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:
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.