Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bad Language #1

Bad Language #1

No, I'm not talking about cussing. This is the first of a probably continuing series of blog entries in which I rant a little bit about what I consider to be poor usage of English, stuff which bugs the heck out of me.

This first one has to do with a bit of ridiculous hyperbole found all too often in advertisements for movies. It usually takes the form of a phrase like "A Tale Beyond Imagination!" or "A Story Beyond Imagining!" or some equally nonsensical variation. Think about it -- "beyond imagination"? Obviously not -- a whole bunch of people imagined the heck out of it, and made costumes, props, cast actors, devised special effects, wrote a script and imagined all of the myriad of things required to get a movie on the screen. Literally, NOTHING in ANY movie (or anything created by any human being) is "beyond imagination".

I see the usage of this type of phrase as an example of sadly deficient imagination on the part of those in charge of publicity -- it's a truly lazy, silly shorthand for trying to say how mind-blowingly awesome a movie is, when in point of fact it probably isn't anything of the sort. And there is an insulting subtext to it, too -- they're saying, in essence, that their movie is beyond YOUR imagination, you dull, stupid ticket buyer. -- PL


MachiasBanshee said...

Having had proper grammar and creative writing guidelines crammed into my head from elementary through college, it kills me to see so much rehashed and canned stuff in the media, television, movies.

We have a myriad of McMovies that are basically the same formula: Over-talkative hyperactive characters, low-brow jokes (usually fart related), half-assed plots that end with large-scale remakes of songs from the 70s and 80s.

And yet they call this 'original'?

I didn't used to read a lot when I was younger (I loved Asterix and Garfield and Choose your own adventure books). But as I read the newspapers and articles and magazines, it confounds me to see so many people (even published), that do not understand the basics of writing.

And just looking at how 'chatspeak' has become more and more integrated into everyday language, it's no wonder that kids and adults alike are getting lower scores on school and regular work. We've gone from the plays of Shakespeare and Chaucer (great stuff) to LOLCats and RedvsBlue. The day I read a resume that uses the word 'roxxorz', I will cry for the future of humanity...


roseangelo said...

Hmm... personally I've never been bothered or insulted by empty marketing language. As you point out, the more exuberant it is, the more likely what's being advertised is a piece of crap. It would be nice if people focused more on making good products so they wouldn’t have to rely on the BS to sell crap to people, but I don’t think it’s worth losing sleep over.

This is the first of a probably continuing series of blog entries in which I rant a little bit about what I consider to be poor usage of English, stuff which bugs the heck out of me.

In this sentence, "which" should actually be "that." "Which" should only be used in instances where it is immediately preceded by a comma. I've noticed this a bit in the comics, too. Unfortunately, it's become an all too common error in written English. Drives me buggy.

~ tOkKa said...

-->> I am a fine one to talk. :(


" In a WORLD .. .. - - - " .

Splinter's Iroonna said...

I'd comment, but as I make my living as a teacher, and I'm on vacation at the moment, I shall let this one slide on by me.

But I was just thinking prior to this, if only Mr. Laird would write issue #30, it would be a tale beyond imagination....

*laughingly strolls away into the shadows*

*strolls back to sign name*


*strolls away again*

m. said...

This blog entry is beyond my frickin' imagination!

Ogopogo said...

I think perhaps some movies and books are better off being beyond my imagination. I certainly wouldn't want my brain tainted with having thought up Grease 2...


Or comic book characters getting divorces when their getting married was beyond my imagination...oh...wait that was fanfiction...

devilbanex said...

How true.

- Andrew M.

/-\ [) @ (\/) said...

I should scan you some of the descriptive words Playmates uses on their card backs to describe TMNT figures, those would give you an "infinite infinity" of material to post about.

Dragon Turtle said...

Speaking of Playmates:


New live action movie in 2010?

Elizabeth said...

Ahhhhh, the English language! Language in general actually...An ever-evolving art form. Someone mentioned Shakespeare after all. Who understands that anymore without training on the subject? And who understands Leetspeak without the same amount of learning? It's all valid, all acceptable. The rules *are* written in stone somewhere for posterity so we need not worry that it will go the way of the dodo.

Personally, I don't put any more stock into movie trailers than I do toilet paper adverts, so...eh. I'm a bad consumer and not overly fussed over it.

"Nitwit, blubber, oddment, tweak."

Mentski said...

I think the "world beyond imagination" line as patronising.

It's like they are saying that the film is beyond the viewer's imagination, but obviously not the high almighty producers of the film.

Personally, my pet peeve is the phrase "I could care less", a term used for some reason only on your side of the Atlantic, while everyone else says the more sensible "I couldn't care less".

Think about it. the American variant means that you at least care a bit, whilst the original English means its impossible for you to care any less about something.

A lot of Americans I have mentioned this to will immediately pull out the "sarcasm card", and tell me it's meant sarcastically. But the truth is, every time I hear it it is said without any sarcastic tone or intent.

There has always been a gap wider than the Atlantic ocean itself in the American and English understanding of sarcasm and irony. Many people from my side of the pond would state that you don't "get" irony at all, although I don't think that is necessarily the case, I do think our humo(u)r has significantly different origins.

But anyway. Going off on a tangent, there. As Oscar Wilde or maybe George Bernard Shaw once said...

"England and America are two countries separated by the same language."

Mentski said...

...Which is funny in itself because they were both Irish :)

Splinter's Iroonna said...

And you HAVE to love the Irish!

Seriously, I get annoyed at times when I'm at a teacher's meeting and the person in charge, who is supposed to be an expert, abuses the language.

"Irregardless" is one that sets me off.

But back to Mr. L.'s point, I do see it.

Tristan Jones said...

I'll be the first to admit that I tend to get lazy with language, but that's usually amongst friends who know me well or when I might have had too much to drink.

But I am definitely with Mentski on his observations. "I could care less" is one particular phrase that irks me, for the exact reason Mentski mentioned. The most common variant here in Australia (though we probably aren't the best examples of a culture using it's language skills properly) is "I couldn't care a' less" (a' standing for any), but usually it's "I couldn't care less".

I always found the Zee over Zed, the removal of the U in words like favourite and colour, and the switching of the s with a z in words like realise interesting too.

roseangelo said...

The spelling differences are due to the one and only Noah Webster, of dictionary fame. He was a proponent of spelling reform within the English language and those differences that you point out were suggested in early books he wrote and then kept when he got around to publishing his An American Dictionary of the English Language. And it's been that way ever since.

Sarah The Anime Librarian said...

Its funny, reading Amy's comments, that as a librarian I have always found chatspeak to be interesting rather than infuriating.

Maybe because I am dyslexic, and long ago decided not to sweat the small stuff (or Sweet the small stuff as I might type.)

A very interesting librarian friend of mine that advocates using videogames and computer communities with teens to expand reading and thinking calls chatspeak a forign language. She has looked at it no diffrently than not understanding someone who speaks japanese.

AS much as I love shakespeare, lets be honest, that is as hard to follow for many, as chat speak is for folks who don't follow computer evolution. Shakespeare uses a variation of the langauge that is all but dead, and chatspeak may be considered something almost newly born. Perhaps the same coin, just diffrent sides? I don't know.

I find myself more offense in the meaning behind words, rather then the type of words used. As peter pointed out, I am more likely to be offended at the suggestion that I'm stupid, than the words you use to speak to me.

But then again, I love Red Vs. Blue.


-Sarah the "Dyslexic and proud of it" librarian

~ tOkKa said...

-->> .. So maybe the ' Chat Speak ' could be looked at as a newer , different way of conveying language ??

Again, you want to see some interesting, expressive and creative use of ' Language ' ..take a look into American Sign Language and Sign Language in general (( and i mean beyond just finger spelling )).

You encounter a whole other world !!

You even learn different styles, ' dialects ', and entirely new words. It's very amazing, and sometimes literal throughout.

While i have been imperfect with ASL since i was a kid, i have developed my own style of communicating with the deaf community. It could be said i may at times be even more comfortable conversing in ASL than with my own vocal energies.


Tristan Jones said...

Thanks for the info Rose. The initial decision to deviate still leaves me baffled to some extent though.

nacho said...


English lessons for free! Ha!

Sarah The Anime Librarian said...

Exactly Tokka!

Of course, what occurs to me now is the same argument that can pit classic lit against Online comics and such could also be used to argue that things like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are less valid than classic lit. I get these kinds of arguments from parents all the time when they find out I am....ready to be horrified?....a librarian that advocates comic books in libraries!
I have heard arguments that Graphic Novels are adding to the dumbing down of america...and I personaly think its bunk. I'd have to assume, since all of you are turtles fans as well, that wouldn't sit well with you if someone saw you reading a TMNT book and said "It's no wonder that kids and adults alike are getting lower scores on school and regular work. We've gone from the plays of Shakespeare and Chaucer to Teenage Muntant Ninja Turtles!"

Honestly, I'm not trying to pick on you Amy. You obvously have thought out your opinion. I just have to disagree strongly. And the above quote is almost EXACTLY what some parents have said to me about comics.

~ tOkKa said...

-->> I'd venture to say ( though i am fine to talk )that literature and language in all forms, from the classic works to ' L33T ' - computer speak and graphic novels : trying to understand it all, grasp it, learn from it, and teaching these things to younger generations is imperative.

I don't see how anything helpful can come from shunning those things. They are happening and have been now for quite awhile.

Why would it be a bad thing for anyone of any age to embrace both Shakespeare and Comics ?? ::

" Fair is foul, and foul is fair. "

There ya go. Tokka just quoted Macbeth.


m. said...

@#$%ing &^*+!

joe-eyeball said...

Sarah, I agree with what you said. My wife is a high school librarian and she too pushes graphic novels as a way for kids to transition into reading books (novels), since most kids just glue themselves to the computer anyhow.

In my opinion comics are an amazing combination of two art forms, written art and visual art. If kids language skills are being dumbed down its because schools are pushing technology at the cost of basic learning skills. In other words, kids learn how to spell through spell check and now they don't have to physically write anything of great length out they just simply type it out.

Hell, I have a freind that teaches 2nd grade and she says they don't waste their time with teaching kids to write in cursive. How crazy is that. I'm not saying that technology is bad, its just that it certainly isn't worth while if you can't function without it. My wife told me that three of here 11th grade students came into the library and actually claimed that they did not know how to use an encyclopedia and that they would find out what they needed to know on wikipedia. I don't think comics has anything to do with that.

joe dziczkowski

MachiasBanshee said...

Ah, don't worry Sarah, I've got thick skin... ;) (And I like RvB too)

My main gripe in my original post is the fact that grammar seems to be dying off in some ways...

When I was talking about chatspeak... jeezum, I could barely understand my niece when she would IM me while I was up at college a couple years back! It took me five times to understand that she'd said "Hi, how are you up at school?" And I first learned about using computers in Second Grade! :)

((whoops... back on topic))

My concern is more that 'ur' and 'y r u md? idk, lol' and some of these other shortcut words are trying to be used in regular English. I at least know that with TMNT, that the Mirage crew is going to use 'proper English', unless they decide to do an issue out of leet/chatspeak.. ((That would be a surprise))

And as for Graphic novels (not sure where you read me downing those), they are certainly a good way to get kids into reading (which is why I loved my Asterix and Garfield ;) ). Kids are much more visual at a younger age, so it's easier to convey information. I still love illustrated stories (Dinotopia, most of all), and if I could get a foot in, be an illustrator for children's books.

And I totally agree with you, Sarah, about being more concerned about the meaning of a word than what it looks like. But DANG, these whippersnappers are a handful!

~Amy (25, going on 60)

Brinaj78 said...

The word my sister and I laugh at whenever we hear it is 'adventure' and how it's used so much in fantasy/animated film trailers. Seriously, watch any trailer for a cartoon or fantasy film and wait for the narrator to say 'the adventure!' You'll go, "Yup, so typical!" :D

Sarah The Anime Librarian said...

Oh, I didn't read that you were downing comics, Amy. I was trying to make the point that I believe that the dismissal of Chatspeak (which I realy believe is a viable langauge of its own) is akin to dismissing comics. A person's non-interest/understanding of either of these, in my opinion, does not negate their meaning or power in the circles that do embrace them.

Thats all. :)

Oh and Dinotopia rocks!

Weihan said...

Anything "beyond imagination" means "Beyond the imaginations of the people who wrote/sung/filmed whatever you're looking at"

God...I miss films with a plot

Wild Goose said...

Jane Espenson recently had a similar complaint on her blog:


Jason said...

Amy pretty much said it all. Eventually people will be speaking in morse code and sound like hyper active beat boxers.