Experiments in Chaos—Failures from April 24, 2015

Today's topic is Americans for Whom English is a Second Language. And I'm not talking about the ones who did poorly at school, either. I'm talking, more or less, about Madison Avenue. I say "more or less" solely to keep my options open, sue me if the whole thing is about advertising blurbs.

These corporals of industry are responsible for all sorts of fun stuff, though they're not the only offenders. And they've got deadines, and bosses who have bosses who have bosses, etc., so I really should be tolerant. But I'm not, because that's my nature and because it would make this thing a whole lot shorter. Which might not be a bad thing, but I've got rent to pay.

I believe I've already talked about newscasters who don't understand that the phrase "our next story" doesn't refer to their last story. And I've mentioned getting exclusive offers addressed to Resident. So we needn't go into those, except that I feel sort of obligated to offer you a certain minimum of words, and I'm not too proud to recycle past failures. So you've been reminded, and I got another paragraph out of it. Everybody wins, if you don't mind redefining the word. (Make up your own Charlie Sheen joke, I'm not in the mood.)

One of my favorites is "[Our] Special Roast is a smooth, balanced everyday blend." My dictionary defines "everyday" (yes, it's a real word) as "suitable for ordinary days" and "common or usual." Nowhere in the definition is it associated with the word "special" because that's not what special means.

On a container of sour cream, I found the phrase "All Natural." When was the last time you found spoiled milk in nature? In a half- century of existence, I've never found any, for the simple reason that in the natural world it gets consumed by the baby animal long before it has the opportunity to go bad. The only reason we have sour cream at all is because there are people whose job it is to spoil perfectly good cream. Which is fine. I like sour cream and buy it occasionally. But that's not what natural means.

On a container of cottage cheese, I found the phrase "Country Style." Well, sure. Bound to be. Unless there's a dairy farm in Manhattan that's escaped my notice. Or, "Those Bostonians may know their baked beans, but they can't make a decent cottage cheese to save their immortal souls." I'm not ruling out the possibility of an urban dairy farm, mind you, but you'd expect it to be noteworthy. I haven't heard a thing. In this case, the phrase "country style" isn't used incorrectly. Technically, that's what it means. It's just that there isn't any other style, so it means nothing.

Speaking of changing the subject slightly, but only slightly, when did the word "upgrade" begin describing an unpleasant experience? It's gotten to the point where every time someone upgrades, I want to go down there and hit them with a stick. Google? Time for your upgrade. Bap! Yahoo? Bap! And eBay? Bapbapbapbapbap! Why can't you people test your upgrades before you put them online? Or make your upgrades incrementally, so as to be able to fix the problems quickly? Or maybe even, and I know this is bizarre but, how about just leaving it alone if it works? Don't make me get my upgrade stick.

"We've upgraded our site" and "We apologize for the inconvenience" should never be used together. "We're in the midst of upgrading" could be followed by an apology, but once you've upgraded you shouldn't have to be sorry because that's not what upgrade means.

Speaking of changing the subject totally in order to pad this thing out and use up a miscellaneous bit of failure I had kicking about the place, have you ever wondered if simple phrases in your native language mean something totally different in other tongues? For instance, you're touring an exotic foreign land, and you see an exotic foreign lass, and you tip your hat and say "Top of the Mornin'." Twenty years later, you're in divorce court and her old man's got the shotgun out again...

Well, I think that about finishes up my special, all-natural, country style rant. And if you've become a returning reader of my little failures, I apologize for the inconvenience. Top of the temporal division that suits your current situation. Just don't expect to be upgraded to higher quality writing, because that's not what failure means.

More Failures
Main Page