They were two unlikely words that launched the world on a quarter-century encounter with circular pasta, tomato sauce and tin cans.
A true marketing coup - a concept and a food at the same time. SpaghettiOs, a staple food for generations of young noodle sluicers, turn 25 this year.
Like electricity, the dripless faucet and Parcheesi, the cutesy noodle buttons were born of necessity, in the mind of an inventor.
His name is Donald E. Goerke, and he recently retired from a 35-year career with the Campbell Soup Co., the New Jersey food giant that also produces the Franco-American line of canned pasta products.
That line was flat in the mid-'60s, when young Goerke rose to a marketing management position. The Wisconsin native was a 10-year soup marketing veteran in 1965 when the company's Canned Pasta Dilemma fell from the great corporate above and splatted on his desk.
``We were looking for ways to add excitement'' to an uninteresting product line, he said.
Goerke surmised that the major munchers of canned pasta were kids, who snoozed at the sight of standard spaghetti. What we need is a new noodle, he decided.
Out went the long, stringy shape. In came ``a whole raft of other ideas,'' he recalled. ``We had just tons of them - cowboys, Indians, space shapes, sports shapes - you name it.''
Chortle if you will, but this was a big decision, one Goerke and his noodlemates wrestled with for some time. Then, in one serendipitous moment that would forever change the shape of stains on kids' bibs, a light bulb went on in Donald Goerke's head.
It was round.
``I was the one who finally said, `Enough already! We're gonna do something that's simple.' ''
Excitement was one thing, potentially unidentifiable noodle blobs were another, he figured.
``I told everyone I thought there was enough excitement just in the idea of turning spaghetti strands into Os. So we went with that.
``It was a combination of the appeal of the O shapes to kids, plus the convenience to mothers,'' Goerke said.
SpaghettiOs stayed on a spoon. And off the floor, the walls, the dog . . .
``They were instantly successful.''
They still are. The Campbell's people figure that every day, the world sucks down more than 339,000 pounds - about 170 tons - of SpaghettiOs.
The company now has seven varieties of the noodles, the latest being TeddyOs and SportyOs, introduced last year. Yet on its 25th anniversary, the original product itself has changed little. Same 15-ounce can, same noodleOs (four different sizes, about 1,750 per can), same ingredients.
Same red-on-white label, with two SpaghettiOs forming a pair of eyes above a goofy smile with a tongue sticking out. The label was designed by the Leo Burnett ad agency, which also developed the noodles' slogan (``the neatest invention since the napkin'') and catchy theme song, sung by Jimmy Rogers:
``It's the neat, new spaghetti
you can eat with a spoon
Goerke went on to other soup
UH-OHX XUH-OHX Xsuccesses. He introduced Campbell's Chunky Soup after surveys showed some buyers didn't appreciate watery stock. Chunky Soup became even more profitable than SpaghettiOs.
All told, Goerke is credited with products earning more than $500 million in Campbell's sales.
Today, when he walks through supermarkets, many heavily stocked with specialty items, Goerke still sees the SpaghettiOs face smiling back at him.
``You obviously have a feeling of accomplishment,'' he said. ``Over the course of a career, you don't really think about those things. They're hot at the time, then you're off on something else. Then, all the sudden, hey, by God, I'm the Father of SpaghettiOs.
``When you become the father of something, it's time to get out.''
Goerke now offers his advice for a fee to other food companies. His consulting business has given his creative side new energy, he said.
Right now, for instance, Goerke has an idea for a brand new food product.
He won't say what it is.
But he says he knows whose hands to put it in.
In fact, he said, ``I just may just do that.''