Very poor choice of words

I read in the Sydney Morning Herald today something that made me stop and read it again. The Workplace Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, was talking about the Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd. He was berating Rudd’s supposed stand-off with Union leaders about new industrial relations policies.


Joe Hockey

According to the Herald, “Mr Hockey dismissed the the so-called friction between Mr Rudd and the unions as a B-grade movie designed to make Mr Rudd look tough.”


Kevin Rudd

However, Joe Hockey’s next quote had me wondering just what it was that Kevin Rudd and the unions were really up to:

“They get the union bosses to stick their heads up and Kevin Rudd on steroids comes in and whacks them off.”

He does what?

And you think they wax lyrical these days?

Some of the worst word abuse comes from the mouths of salesmen, particularly car salesmen and real estate agents. They like to twist your perception, selling something bad as if it’s great. “Renovator’s delight!” obviously means “run down pile of crap”, for example.

Well, back in the old days they took even more liberties. They didn’t try to re-word things to hide the bad, they simply advertised things with gay abandon regarding the truth. My wife, as an artist, has a number of books on art, art history and so on. We recently came across this classic in a book called Art and Suburbia by Chris McAuliffe (Craftsman House, 1996):

This is a poster ad from the 1880’s advertising land allotments for sale in Victoria. The sales talk in this particular ad is priceless. It starts off reasonably enough, referring to the area as THE LAND OF PROMISE. They’re talking it up, but that’s ok. Then we get to the subtitles just under the artist’s impression of said “land of promise”:

A Paradise in Miniature, verily, verily!

How miniature? And two verily’s? Very impressive indeed. Then:

Eden Resuscitated!

Right, getting a bit outrageous now. And I wasn’t aware that the fabled garden of Eden had been pronounced dead. I thought it was just lost. Then they start to get a bit elitist:

A Home for the Chosen People

Those chosen to get there first with their ten pound deposit, I presume. But maybe not. Look closely at the bottom right of the picture and the little inset there. Here, I’ll isolate it for you:

It’s two of the three wise men, considering land ownership in West Brunswick!

Now the real estate agents are on a roll and they let fly with the hyperbole:

The most perfect Sites of Rural Beauty to be found in Great Australia. Aesthetic Nature’s Celestial rendezvous. The Fairy Land of “Marvellous Melbourne.”

Nature’s celestial what now? And notice how they put quotes around “Marvellous Melbourne” but not around The Fairy Land. Then they get really carried away and start to make it sound almost so incredible that you wouldn’t want to live there:

140 feet above sea level, and commanding Views of City, Sea, and Mountain almost oppressive in the bewildering beauty of their magnificence.

I say, steady on there, old chap. You’re starting to scare me now. But it’s all ok in the end, because part of the land has been reserved for a train line:

Yep. Right through the middle of the estate. And as the second line in the picture above states:

102 Trains daily, on the two lines, running every fifteen minutes. Trams and Omnibuses incessantly.

Incessantly? Phew, thank goodness for that.

It’s my birthday but you get the present

So yesterday was my birthday, but enough about that. It also marked the release of the first new J R R Tolkien book since the posthumous release of The Silmarillion in 1977. It’s not really a new book by J R R Tolkien, but was editted together by his son, Christopher, using extensive notes left behind when J R R died in 1971. The book was started in 1918 and revised numerous times, but never finished.


Front cover of the new book

The book is called The Children of Hurin, realsed by Harper Collins in the UK and Houghton Mifflin in the US. The cover art, internal drawings and colour plates were supplied by Alan Lee, who illustrated The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings and won an oscar for art direction in Peter Jackson’s recent movies.

The book is credited as being written by J R R Tolkien and edited by Christopher Tolkien. A cynic might wonder why this book wasn’t forthcoming some years ago, seeing as Christopher claims to have had the material for 30 years. It might be suggested by those less charitable than others that the book was knocked together in the last few years after the phenomenal success of Peter Jackson’s movies. The subsequent legions of new Tolkien fans would pretty much ensure that this book would be a publishing success story of epic proportions. Today, the day after its release, the book stands at #2 on Amazon.com. We’ll have to wait and see just how good a book it is. Let me know if you get around to reading it. I’ll try to get around to it sometime soon.

Interestingly, on the subject of publishing phenomenons, the #1 book at Amazon today is the new Harry Potter book and that’s not even released until July 21st. Weird.

Scrotum defended

In a quick update to the previous post here on The Word about the use of the word scrotum in a children’s book, I have to share the words of the author herself. In an article she wrote in the LA Times in response to the whole ridiculous controversy, Susan Patron eloquently and plainly states a powerful case. In particular, this paragraph stood out to me:

Of course, adults are right to fear a word in a book, although not, as in this instance, because it names a body part. They are right in the implied assumption that books have enormous power and influence. Children who read widely understand more about the world; they have a foundation for making better decisions. They think, and because of that, they may even challenge their parents’ beliefs. For some, a scary idea, but isn’t a thinking child preferable to one who accepts the world at face value and has no aim to change it for the better?

I have a new hero. Read the entire article here.