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And the words flowed like … porridge March 12, 2009

Posted by Rambling Man in General Bloggery, Ireland & the Irish.

So as part of my job I have to do a bit of proofreading and editing and so forth … and it can be a tiresome task ! That’s putting it mildly !

So it is with great disdain that I see the deterioration of the English language on displays, billboards, packaging and so on … not only in terms of spelling, grammar and writing (niteclub being my personal non-favourite) but also in terms of semantics … what the hell does half of it mean !

It appears that the more wordy, stuffy and highfalutin the better !  Meaning – no need for it !   Brevity – no need for it !  Get straight to the point – ah come on now !

Hereunder are some of my favourites:

– “Carved ham” – the type you get in packets in the supermarket … isn’t all ham carved or cut in some way before it gets to the mouth ?  Unless you get served a bit, fat lump of meat that has had no processing …

– “Purpose built apartments” – I know !  Let’s build these apartments specifically to be … erm … apartments !!

– “Selected potatoes” – seen recently on a bag of spuds from Tesco !  Let’s see now – yes, take that one there … mmm…  but not that one … those two look OK !  It’s a wonder there aren’t thousands of spud selector jobs being created !

– “No Added Sugar” – my personal favourite – nobody can tell me exactly what it means – my best guess is that it means there is no extra sugar added to the sugar that the product already contains !

Do these fellas who sit there thinking up the slogans and branding for the various products think that we are stupid enough to go for the “lovingly carved roast beef” labels or are more likely to buy a “purpose built” apartment than one say, that was just plain built !

Why use one sentence or phrase when 4 will do nicely !!



1. Reggie - May 8, 2009

Very, very funny!

Are you collecting some of the gems you encounter in the course of your editing? There’s sure to be a book in there… perhaps not a big fat multi-volume edition, but give it time, give it time.

I am an editor and proofreader myself, freelance. Whereas you seem to be active in the murky world of advertising, I work on university students’ Masters and Doctoral theses. I am frequently astounded at the quality of the writing. Er… lack of quality, I mean.

One would think that someone who is intelligent enough to make it through high school, to get marks high enough to qualify for university entrance, and then to survive three-four-five years of undergraduate study as well as one-two years of postgraduate study – with the obligation to write exams, technical reports, essays and mini-dissertations en route – would have mastered the basics of essay composition by the time they give me a draft of their thesis.

The ones who *really* make me mad are those clever whatsits who send me their cut-and-pasted-from-the-internet plagiarism-riddled multi-page documents. I ctrl-c a phrase that they definitely could not have written, paste it into Google, click ‘search’, and then find they’ve copied entire paragraphs from somewhere without acknowledging the real author!

And then they have the gall to say, “Oh, but I thought that you would fix it up for me?” “Fix it up, yeah, but don’t flippin’ plagiarise and don’t expect me to put your argument into a logical sequence for you! Or to WRITE your diggedy thesis for you!”

Sorry about that… got carried away… They’re not ALL bad, mind you. I just wish I’d kept track of the truly hilarious gems I’ve come across through the years.

Rambling Man - May 9, 2009

Reggie you obvously share my disdain for lazy penmanship (keyboardship ?) … there are some whoppers in my time and myself and my colleagues regularly recoil at something we’ve been asked to publish ! Have you heard of the 4 As society ? It’s the Association for the Abolition of Aberrant Apostrpohe’s ! (ooops)

Reggie - May 9, 2009

Yes indeed, I do (share your disdain, that is). I’ve never heard of the 4 As Society (errr.. not sure, but should that be 4 A’s? ;-P) , but do sign me up for membership!

Rambling Man - May 10, 2009

naaah i think there’s no apostrophe in that one. If you substitute the letter A for a noun, like ‘dog’ then it wouldn’t be the ‘Society of the 4 Dog’s’ … no apostrophes with plurals … but is what I wrote technically a plural – 4 As ?? good one ….

Reggie - May 10, 2009

Gawd, it’s enough to make one’s head spin.

Well, if you use dogs instead, then, yes, it should be “The Society of the Four Dogs” – or “The Four Dogs’ Society”.

So does that then mean that it should be “The Society of the Four As” without an apostrophe – or “The Four As’ Society”?

My usual fount of knowledge on the idiosyncrasies and absurdities of English grammar – Graham King’s “Good Writing Guide: The Essential Guide to Good Writing” (Collins) – is alarmingly silent on the matter. But perhaps it’s outdated (it’s the 2003 reprint) – or, perhaps more likely, he didn’t break his noggin’ about it. 😉

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