Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Posts Tagged ‘advertising copy

Deceptively drinkable

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Tanglefoot, from Badger Brewery (they don't br...

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes words are deceptive and sometimes beer is drinkable. Badger beer is both: its label proudly proclaims it is ‘deceptively drinkable’. I tried a sip or two and can report that it most definitely is. Of course, you still don’t know whether to buy any because as Oxford Dictionaries explains, deceptively is a deceptive word having two opposite meanings:

  •  to a greater extent than appears; or
  • to a lesser extent than appears.

I’ve discussed the confusion that can arise from use of the word ‘deceptively’ in a previous post which you can read for free. But please note I may send you an invoice as the phone company Orange has apparently changed the definition of ‘free’ to mean ‘we’ll trouser your money’ and I have decided to follow its example. A prominent advertising poster recently spotted at an Orange phone shop simply reads:

Now free from £10.50 a month

A classic piece of Orwellian doublethink, methinks.

All this talk of beer and Orwell reminds me of a wonderful piece the author wrote for the Evening Standard in 1946 about his ideal pub, the poetically named Moon Under Water, in which ‘…everything has the solid, comfortable ugliness of the nineteenth century‘. Unlike most pubs, Orwell explains, the Moon Under Water ‘…sells tobacco as well as cigarettes, and it also sells aspirins and stamps, and is obliging about letting you use the telephone’

For free at a reasonable cost, I hope.

 More on alcohol-related wordsmithing


Written by Wordwatch

04/01/2012 at 5:09 pm

In the line of fire: advertising copy

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Newcastle Brown Ale

Image by NorthwestBeerGuide via Flickr

Today, I have in my sights:

  • The line of fire (and clichés)
  • Advertising copy (again)

First up: the line of fire. Enter Guy Keleny of The Independent who recently pointed this out in his newspaper’s corrections column:

Cliché of the week: We have here one of those over-familiar usages that people get wrong because they don’t know its original meaning:

Anyone with a heart is going to side with, say, hungry African children rather than Barclays’ well-paid traders – or the billionaires at Glencore, also in the firing line in recent days.

A firing line is found on a rifle range. It is the line where the shooters line up to fire. Someone who is in a position to be hit by gunfire — the metaphorical plight of the Glencore people — is not in the firing line but in the line of fire.

Which brings me to (it doesn’t really, but I can’t think of a link):

Ale and cidre

Yes, cidre. That’s French for cider. I know; you knew that.

Stella Artois’ advertising copywriters of choice came up with the following copy for its latest product, cider. Sorry, cidre:


Here’s the online ad. (Note the incorrect use of ‘complimented’ as opposed to ‘complemented’.)

But, um, the product is clearly labelled ‘Belgian cider’. (Nobody spotted that?)

Can I come up with anything better, I hear you ask? Well, *chews pencil for two seconds* why not:

Cidre: Cider re-invented.

Not brilliant, but that’s the idea they’re trying to get across. Those arty people could fancy up the ‘re’ bits in ‘cidre’ and ‘re-invented’ to underline the play on words — you get the picture.

There’s more:

Here’s the latest advertising copy being used to entice ‘urban-dwelling males’ to drink Newcastle Brown Ale (look away now if you’re feeling fragile):

The one and only drink that delivers refreshmentaste

The one and only drink that delivers flavourefreshment

‘Refreshmentaste’ is too horrible to talk about. I studied the second one for about ten minutes before I worked it out, not helped by the fact that the ad’s written in capital letters (shield your eyes): FLAVOUREFRESHMENT. I kept reading it as ‘flavour freshment’. (Maybe that’s just me.)

The aim, as quoted in The Grocer magazine, is tohighlight the drink’s win:win ability to refresh like a lager while delivering the satisfying flavours and taste of an ale’.

It’s enough to drive you to drink. Oh, wait …


Here’s some amusement to take your mind off the fact that someone trousered a considerable amount of dosh (while admiring an eminent person’s new clothes) to come up with the word ‘refreshmentaste’:

A menu translation noted in The Times a while back:

Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

Crisp copy




The past might be the future (and sophistry)

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Pilate Washing His Hands, Girolamo Romani

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes, I’m three times as thick.

Just let that sentence wash over you for a moment; I’ll come back to it.

In the meantime, to explain my recent triple thickness, I couldn’t answer the following question:

The past tense in English always refers to the past. True or false?

The question arose as part of a course on teaching English as a foreign language. My answer (‘Yes, occasionally. Tea, anyone?’) didn’t quite pass the mustard.

The correct answer, you may be surprised to learn, is ‘false’. Look at the following sentence:

If I won the lottery, I’d never work again.

‘Won’ is obviously the past tense of ‘win’, but the sentence isn’t referring to something that has happened in the past (the speaker or writer hasn’t won the lottery).

In this case, the past tense of the verb ‘win’ is doing another job; it is being used (correctly) to imagine something that might happen in the future.

(To be technical, sentences containing clauses such as ‘If I won the lottery’ are given the grammatical label ‘conditional’.)

Three times as thick as…

Ah, yes, you spotted the fatal flaw in my opening sentence. To wit, it is meaningless. This came up because the following claim is emblazoned across a bottle of Carex hand wash I recently bought:

3X faster germ kill

Leaving aside the inelegant phraseology, the question left hanging is, of course, three times faster than what? A freight train? I had to scrutinise the back of the bottle with an extra-strength magnifier to discover that the product now works three times faster ‘than our previous hand wash’. Oh, I see, as fast as that. Is that fast?

Such sophistry really gets my goat, and so I have duly (and politely) emailed the good burgers of Carex (twice, because my first email was ignored, no idea why) to ask for some specific ‘germ kill’ timescales.

If I received a reply, I’d be very surprised. (<<< See what I did there?)

More tense talking

Crisp copy?

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A pack of Walkers Salt & Vinegar potato crisps...

So, I’m sitting in my garden drinking cold beer and eating crisps (classy, I know) in the unusual heat of an English summer day; I can’t be bothered to drag my carcass inside to get a book, so I start to read the crisp packet instead.

Well, hello there you copywriting people at Walkers.

According to the message emblazoned across the front of the bag, I am eating crisps ‘made with real ingredients’. That’s reassuring, seeing as how I’ve already consumed half the packet.

Is it possible to get crisps made from ‘unreal ingredients’? Virtual ingredients, perhaps.

The message on the reverse of the packet is slightly less gung-ho and I’m sensing some backtracking. Now I find that the potatoes with which my crisps have been made (Lady Rosetta and Saturna if you must know) are merely ‘infused’ with the aforementioned real ingredients. And I don’t want to go on, but now I’m reading that the potato/infusion thing means that the crisps ‘deliver a uniquely mysterious and deliciously irresistible taste discovery’.

I’m not sure I want to eat something ‘uniquely mysterious’. And see how the copywriter got to ‘taste’ there and just couldn’t leave it alone.

I should have got a book.


Plain language tips

Written by Wordwatch

02/07/2010 at 7:22 am

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