Choose Your Words Carefully

by David G. Thorne

It should be apparent to regular readers that Hexhamite adores words. Seeking new ways to express the mundane is a mission and a passion. Why call a spade a spade when you can call it a sturdy flat bladed excavator that can be pushed into the earth with the foot? I’ll take loquacious over humdrum every time. Verbosity over bland suits me fine thank you. Exploring the beauty, complexities and flexibility of old Mother Tongue is a journey of adventure and constant source of delight. Her abuse wounds me. 

Ergo, copywriting is a trade that is close to my heart – the use of words to promote a person, business, opinion or idea. It is skill and an art. Yet I recurrently find myself poring over adverts and notices and wondering if they were composed by a machine. Or perhaps a party of indolent primates hammering away at old typewriters in a back room somewhere?

I am bewildered by the profusion of pseudo-scientific claptrap, poor grammar and idiotically inappropriate use of words in the media. What exactly does “Pimp my Ride” mean? Or Bifidus Digestum? Or all those ridiculous made up ingredients in cosmetic products?

Queueing at the Xpress (No!!) checkout of my local greengrocer, Hexhamite muses that being au fait with language and grammar should rate highly on the list of requirements for a career in Marketing. Judging by the sign above the cash register this is transparently not the case. 

“Fifteen items or less” screams the sign. The grinding of my teeth is audible from three aisles away as I growl, “Fifteen items or fewer!” One or two dullards may look at me strangely, but unless His Holiness, Stephen Fry happens to be standing behind me with his weekly grocery shop, it is unlikely that anyone will understand my rancour. Bring back the Grammar Nazis!

A recent promotion in a local deep fried chicken outlet (the one with the bearded fellow on the logo) caught my eye. Cadbury’s Flake Avalanche Only 99p!

This is a tub of plain ice cream sprinkled with pieces of the well known erotic confectionery. Nothing remarkable in that. The carefully thought out small print made for interesting reading though – i.e. the rubbish that advertisers are compelled to append to their lies to fend off potential law suits. 

It read, “At participating restaurants only. Product and price may vary.” Are they serious? The first sentence is reasonable. Apart from the use of the term restaurant, that is. But the second?

How can the product and price possibly vary? Are they suggesting that I could be presented with a rubber boot and charged a shiny farthing? The promotion is for ice cream, with a flake topping, priced at 99p. If any of those criteria vary then logically it is a different promotion. 

Advertisers, think before you type! You haven’t got the brains to be clever – stick with the tried and tested “subject to availability.”

Language is my mistress, treat her courteously.

Comments are closed.