When it comes to effective messages, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand books by George Lakoff.

I’ll give you a perfect case of well-intentioned words getting trounced in the marketplace of ideas. You have to see this.

Now that you’ve had a good laugh…

The wolf-friendly sign (on the right) is classic. I went through all kinds of mental gymnastics to eke out a take-home message. Finally it dawned on me that the wolf itself is supposed to be “talking” about sport and survival.

But my favorite part by far was the word “ungulates.” Say what?! I had to look it up. It means “having hooves.”

I love that the other guy had apparently grabbed a felt pen and scrawled his counter punch on the lid of a cooler. For all the wrong reasons, the anti-wolf activist wins the war of words, tying his message to images, emotions, and concepts that are already firmly in our heads—even playing the race card.

In a way, the makeshift sign turns the wolf advocate’s glossy image into a mug shot on a “Wanted Dead or Alive” poster.

Mistakes were made, lessons learned.