A Lazy Word-Sneeze.

Aaron McManamon has a think-piece (or whatever you want to call it; it’s full of one-sentence paragraphs and uses phrases like “brand uplift”) about the use and abuse of English in advertising campaigns:

Standing out is hard, we’ve said it before, we’ll say it again: standing out is hard. That’s the main job of agencies like ours, to try and cut through the noise to deliver our client’s message. This might be through clever media planning and ad placement, it might be from exceptional, viral-baiting creative or snazzy copy.

And it’s in copywriting aiming for the standout tagline where we’ve seen a trend. Weird, grammatically goofy wording.

He gives some examples, then says “We’re trying to understand the trend. What’s happening? Is it clever copywriting, or a lazy word-sneeze?” And I liked that last phrase enough to post the thing. I also like his impeccably descriptivist attitude:

But we’re okay with it, mostly.

Language is something that continuously evolves. It shifts with culture changes, geographical movements of the people that use it, how it’s used and for a thousand other reasons. And right now it’s changing faster than ever.

And he has fun mocking Lexus’s “Experience Amazing.” Thanks, Trevor!


  1. Link isn’t working.

  2. The earliest archive copy, without pictures (the newest version has differnet fonts, without pictures again). Pictures, in the order of appearance:
    Deliveroo pic.
    Tourism pic.
    Toyota pic
    Excited pic
    Harry’s pic

  3. Link isn’t working.

    Wow, that was fast! Sorry about that, it was working when I posted it.

  4. David Eddyshaw says

    Though annoying, and in no way likely to encourage me to buy a Lexus, “Experience Amazing” seems to me to be perfectly grammatical.

    I think “amazing” is sort-of “mention” rather than “use” in this context, but that is OK for me. (Kusaal can do this kind of quasiquotation too: Sʋŋa bɛ, literally “Well exists”, i.e. “‘OK’ it is, then.”)

    McManamon’s cited ur-example, nauseating Apple’s hypocritical “Think different”*, I don’t think actually depends on this mechanism: the adjective can just be a predicative complement there.

    * You may guess that the slogan did not have its (presumably) intended effect in my own case. Or perhaps I just thought too differently in response …

  5. Randy Hudson says

    Back in the 50’s or 60’s, the ad slogan “Winston tastes good like a cigarette should” was decried by prescriptivists of the day for “like” instead of “as”. The fuss of course was just more publicity for the brand.

  6. Yes, I remember that kerfuffle well. “Reynolds used the slogan from Winston’s introduction in 1954 until 1972.” (Fred and Wilma Flintstone advertised Winstons!) I find I can still sing the ditty after all these years.

  7. January First-of-May says

    Though annoying, and in no way likely to encourage me to buy a Lexus, “Experience Amazing” seems to me to be perfectly grammatical.

    To me, it feels like it’s missing an article: i.e. as if it should be “experience the amazing”.

    On further thought it’s also technically grammatical as written, if we assume that “amazing” as a verb with an elided object, i.e. “experience amazing [someone else]”.

  8. Don’t forget that Winston’s ad agency built on the controversy with a campaign of “which do you want, good grammar or good taste?”

    I was just listening to some vintage radio shows and it seems strange now how pervasive cigarette advertising was back then. This particular show was sponsored by Kool, and the pitch was, when your throat is dried out from smoking too many of those other cigarettes, cool off with a Kool.


    A: I don’t know what “amazing” means.
    B: You’ve never experienced “amazing”?
    A: No, never.
    B: Oh, you must experience “amazing”.

    It’s another step in advertising’s long process of extracting meaning from every word and then tossing it away as a lifeless husk. Who can remember when “hearty” actually meant something? In ten years, “amazing” will be synonymous with “meh”.

    However, I can’t help but be reminded of Noel Coward’s Hay Fever, where a family tortures their house guests by playing a word game where one person goes out of the room while the rest decide on a word. Then the person comes back in to guess the word. In the play, the word is “winsomely”.

    Here’s the scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5L4FaE3g-ao

    Every time I hear an advertising slogan like that, I imagine how the scene from the play would go with the new word substituted in.

  9. @January First-of-May, it seems for native speakers it is rather “experience охуенно” (or “охуеть”), not “experience охуительное”. -e substantivates it, and so does “the” I think.

    But I do not know what of the three possible interpretations:
    – adverbial (experience amazing ~ walk fast)
    – substantive (experience [the] amazing)
    – quotation (experience [what you feel when you exclaim] “amazing!”)

    affect native speakers perception:/ Can native speakers clarify? It is discussed in the context of the third reading (DE and also “find your happy”) but maybe readings 1 and 2 are also present in speakers’ minds?

  10. PlasticPaddy says

    I cannot say what other speakers perceive. I think my impressions are:
    1. This person is telling me what to do using an imperative. This is rude unless I am a child or a dog.
    2.In order to classify this as something I should listen to (rather than asking this rude person to leave, if I am at home), I need to consider it as preaching or exhortation. Is this a personal friend or a clergyman/councillor I have engaged to listen to?
    3. If not is this person amusing or engaging?
    4. If so, what are they exhorting me to do (this is often, as in this case, not obvious)?
    5. There is a car in the advert I suppose he wants me to buy a car. Because the car is hard to distinguish from other family cars, or because there is no unique selling point, or because the selling point would require too much explanation, he is telling me the car is amazing. Why does he not just say that , perhaps showing a happy multiracial family motoring towards the sunset on an empty road in the car? It seems he is trying to create a two-word slogan, because a three-word slogan would be harder for some listeners to remember.

    The actual grammar is mostly secondary to the creation of two-word slogans, only “experience amazing” is more forceful (and works like a clever inversion of) “amazing experience”.

  11. But I do not know what of the three possible interpretations:
    – adverbial (experience amazing ~ walk fast)
    – substantive (experience [the] amazing)
    – quotation (experience [what you feel when you exclaim] “amazing!”)

    For me, it’s a sloppy mix of the second and third; I don’t think there’s anything adverbial about it.

  12. Hello! Thanks for quoting our blog post.

    I apologise for the broken link! We’ve just migrated over to a new website and that article hasn’t moved over yet.

    We’ll re-upload it soon and send the link.

    Thank you,

    Craig – Hello Starling

  13. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    @maidhc: hearty, maybe; but zesty and tangy?


  14. Giacomo Ponzetto says

    I wonder to what extent “Experience Amazing” may be omitting the article to mimic “cool.” One would surely say “experience the sublime,” but that kind of romanticism isn’t what the Lexus copywriters were aiming for. It strikes me that Miles Davis recorded Birth of the Cool on those old-fashioned lines, but nowadays academics publish instead The Origins of Cool in Postwar America.

  15. An astute comparison; I think you may have something there.

  16. Find this table’s round (< "find your happy", "make this table round")

  17. @PlasticPaddy, thank you. My yesterday’s reflections over this imperative were along the same lines. I considered a few, all starting with “ой, да пошли ты нас всех куда подальше” (likely inspired by the line from всё это рок-н-ролл).

    The advertisment of Moscow Fan Factory was fun, though. It was the first advertisment to be systematically repeated on our TV, and it sounded absurd, because no one needed fans:
    Если в вашем цехе душно – Если в офисе жара – То видать пора настала заключать договора! Вам пора – И вам пора – С вентиляторным заводом заключать договора!
    1, 2.

    @langaugehat, thank you. I mentioned the first option because adjectives can become adverbs, in English (“move fast”) in Russian (neuter adjective, adverb, and predicativ are identical. There must be links, allowing a form perform these roles). But I do not feel it here.

  18. Kusaal: Sʋŋa bɛ, literally “Well exists”, i.e. “‘OK’

    Mongolian: “Sain baina”, literally “Well exists”, i.e. “OK”.

    Another win for the Gobi-Sahelian hypothesis…

  19. David Eddyshaw says

    Truly, all men are brothers.

  20. Stu Clayton says

    That would explain why Mr. Bible included the story of Cain and Abel in his anthology.

  21. Giacomo Ponzetto George Carlin is truly still the master, even all these years later. There has been no one to take his place.

    As the Irish say, Ní bheidh a leithéid ann arís. (His like will never be here again.)

  22. PlasticPaddy says

    In this fixed phrase it is arís ann, not ann arís. I cannot give you an explanation, but for me at least “ann arís” would indicate presence and not existence, and would suggest a fixed location or appointment. Maybe per incuriam can explain better.

  23. I just came across a poem by Ivor Gurney, The Dearness of Common Things, written around 1920, whose last stanza strangely anticipates Find your happy:

    Wool, rope, cloth, old pipes
    Gone warped in service
    And the one herb of tobacco,
    The herb of grace, the censer weed
    Of blue whorls, finger-traced curves
    The touch of sight how strange and marvellous
    To any blind man pierced through his opaque,
    When concrete objects grow.

    (The rest of the poem, in a version without those last three lines, is here:

  24. OED (updated June 2004) has opaque as a noun:

    Chiefly poetic. A region of complete darkness; a place where light cannot penetrate. Also figurative. Obsolete.

    1742 E. Young Complaint: Night the First 4 Thro’ this Opaque of Nature, and of Woe, This double Night, transmit one pitying ray, To lighten, and to chear.
    ?1760 J. Langhorne Poems Several Occasions 152 The golden Stars, As frightened at the strange opaque, retir’d.
    1785 S. J. Pratt Tears of Genius 79 Not a gleam softens the black opaque.
    1814 R. Southey Roderick xxi. 275 I watch’d..And deem’d the deep opake would blot her beams.
    1824 S. E. Ferrier Inheritance xxxvi The light began to penetrate the dim opaque of his understanding.
    1877 T. Cooper Poet. Wks. 218 Eyes..that cleft The dread opaque gleefully.

  25. Ah, my Opaque.

  26. It’s interesting that most of those citations have a preceding adjective: the strange opaque, the black opaque, the deep opake, the dim opaque, the dread opaque. But the blind man just has a bare, unqualified opaque.

  27. The OED2 jammed in some 20th-century citations for “opaque” as a noun referring to textiles or minerals in the same sub-sense with the 18th- and 19th-century poetry. The Third Edition separated those out into different sub-senses, which is logical, and marked the poetic sense obsolete. But if they’d found the 1920 poem, maybe they wouldn’t have!

  28. Hi All,

    Here’s the link to the post on our new site:


    Thanks again,

    Craig – Hello Starling

  29. Thanks, I’ve updated it.

  30. “We will never see his like again.”

Speak Your Mind