How Marketing Devalues Language

I received an email from Amazon the other day which informed me: “We’re sorry to report that the delivery of your order will take 1 working day longer than originally estimated due to a delay at our Fulfillment Centre.” [copy-and-pasted to include spelling and punctuation poverty]

To be honest, I don’t even remember trying to order fulfilment from Amazon. I just hope that there isn’t an associated delay on their deliveries of my self-esteem and inner-peace.

This is just one example of how language everywhere gets abused and twisted by marketing bods, and it actually devalues words in an attempt to make everything seem more impressive. Ultra always used to mean extreme, now it merely refers to washing powder or toothpaste, neither of which are particularly radical. Ultimate means the last, the final, the literal omega in the field of brand promotion and yet – god help us – it never is.

Increasingly, one will see signs outside pubs or cafés that read “Try our Famous Fish and Chips”. Now, whilst I am all too aware that the currency of fame has been widely devalued in recent years, the only famous fish that I can think of is Nemo, and I have reason to believe that he was only a cartoon character and certainly didn’t end up being deep-fried and served up with reconstituted mash.

Indeed, food and fast-food (so called, presumably, because it is the nutritional equivalent of starving oneself) frequently take wild liberties with the meanings of words. One major high street presence offers a stomach-quieter which they refer to as the Chicken Legend, which seems to exist outside of my rudimentary knowledge of folklore and mythology. Mind you, since a legend is a story based on hearsay with little but anecdotal evidence to support its claims, it’s possible that they are merely underlining the fact that the provenance of the ‘meat’ in question is unverifiable. It’s nice to see a bit of honesty for once.

Perhaps the classic example of the misuse of terminology in marketing is the word classic. Classic is a term which refers to the highest quality, a standard to aspire to, a definitive model or – in literature, music and art – something of historical value which has endured the ages. Precisely how this can be applied to a hamburger or to something which features a drum machine has yet to be satisfactorily explained.

Of course, marketing always tries to promote its product as the latest, the greatest, the absolute pinnacle of possessions – and never more so than when trying to plug the divisive devices with which we are encouraged to fill our lives to compensate ourselves for the solitude which they have instilled in us. Still, in this age of economic austerity, when everybody is having to tighten their purse-strings and look for savings, perhaps we will see a move away from this obsession with consumption. For years, fashion writers have been telling us that “red is the new black,” “big is the new small” and other such nonsense – well, as reusing, recycling and repairing become a necessity, mayhap perspectives will change. Imagine the economising slogan: “Old is the new new” – advertising language will collapse in upon itself, like matter meeting anti-matter, and marketing may cease to be forever, leaving only a distant background hum and an occasional discount offer. Ah, I can but dream.

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About Fles

Early middle-aged (oh yes I am!), no longer long-haired but still speccy and decidedly still an increasingly opinionated git. I’m basically a believer in individualism, that everybody has their own perspective and inner-beauty. I try to find humour in every situation. I enjoy reading and writing poetry.
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One Response to How Marketing Devalues Language

  1. Menelaus says:

    You forgot to mention the seemingly ubiquitous “best in the world – EVER!”

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