Archive for the ‘Language in advertising’ Category

The lure of trochaic tetrameter

March 20, 2014

A commercial for Cyvita is currently going the rounds. It promises

Longer, stronger, and more frequent erections

It begins with two rhyming trochees (SW SW), then branches out into two more complex feet, trochaic in feel but with leading weak (extrametrical) syllables ( ( WW ) SW and ( W ) SW).

Trochees are everywhere in English, and tetrameter is the predominant meter for folk verse of all kinds.


Frivolity for Valentine’s

February 14, 2014

From Steven Levine, this remarkable advertising image:

Elsie the Cow, in a maid’s apron and nothing else — yielding a racy image — offering a very substantial breakfast. Smiling and dancing.

More on Elsie here.

Briefly noted: It’s not a razor

December 23, 2013

Heard, endlessly, on cable tv, an ad for a hair-removal system:

It’s not a razor. It’s not a laser. It’s No-No.

It’s also not a waxing treatment, but no doubt the razor / laser rhyme was hard to resist. So what is it?

Turns out it burns body hair away. Ouch.

It claims to be painless, but this is (for obvious reason) disputed by many users on the web. And there are many postings about the difficulties of negotiating the money-back guarantee.

Cod loins

December 7, 2013

From Ellen Seebacher on Facebook, this puzzling ad:


Cod loins?


Cartoon retirement

December 7, 2013

Today’s Zippy:


The characters pass on.


Briefly noted: ad claims

November 26, 2013

The website says:

Take Cold-EEZE® whenever you start to feel cold symptoms.
Our unique zinc gluconate formula releases zinc ions to fight your cold virus.

Cold-EEZE® lozenges have been clinically proven to shorten the duration of the common cold by almost half. View the clinical studies…

So, “clinically proven”. Let’s be very generous and assume that there are some actual clinical tests (pitting treated patients vs. untreated ones) here. But then the commercials shift from general claims to a specific one, with a company spokesman saying:

I guarantee Cold-EEZE will shorten your cold or your money back.

A money-back claim that could never be cashed in: how could anyone know that their particular cold would have been longer if they hadn’t taken Cold-EEZE? It’s a conflict between (possibly valid) generalizations and specific predictions about single events.


Briefly noted: inversion

November 23, 2013

From an ad for the Teeter machines designed to stretch you out and make you feel better, a reference to the “benefits of inversion”.

Inversion has multiple senses, including some in linguistics, but also:

Sexual inversion is a term used by sexologists, primarily in the late 19th and early 20th century, to refer to homosexuality. Sexual inversion was believed to be an inborn reversal of gender traits: male inverts were, to a greater or lesser degree, inclined to traditionally female pursuits and dress and vice versa. The sexologist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing described female sexual inversion as “the masculine soul, heaving in the female bosom”. In its emphasis on gender role reversal, the theory of sexual inversion resembles transgender, which did not yet exist as a separate concept at the time.

Initially confined to medical texts, the concept of sexual inversion was given wide currency by Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness, which was written in part to popularize the sexologists’ views. Published with a foreword by the sexologist Havelock Ellis, it consistently used the term “invert” to refer to its protagonist, who bore a strong resemblance to one of Krafft-Ebing’s case studies. (Wikipedia link)

In this quaint outmoded sense, I am a classic sexual invert. Ok, without the cross-sex identification.


November 17, 2013

In recent advertising news: from Adweek on the 11th, “Charmin Thinks Twice About Its ‘Asgard’ Joke, Even Though Twitter Loved It: Gone but not forgotten” by David Gianatasio:


It floats! (ch. 2)

October 23, 2013

Commenting on my Ivory Soap posting (“and it floats!”) yesterday, Ann Burlingham asks about the images of naked boys and men in these vintage ads:

Do you or Chris [Ambidge, who sent me the images] have dates? The boys’ naked bottoms in Harper’s – it strikes me as normal, then that strikes me as odd, that a general-interest magazine would so easily have male nudity.

The ads seem mostly to be from 1918-19; the war-time in question is World War I. And their homoerotic subtext has been noticed by others — notably by Bruce H. Joffe in A Hint of Homosexuality?: ‘Gay’ and Homoerotic Imagery in American Print Advertising (2007).


and it floats!

October 22, 2013

(Advertising and the display of men’s bodies.)

From Chris Ambidge, a set of six vintage ads for Ivory Soap (99 44/100 % Pure … It Floats), mostly featuring men or boys bathing in groups.

The first has appeared on this blog before, in a posting on men in recruiting posters and ads (“Recruiting men” of 7/27/13):