Tuesday, October 28, 2003

What's the word for it?

5 years of working in Advertising has left me with a rather dubious legacy. I cannot walk down a road or enjoy a drive without taking in every single billboard, poster and handbill along the way. With clinical precision, the material is scanned, dissected and tossed into mental jars with labels, ‘passable’ ‘execrable’ and ‘guillotine the copywriter’. (That mental superiority is another unfortunate legacy.)

Last weekend, I added three rare gems to the collection (yes, the collection again!) They weren’t obvious howlers, the kind menu cards usually throw up. Rather, there was something deliciously subtle and startling about them.

I spotted the first one as I sprinted across a break in traffic on a busy intersection. A poster tacked to a wooden board in a shop announced: ‘FIREWORKS WITH A TOUCH OF CLASS’.

I paused to consider this. (A rather silly move when traffic is bearing down on you!) Was there a catch? A twist – as ad folks would say. Else, you’d have had to really run out of adjectives to use ‘class’ to extol fireworks. Or perhaps the manufacturers figured that all the good USP’s like Explosive, Dazzling and Spectacular were taken. Or just maybe, these fireworks found a genteel way to erupt, without the unholy row and wake of noxious fumes.

The second gem turned up in pamphlet thrust into my hand. ‘LOVELY CHICKEN AND EGGS’, it announced, in Helvetica Bold, Point Size 48. Pardon the adjective fixation, but Lovely??? Give me a Tasty Chicken, a Finger-lickin’ Chicken… heck, go for honesty and even admit, Stringy Chicken. But Lovely? By the time it has reached me, it’s a little too late to notice anyway. And do I even need to start on Lovely Eggs? Of course, there’s a certain possibility that the owner goes around by the name, Lovely. But we’ll leave that unspeakable parental cruelty for another blog.

I found the third one emblazoned in great, unabashed strokes on a wall. ‘WE TEACH ENGLISH SPEAKING LIKE A MOTHER TEACHES HER CHILD’. No iffy adjectives here, just one mind-boggling metaphor. Now, English isn’t quite handed down in maternal conversations in this country. And some of the English my mother used when prodding my thick skull wouldn’t exactly be found in the dictionary.

The mental jars now feature two new additions: Classy and Lovely. But I’m not quite sure where the last gem would go.

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