I vaguely recall one of my elementary school teachers admonishing her pupils not to mistake any advertising copy for real English. She feigned some emotion between horror and disgust as she told us that advertisers would spell the word “night” as “nite,” “right” as “rite,” etc. “Don’t be misled by language charlatans!” she cautioned. She was the authority we could trust. She was our language policewoman.
Spelling words to make them shorter is one type of sloppy language that seems to be getting worse with time, don’t U think? But shortcuts aside, I find myself slightly troubled by the tendency of speakers to simply put subject-related statements beside each other and hope that their juxtaposition lets them pass as a logical, perhaps even causative expression. When the Republicans tried to elect Kevin McCarthy as the leader of the House, he quickly became an embarrassment to them for just this kind of thing. He was only able to utter disconnected phrases, non-sequiturs that he hoped might be angry enough, stirring enough, that people trying to follow his line of thought would overlook a few logical disconnections and cheer him anyway. They didn’t. He was unceremoniously dumped.
There’s an ad on television these days that vexes the fussy Sheldon within me. The ad is for one-day dental implants. The ad itself is a well-produced ad, but the writing is atrocious because it makes no sense. Perhaps you’ve seen it. It starts by showing a fine-looking, older firefighter going about everyday activities around the fire station. He says, “I didn’t realize … how bad … my smile was…” I have a problem with that because if he didn’t realize that his smile was bad, what on earth ever prompted him to undertake a dental procedure that is so expensive it requires special financing? His opening comment has to be untrue since we know he went through the procedure. That’s the point of the ad!
Okay. Shrug. Don’t be so picky. Listen to what the man has to say.
Next up, he offers his proof that his smile was bad, even though he just finished claiming that he didn’t realize it to be so. He says, “…with fillings and root canals…” Bad writing again! Fillings can show up and look bad, that I grant, but root canals are not a cosmetic issue. Root canals don’t make your smile look bad. At this point in the ad the fellow is batting below 500 even though the outcome was tightly managed and predetermined.
Then he says that he considered alternatives like “dental plates and partial bridges.” If you don’t think about what is being claimed, phrases like this just slide over one’s mind and make an impression, but thinking about it reveals that there is no such thing as a partial bridge. There are full plates, partial plates and there are bridges. Imagine how ineffective a partial bridge might be in dentistry. What is that? Is it a bridge that is anchored on one end only? One that presents only half a tooth? I don’t know.
Why am I griping? Because, as a former television producer, I understand that impromptu speech can go astray. Even very bright people can produce awkward extemporaneous statements. Oh well, let’s be forgiving for awhile. But this is not impromptu speech. This is written and read script, presumably approved by someone, then recorded, edited and presented in order to sell something to the public. How did this ad ever make it to air? It would have been dead easy to write it properly. Who approved of the ad and who paid for it? Why did the client and producers think this was okay?
Oh well, that’s enough griping for me today. I have to go water my garden because I ate eggs for breakfast and my cleaning lady is not coming today. (???)