Tag Archives: word choice

Do We Really Listen to Advertisements?


Who loves commercials?  This guy does.  Commercials are fantastic.  They’re an art form, really, and a tremendous challenge: in what other medium are you up against the task of wresting your audience’s attention away from their phone, their wife, their plate of hot wings, their fridge?  In what other medium do you have a limit of just fifteen or thirty seconds to make a convincing point — enough for your ideas to stick in the mind of your audience?  Advertisers have a hard job, and some of them are very very good at it, but some of them are very very bad at it.  Pardon my complete lack of wordsmithery, I’m still coming down off the pain meds and the old bean is throbbing something fierce.

But that’s a nice tie-in, because I want to talk about a specific commercial that’s affected me in a very specific way.  The product in question is Lumosity, a product I neither use nor endorse, because — as is my wont — I know nothing about it aside from what I’ve seen in the ads.  What I’ve seen, however, is beyond stupid.

First things first.  Is the ad effective?  That depends.  I can’t ever see myself buying or recommending the product.  That would seem to be a fail for the ad.  However, I don’t know that I’m in the target demographic for the product (brain training, memory retention, seems to be marketed at an older crowd, even though it’s all young people in the ads), so that’s a wash.  However, the ad has without a doubt stuck with me: so much so that I’m here blarging about it and I’m about to tell you why it’s stuck with me so inextricably, and if the goal of an ad is to plant an idea in your mind — to Inceptionize its audience, so to speak — then it’s certainly effective.

Take a look at the video below.  I saw this ad on my television about three days ago and it’s latched into my brain with white-hot raptor claws.

Anything in there strike you as odd?  Nonsensical?  Let’s ignore the central claim about games being able to strengthen your brain.  That may or may not be a valid claim; I certainly haven’t done the research, though I did play a sharknado-ton of video games as a kid, and well, let’s just say I didn’t become a rocket scientist or anything.  But no, it’s not that.  Ads claim all kinds of things that are dubious.  Just look at any ad for a weightloss product.  No, at about the 14 second mark, the talking head in the ad says something so idiotic that my brain actually made me play back the commercial — I ACTUALLY REWOUND THE PLAYBACK TO RE-WATCH A COMMERCIAL, OK — and watch it again to make sure I heard it properly.

He says “It makes my brain feel great.”

Ponder that for a moment.  Let it marinate in your thinking parts and ooze its septic juice all over your cortices.  Feel the throbbing pleasure build in your brain as you process the wonderful feeling that critical thinking produces.  Oh, what’s that?  You don’t feel anything?  That’s because the brain is not a sensory organ.  Ergo, it can no more feel great than it can ride a bicycle or teach a monkey to dance.

I’m straying into the realm of science I don’t know enough about here.  I know that.  The brain is nothing short of a miracle of evolution.  But it can’t feel things.  It can interpret electrical impulses that your various organs that actually do sensing relay to it, but it does not create sense data of its own.  Claiming that your brain can “feel great” is beyond stupid.  YOU can feel great.  YOU can feel intelligent or smug or satisfied or capable of world domination after playing Lumosity’s games, but your brain doesn’t feel ANYTHING.

But, they said it.  And it made it through first draft to the final draft and into the commercial, so they obviously thought it was a good line.  And why not?  Who wouldn’t want their brain to feel great?  I know I would!  Gosh golly gee, my brain just lives in the dumps all day long.  It feels like total crap most of the time.  I want my brain to feel better!

…See how dumb that sounds?

There’s another ad in recent history that I sadly can’t find online at the moment.  It was an ad for a toothpaste, Sensodyne I think.  In it, a woman says she suffered from tooth pain due to damage to the enamel that drinking coffee had done over years and years, and that Sensodyne helped her get some relief.  WELL AND GOOD.  But then at the end of the commercial, she starts listing the virtues of this magical angel’s butt-paste.  It whitened my teeth.  It repaired the damage I’d done.  It allowed me to drink cold beverages again.  It helped me to eat healthier.

Wait.  Hold on.  Stop the train.  You want to claim (or rather, the company wants you to claim) that this toothpaste turned you from a french-fry mobbing, pizza-devouring, I’ll-have-seconds-on-my-ice-cream-no-make-that-thirds unhealthy eater into a healthy person that makes smart food choices?  NO IT DIDN’T.  Sorry, it didn’t.  MAYBE in learning about the toothpaste and the damage you were doing to your teeth you realized that you were eating like a human garbage disposal and THAT realization made you reconsider the things that you put into your mouth-hole.  But the toothpaste has no more to do with the decision than it did with Obama’s re-election.  (Unless I’m on to something here.  In which case.. uh… yay, Sensodyne?  Please don’t bug my house?)

Okay, I’m fixating.  I’m reading way too much into what should otherwise be a throwaway moment in a commercial that shouldn’t matter to me.  BUT THIS IS THE POINT.  Advertisers will say anything — literally, ANYthing — to make you buy a product.  Who among us doesn’t want to eat healthier?  Who wouldn’t like to have their BRAIN FEEL GREAT?  These nonsensical claims, ridiculous as they are, sound good when we hear them and they work on us subconsciously , tricking us into thinking that the products they’re hawking are actually worth a monkey’s turd.

All this is to say, next time you see an ad, just think about what’s really being said.  Seriously.  Stop and think and engage those critical muscles in your brain (OH WAIT THE BRAIN DOESN’T HAVE MUSCLES JUST KIDDING) and actually consider what they’re saying.  You might just stop yourself from wasting your money.  Or at the very least you can get a preachy blarg topic out of it.

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On YA Lit: Should Adults Be Embarrassed to Read It?


There’s apparently been a bit of a stir lately over this article on Slate condemning adult consumers of Young Adult Literature.  To condense, the author over there, one Ruth Graham, feels (rather strongly) that YA lit is strictly for YAs and if you’re not a YA then you shouldn’t be reading YA lit.

Okay, that’s perhaps an intentional oversimplification, but the argument is simple.  As an author, you must know your audience.  (An interesting comment for me to make given my schizophrenia lately over exactly who my audience for AI might be.)  And an author writing for young adults presumably makes different choices in their stories than an author writing for adults, whether it’s simplifying plots and making characters’ choices more transparent, using saucier or more elevated language, or even the entire subject matter of the story.  So the author is writing for a specific group of people (though that group might itself be incredibly diverse).

Let’s just take that on its face.  Say you’re an accomplished author, and you write your book about robot-fighting tree-farmers in post-carbon-emissions formerly-known-as-America.  (Don’t steal that, it’s MINE.)  But you write it specifically from the point of view of, and full of the lingo of, and bulging with references to, let’s say, south Floridian retirees.  Why would you make such a choice?  This is the strange and wonderful land of Hypothetica, just keep your hands and feet inside the chopper. Continue reading


Why “The Greatest Story Ever Told” is a Problem


Not sure I could identify the cause of it, but one way or another, I’ve found myself reading a few articles and editorials lately that deal with The Bible; specifically, adapting The Bible as literature.  Like, I read a critique of Noah, and some examination of The Ten Commandments or something, and a few others.  One thing jumped out at me: virtually all of these examinations were particularly critical of their subject matter (the adaptation of course, not The Bible) and in particular they were critical of any filmmaker’s or screenwriter’s hubris in thinking they could improve upon “The Greatest Story Ever Told”.  The quotations and capitals are mine: invariably, when this statement is invoked by a believer it’s invoked casually, nonchalantly, as if this statement is a simple matter of painfully obvious fact.

I’m not here to start debates, and I’m not here to sermonize, or the opposite of sermonize, whatever that would be.  I just like to point things out and let them clunk around the old bean, like a goat swallowing stones to aid in its digestion.  Because language is important — it’s not just the what, but the way we say things that matters — calling The Bible “The Greatest Story Ever Told” is inherently problematic. Continue reading


Repeticons, a word I’ve just made up


It’s the last week of school, and I’ve got English on the brain.  English is awesome.  English is dumb.  I love it.  I hate it.  I love language and want to spend the rest of my life finding new ways to tell exciting and interesting stories.  I hate language and grr blargle argle sknash.

If you’re going to be a writer, you have to love the language at least a little bit.  I love it a lot.  I love its twists and turns, I love its nooks and crannies, I love its incongruities, I love its flat contradictions.  More than that, I love to play with it.

I think authors have to practice their wordplay at every opportunity they can get, like the guys with the things doing the things to other things.  Ahem.  My brain’s a little fried and my wordplay is not in top form right now.  But that won’t stop me from writing about it. Continue reading


15 Tips for Writing an Actual Graduation Speech that Actually Doesn’t Suck


Remember you're unique, just like everybody else.

Remember you’re unique, just like everybody else.

In a surprising twist yesterday, the little blarg here got a handful of hits from, presumably, high school students looking for ways to write a graduation speech.  Oh, dear.  They stumbled into my lair, hoping for advice, only to find me talking all about ME.  I cackled.  I chortled.  I guffawed.  But then I thought.  Wait a minute.  I’m a teacher.  There are students out there looking for help.  My tiny little minuscule platform, for better or worse, was a source they came to in search of that help.  Am I not obligated, then, to provide some measure of that help?

I thought some more.  Obligated?  Perhaps not.  But it could be fun, and it might even help some of them (henceforth, some of YOU) out.  MAYBE I could actually provide a service.

Continue reading


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