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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Alone and palely loitering

If there is one thing which gets Lady Bracknell's dander up (and, to be honest, there are many) it is the contempt in which advertising executives hold the rules of the English language. Accuracy is of no significance compared to the overriding impetus for brevity. This, in turn, is presumably the result of a general belief that the average consumer's intelligence, concentration span and powers of retention are only marginally higher than that of a turnip.

Lady Bracknell's sensitivities were particularly wounded when a manufacturer of frozen potato products chose to describe its chips as "ovenable". (Had she purchased any of said products prior to seeing the advertisement in question, Lady Bracknell would undoubtedly have treated them as immediately "binable".)

She also winces every time she hears grey hairs described as, "greys". After all, it is not as though hairs is either a long word, or one which would be unfamiliar to anyone with even a basic grasp of English. Would it take up precious nano-seconds of advertising time which could be better spent assuring the viewers that they are "worth it"? Maybe so.

Cosmetics and beauty products do seem to be the worst offenders when it comes to astonishing departures from the rules of English. (And, moreover, from those of common sense.) Since when, for instance, has it been a universally accepted fact that there are seven signs of aging? Presumably since about the time that some wag in an advertising firm hit on the idea of marketing a certain face cream by claiming that it performed seven different functions simultaneously. And can it be coincidental that seven is a number which is widely associated with good fortune? Is there, perhaps, an eighth function which the advertisers have swept under the carpet because "eight signs of aging" would not have had the same alliterative charm?

The worst culprit of all, however, (and one which is becoming increasingly widespread) is the claim that a product "absorbs easily". If the general public had been paying attention when the difference between active and passive verbs was explained to them in the school room, they would run screaming from any product making such a terrifying claim. Call Lady Bracknell timid if you will, but faced with the choice between a product which can be easily absorbed by her skin, and one which threatens to actually absorb her skin - and to do so easily - and she will plump for the former every time. Lady Bracknell's skin may be annoyingly prone to eczema, but it remains vital to the continued integrity of her body.

There would appear to be any number of sun products which have this dangerous absorbing propensity. But, then, quite why anyone who lives in mortal fear of displaying even one of the seven (or possibly eight) signs of aging is prepared to expose their flesh for any length of time to strong sunlight is beyond Lady Bracknell's wit to explain. Indeed, Lady Bracknell - who takes considerable pains to avoid the sun, because lobster red is not a becoming colour on her - mourns the passing of the parasol as a fashion accessory.

One cannot have one's cake and eat it, and no amount of over-priced unguents containing plant extracts and vitamins will be anything like as effective as avoiding damaging one's skin in the first place. Such persons as have been taken in by the media's insistence that a youthful appearance is of paramount importance might, therefore, do well to return to the tenets of their Victorian great grandmothers and recognise the cosmetic benefits of remaining pale and interesting.


Blogger The Gorse Fox said...

The Gorse Fox respectfully wonders if the re-introduction of a parasol by a woman of Lady Bracknell's standing would, indeed, set a new trend. However he does note that, living in the more northerly parts of the realm, Lady Bracknell may have but limited use of such an accessory!

8:47 am  
Blogger Unknown said...

When it comes to the aforementioned brevity, I place the blame squarely before the doors of the Americans who wouldn't recognise English if it came up and bit them on the proverbial posterior.
The other point about advertising well worth a rant is the imagery that accompanies the words. A recently seen advert for dandruff shampoo showed a man being scalped by a Native American. For the life of me, why would I want to use said shampoo if a risk of scalping is involved?

8:49 am  
Blogger Charlesdawson said...

I can't comment directly on the adverts about ageing since I don't read adverts, because I think they tell lies.

From her Ladyship's description, I wonder if the "seven signs" originated in some advertising-creative-person's vague memory of having once met someone who claimed to have heard about a TV programme updating Shakespeare's As You Like It in which the speech (by the character Jacques) "The Seven Ages of Man" occurs? And may have thought that there was some statistical or mystical authority for this number?

9:02 am  
Blogger The Goldfish said...

I am always fascinated by the protection offered by all number of things - bleach and similar products perhaps do protect us from certain hazards, but toothpaste? Shampoo? Deodourant? We might prefer not to perspire at all between daily washes but is this a peril from which we need protecting?

Another example is the noble-sounding Lady Protector - a humble razor and not, as one might imagine, a lance upon which to impale the first rapscallion who questions one's honour.

Her ladyship will be pleased to learn that parasols can still be seen in use in Whitby, among those persons of a gothic persuasion, who wish to avoid any colour whatsoever. There are plenty of new and used parasols available on-line; here, for example - also, of course, on eBay

10:05 am  
Blogger Wilf said...

Dear Lady Bracknell
I watch Dr Who and your skin cream sounds like a monster called the 'absorbaloff'. This monster absorbed people. If the advertising people sold 'absorbaloff' in pots I think it would sell really well but it might be a little bit suprising for anyone who has not watched Dr Who.

8:19 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Apparently, should I care to discard the aged disposable which has been my (t)rusty companion through many a long year and invest a significant portion of my meagre salary in a vibrant pink battery-powered "Venus" razor, I shall discover the Goddess within me.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!


12:39 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that the seven signs of aging actually indicate the seven signs of senility in the advert writers fastly fading fatuousness.

2:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Might one recommend Brollies Galore
to her Ladyship? They have a website at brolliesgalore.co.uk, and pages of gorgeous parasols.

4:37 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

It is a cause of some sorrow to Lady Bracknell that her dependence on a handsome walking stick must needs forcibly curtail her use of an umbrella or parasol.

If only she had three hands...

(NB This is not an invitation for young Wilf to invent a device which will serve as a third arm.)

7:19 pm  
Blogger The Gorse Fox said...

My lady, maybe a trip to the milliner may be appropriate. The adoption and adaptation of some ideas from foreign parts, such as the famed "ten gallon hat" so favoured in Mexico, may offer a solution. The milliner could, perhaps, perform a hat-trick that would allow a vast brim to act as either parasol or umbrella, depending on the weather. Such an item of apparel would leave your Ladyship free to use both hands as she wishes.

8:46 pm  
Blogger BloggingMone said...

I have been reading your post with great interest for about a year now, but I never dared writing a comment, because I will never be able to meet the posh style in wich the posts of her Ladyship and therefore most of the comments are written. Anyway, this time I could not resist. In Germany it has become a fashion to add English words to otherwise German adverts. People think it does make their products look more "international" and therefore more desirable. Some time ago little bags came into fashion, which could be worn close to the body by simlpy fixing them to the belt on one's trousers. In the company's advertising campaign they were called "body bags". Sale did not go too well....

9:30 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, I understand the problen vis-a-vis the cane. Perhaps her Ladyship might employ a retainer to walk 3 paces behind, holding the parasol at a suitable angle over her Ladyship's head, to shield the noble features from the ravages of the sun? This "passe-partout" would also be available to carry her Ladyship's purchases.

8:31 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Lady Bracknell is in no position to criticise Mone's command of the English language when she herself has barely a word of German.

In any event, it would be the height of bad manners to do so. Lady Bracknell may be imperious, but she hopes she is never ill mannered.

And she was much entertained by Mone's tale of the commercial failure of body bags as a fashion accessory.

9:20 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Dame Honoria is clearly a woman after Lady Bracknell's own heart.

A tall, muscular, strapping retainer would be a useful addition to the Bracknell household in more ways than one.

9:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


"A tall, muscular, strapping retainer would be a useful addition to the Bracknell household in more ways than one."

With great respect, may I say that I resemble that remark! However, I too am unable to manage my own stick and a parasol simultaneously. I this a competency I should now be seeking to develop in order to maintain my employment prospects? Despite having long-since abandoned any fantasies regarding promotion, I should nevertheless hate to be declared surplus to your ladyship's staffing requirement.

I remain, for the time being at least, your humble servant,


PS Did I miss something? At what point did the simple retainer suggested by Dame Glossop become tall, muscular and strapping? And is this now a core requirement of the post or (dare I say it) a discriminatory add-on to the job specification in order to deter applications from certain less well-endowed potential (or existing) employees?

10:31 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I must respectfully point out to the Dude that the retainer would need to be tall to ensure that it is her Ladyship's complexion that is provided with shade and not the noble knees.
Obviously muscular and strapping would be useful attributes for one carrying purchases.

6:04 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Lady Bracknell,

I was recently pointed towards your writings by an acquaintance. Imagine my shock on perusing the first page of your commentary and discovering that you share the same dislike of advertisers' descriptions of skin creams that absorb your skin!

Over here in the US, this has been common copy for at least the past 20 years, so I am afraid that atyllah may have the right of it that some of this verbiage does stem from the US. I hesitate to say from America, as there are many Americans for whom Spanish is the mother tongue and who are not citizens of the US. I suspect that they are innocent of the corruption of the English language that you so eloquently describe.

I have been protesting about the "absorbs quickly" phrasing for years. Unfortunately, almost no one to whom I have mentioned this has understood the problem, not even those friends who attended the same college for the purposes of entering the publishing industry as I did.

I sometimes feel, in my position as an editor, that no one really cares or notices the effort that goes into preventing such errors from exhibiting themselves in the public press. It is encouraging to know that the battle continues to be fought on the other side of the Pond, as well.

4:39 pm  
Blogger Fruning Graplecard said...

Dear Lady Bracknell

What a delightful blog.

Just a click of the mouse and here I am. Please feel welcome to make yourself known if you are ever in the vicintiy of Scotton Pinkney


or my own humble affair,


I have already added you to my special list.

10:36 pm  

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