Friday, December 14, 2007

Bullshit watch (3)

I was taught English by Mrs Ellis. This was back in the days of black and white and so we spent endless hours doing what she called "clause analysis", which involved breaking sentences down into their component parts.
I'm sure some people would say I am emotionally stunted by the fact that we didn't do "creative writing" but there's hardly a week goes by when I don't thank Mrs Ellis for what she taught me.
When confronted by the quote from the Sony chap below I am even more sure of the value of what Mrs Ellis said. She would have taken him apart for his grammar and language, thereby exposing the hole at the heart of the project.
You cannot have "a tangible view", she would say, because the noun describes seeing whereas the adjective means touching.
You cannot "evolve a perception" because "evolve" is not an active verb. Evolution does not occur as a direct result of an action. That's why it's an evolution. What you really want to say is "changing" but you prefer to pretend that you are just helping along a change that is already taking place. Is that true?
At the sight of "clearly illustrating Sony's joined-up story of content creation to content enjoyment" I fear she would begin to reach for her slipper. She would probably ask whether what you actually meant was advertising.
Nobody ever spoke this paragraph into the empty air to see if it made sense.
It was assembled by, I'm guessing, a number of people. A number of expressions were lined up, herded in the rough direction of the sentiment, moved around a bit, tapped gingerly into place, approved by about six people and then finally somebody pressed "send".
Mrs Ellis, if she were here, would neatly write "see me" at the bottom of the page.


  1. Anonymous3:41 pm

    Mrs Ellis would probably have slapped your legs when you did go to see her. This is the result of ignorance of grammar and a desire to communicate ideas which are either totally fanciful or beyond the writers' vocabulary. My employer, a large public body which I shall decline to name, held a conference this year. Its purpose was to 'carry forward the future' of one of its services. I am sure Mrs Ellis would have had conniptions.

  2. Anonymous4:40 pm

    Mikah went to Oxford University. Hard to believe, but true.

  3. My worst, which is thankfully now going out of favour is "Driving the business forward"

  4. Anonymous1:12 pm

    "What's not to love?" - a phrase I have heard repeatedly this year. I hate it.

  5. I would genuinely love to be confident in written English. Is it really too late to do some "clause analysis"? Where can I learn?

  6. Anonymous3:08 pm

    I think you may have missed the real point here.

    You seem to think English is meant to communicate ideas clearly, concisely and without the potential for confusion and contradiction.

    The danger with that is that people might actually find out what you think. This communication has, in a bizarre way, achieved its objective of filling in some space without a clear idea being transmitted.

    This allows the reader to fill in the blanks and impose their own views of what they would like to hear [this magazine is great / our dosh is being well spent ] and thus reinforce their prejudices.

    Just think, if this sort of thing were to disappear, most politicians would be royally shafted from the outset of their election campaigns.