Archive for the ‘borrowed rhetoric’ category

Lie-to-word ratios: Men with Pens

February 1, 2013

As well as collecting crap acronyms, I also collect examples of phrases with a high lie-to-word ratio.

I’ve been interested in the idea since reading a New Yorker profile of George Meyer many years ago (full article only available to subscribers, sorry). He gave the example of Country Crock:

“It’s not from the country; there is no crock. Two words, two lies.”

(Obviously, if you’re ploughing the rich linguistic seam of oddly-named butter substitutes, the UK’s I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter is practically a PhD thesis in a tub, but let’s not go there.)

Since I collect them in real life, I might as well start putting examples on this blog. Today’s example is Men with Pens. For many years, this copywriting agency bigged up its macho, no-nonsense credentials and became very successful indeed. Business owner James Chartrand attracted criticism for sexist comments, but basically all was well. Until December 2009, when Chartrand outed herself as a woman.

In this example, the word “men” is actually two lies. She’s not male and she’s not plural (although she gave a very convincing impression of being a whole agency with several staff members). So the first word is two lies.

I assume there’s debate in the world of lie-to-word collectors about whether prepositions count. Should the “with” count as a word when you’re working out the ratio? I’m still not sure about this one myself.

As for the “pens” bit… well, it’s a metaphor, innit? Nobody literally expects them to do their work with pens rather than keyboards. And anyway, James Chartrand probably does own multiple pens. She can afford it. So I think she gets a pass on that one.

So Men with Pens comes out as three words, two lies. A lie-to-word ratio of 2:3.

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Coming over here, putting food in our mouths

July 5, 2006

The immigration debate on this morning’s Today programme followed the usual pattern. It had a posh guy on one side, and a not-so-posh guy on the other. The posh guy was someone who has done a lot of charity work, and he talked about the statistics in a calm way. The other guy had pretensions to be an ordinary working man, and he completely failed to pick up on any of the actual points the posh guy made, choosing instead to ramble in a manner he no doubt thought was “straight from the heart” or some such shit.

What made this debate different was that Jack Dromey and Sir Andrew Green were on the wrong sides for the genre. Dromey’s ramblings about his dear family, and how they built this country out of oats and leather, were actually in support of immigrants. Green’s slightly exasperated talk of employment statistics was building a case for tightly controlled immigration.

I love it when they shake up the format like that. Maybe tomorrow they’ll have a mouthy libertarian asserting his right to breathe clean air in his own pub, and a whey-faced hippy saying that trying to give up smoking makes her feel sick.