Monday, 24 June 2013

Advertising and business language 20th June 2013 This too, is by request. I had a student, a while ago, ask me about the meaning of an advertising slogan he had heard recently. It said : “'We make the people who make it “ (UNITEC Institute of Technology, Auckland) What does this mean? I had someone ask me about this some time ago, and it's a good question! It uses the verb 'make' in two senses – the literal, and the idiomatic. We make (or form, teach and develop students who achieve things.) This is what their advertising agency said about the spot. “The campaign, created by Special Group with media strategy from Naked Communications, focuses on 'heroing' the Unitec graduates who helped build Auckland into the city it is today. The TVC, with a distinctly urban feel, shot by director Andy Morton of 8com, (who also directed last year's 'Change Starts Here' documentary campaign for Unitec) marks the cornerstone of the campaign and establishes the feel for a host of other elements that will roll out over the coming months” and “The directive of the campaign is to drive awareness and interest in Unitec's Faculty of Technology and Built Environment with a creative approach which continues to break the tertiary education marketing sector norm. This faculty encompasses courses including the traditional 'trades' such as carpentry, plumbing, electrical engineering, drain laying, automotive mechanics and boat building as well as civil engineering, construction management, surveying and property development” Here we can see that the verb 'make', makes another appearance – in the literal sense again, because it's about people who make things. What do you think of the noun hero being made into a verb? Does that happen in your language? Is it right, or does it, to use another idiom, 'set your teeth on edge'? Another advertising campaign to confuse, was this: "it will have your tongue and belly dancing". (McDonalds burger advertisement, seen on the back of a bus. But what does it mean? Not what I thought it meant! Put a comma in the logical place, and you get “It will have your tongue and belly, dancing” ) yes, that's what it means. But as Belly Dancing is a particular type of dancing, when I first saw it, I was very confused. I did not realise that 'dancing' as used in this slogan, is actually a verb, and not an adjectival noun! Both of these advertisements bring up something you will have noticed in your reading of English. You will find it in advertisements, news bulletins and signs if you live in an English-speaking country. I am talking about 'verbing' nouns (turning nouns into verbs) and 'nouning' verbs. Some examples I have seen recently are: Rebuild. (A verb now a noun). For example, 'led by the Canterbury rebuild'. (News item, Radio New Zealand, 20 June 2013) Heroing (noun to verb) as in the text above. Disconnect (verb to noun). Example: 'There is a disconnect between our ambitions and our actual profit'. Spend. (Verb to noun). 'Save $100 on your weekly grocery spend!' This one has been in use for at least 15 years. Access. (Noun to verb). Example: 'This lift does not access Level 2'. in fact recent dictionaries have bowed to the inevitable and now have the verb as a secondary meaning of access. The problem for learners of course, is ambiguity. The parts of speech – nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs etc, are important cues for when you encounter new vocabulary. The next part of this article covers business jargon. All professions have their own language (or jargon, as it is called) and business – a very new profession, is no exception. These phrases have become idioms in many cases – and in many cases, are widely hated! Every year, lists of common phrases that people hate, are published, and every year, one of the following will appear in one list or another. 1.At this point in time. (Meaning, now.) 2.At the end of the day. (Finally, when we finish) 3.Going forward – (meaning, in the future) 4.Roll out – (meaning, begin and continue a new project - (although in the field of car sales, 'roll out' has another meaning – which I don't understand) 5.Take on board - (meaning, listen to and take into account) All professional jargon is specialised but business jargon is the only one to have entered general use and further, to expect to be understood! The purpose would seem to be to make what it being stated seem more complicated than it is. After all, why use on word when you can use 15? Advertisements have been responsible for some common mis-spellings and neologisms. Many of these have entered the general language. The earliest that I remember my parents being upset about, is 'lite'. Perhaps this word ought to be reserved for discussion of weight, or fat content, as opposed to illumination? Then it might make a useful distinction. Finally - a few infelicities that puzzle me. Here in New Zealand, we use New Zealand English. We also use SI units - metres, kilometres, kilograms, and temperatures in Celsius. However, I have recently seen TV advertisements, made in New Zealand, that talk about weight loss in pounds and give distances in miles, and temperatures in Fahrenheit! The advertiser is being somewhat foolish, unless it is true that the market - the New Zealand population have absorbed to much American TV that they attach more meaning to pounds and miles than they do to the units they would have learned at school. Lastly, two emails from a business organisation informed me that they came from the New Zealand Post Contact Center. Being your expert, I had to email back and point out the error to both senders. It truly hurt me to type 'center' but it had to be done.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Punctuation - finally!

Punctuation This entry, too, is by request, because last year, a student asked me about punctuation. Well, it's really very simple! First, and most important, comes this: . It is called a full stop, because that's what it does. A full stop comes at the end of a sentence, to signal that the sentence has finished. A sentence must have a verb, but it can be as short as “I ate apples” or as long as 'The woman I met, the one who lives across town, and who is a doctor, told me that my hat had gone'. The second sentence brings me to the , The comma signals a pause. (Try reading your sentence aloud to yourself if you are unsure, and you will hear where a comma should go, if it is required.) Commas also separate clauses, as you can see above in the second sentence. There are two different types of clauses, those which can stand on their own (in the sentence above, “The woman I met .. told me that my hat had gone” , and those that can't stand alone, which are called subordinate clauses. ('the one who lives across town', 'and who is a doctor') Next, comes the apostrophe: ' This is perhaps the most abused punctuation mark inn the English language. It's used (as I did just there) to indicate that something has been omitted (in this case, the 'I' in “it is”, and apostrophes are also used to indicate possession – as in 'This is Leon's bag'. Apostrophes should NEVER be used in plurals, although this is an increasingly common error amongst native speakers. Brackets ( and ) are used like commas, to separate clauses and thoughts. They are also used in mathematics., but we won't cover that here! Which brings us the exclamation mark: ! (as used above) – for emphasis and to show shock and surprise. Example – 'Rachael won the song contest? I don't believe it!' in the sentence above, you will also have seen the question mark : ? It's very simple in speech to show that something is a question, just by intonation, but in writing a signal is needed. For example 'where did you buy your dress? It's lovely'. Speech marks, or as I was taught at school to call them, 'quotation marks', distinguish direct reported speech from indirect reported speech. Single inverted commas are usually used in British English, 'What is your name?' she inquired. but double inverted commas are also acceptable, and used in New Zealand and in American English. "What is your name?" she inquired. Inverted commas is another name for speech marks, and it is easy to see why! The colon: : is also a pause, a longer one and can be used to separate clauses, and the semi-colon is a shorter pause than a colon, but longer than a comma. The hyphen – is used to connect compound words such as 'bath-towel', and the dash, shorter than the hyphen, is used as a comma, in hand-writing. Well, that's all for now, but as always, readers with questions are invited to comment, or to email me. You will be most welcome!