks) to my first point: "cancer." A beautiful word? I don't know, is "Hezbollah" now considered a beautiful word? If we're talking pure sonic effects—sibilance, cadence, etc.—"cancer" doesn't hold a candle to "shigella" or "fibromyalgia" or "gonococcal urethritis."