14 December 2010

Really English.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking about the difficulties the French are having with the English language, which is really an unnecessary luxury best left to foreigners. But every marketeer and creative ad agency "artist" firmly believes that their message is cool and compelling only if it has some English words in it. Nobody told them that normal people see this as pathetic and pretentious.

So, suppose you are selling something profane like sweaters. If you are one of the aforementioned advertising droids, you'll come up with something like this, which I saw at a bus stop today (cropped from the full poster):

A cashmere is a goat that is really successful, I see. Boring. Let's put an English word in it to spice up the message. "Really" is the best victim because the sentence doesn't need it, better play it safe. And let's put it in quotes too, those French ones that look like double angle brackets, to make it absolutely clear that this is not a typo but intentional and a quote and you aren't supposed to understand it, keep going, there is nothing to see here.

Noticed the little asterisk after "really"? Asterisks are normally used in French cell phone contracts and mean "just kidding, this is all a beautiful lie, read the twenty pages of extremely fine all-caps print in light gray on white taped to the underside of the carpet in our Kuala Lumpur branch office". So let's go looking for the legal footnote. Yes, there it is, sideways in small print at the bottom left edge of the poster:

I can't tell you what the number means, probably printer's code for "if you are reading this you are a nerd". But vraiment is indeed the French word for really. You have to admire the earnest desire of the designer to be properly understood. I need a shower.

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