Some words to close out winter

Some words to close out winter

What links futurology, rugby and abused veg?

Peugeot is currently pushing its new slogan: Unboring the Future.

This, says Jean-Philippe, director of Peugeot, will ensure that “boring will never be part of our DNA”.

Like crime in multi-story car parks, it’s wrong on so many levels.

Using an “un-“ prefix implies you are changing something (undoing, uncovering). So if unboring means anything it is that Peugeot’s cars were dull in the past. Not the best sell.

And to English ears, something about “unboring” says drilling tunnels. Maybe it would be a better slogan for Crossrail.

Peugeot is using the same English slogan in France, where it was probably dreamed up.

Generally language travels badly. In marketing it is always best to start from scratch and get a local version.

Must we learn more lessons?

In due course, we will move on to the “lessons learned” from the coronavirus crisis.

A quick Google will show we are “learning  the lessons” of anything from sporting defeats to fires, banking crises, flooding and virus outbreaks.

In December, a flood warden in the Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge was praising the lessons learned from flooding there in 2015. A couple of storms later and the townspeople are saying: “I’m really fed up especially after the lack of lessons learned from 2015.”

The BBC reported on the scandal of sub-postmasters being convicted and in some cases jailed for accounting shortfalls that weren’t their fault. It said: “The Post Office has admitted it has made mistakes, but says it’s learned lessons.”

Indeed, whenever a government department or a company reacts to disaster, failure of service or just complete maladministration, it usually says it is looking at “the lessons to be learned”.

It's faux contrition – an assumption that if you hang your head and repeat these words there’s no need to do more.


Learnings curve

While we’re on the subject, “learning” is an abstract noun and doesn’t have a plural.

Sports players are particularly keen on the “learnings” of their defeats. Here’s Ireland’s rugby union coach Andy Farrell after defeat by England: "We will take the learnings and the hurt as well.”

No Andy, that will be lessons. Even if you won’t actually learn them.


Mixed metaphor of the month

What is it about HS2 that reduces its opponents to frothing incoherence? We’ve highlighted here before MP Andrew Bridgen’s priceless: “It’s no good trying to whitewash what everyone knows is a white elephant.”

Now the Taxpayers’ Alliance chips in, saying taxpayers will be left paying for “the HS2 white elephant with no light at the end of the tunnel”. Well, elephants are big beasts, so they would block the light.


Jargon of the month

O & A Property Consultants say they “Discover, Advise and Deliver workspace solutions to clients”. Or find them better offices as the rest of us would say. (And by the way how do you “advise a solution”?)

One day, we hope a solvents company will adopt as its value proposition “delivering solutions solutions”.

Or a logistics company will proudly boast that its deliveries are delivering delivery.

Laura Goodman

Salt and battery

Finally, Highbrook’s eye was caught by Laura Goodman’s effusive recipe for Brown Rice with Smacked Cucumber and Chopped Omlette in her book Carbs (Quadrille).

The poor cucumbers are to be treated thus: “You’re not looking for them to fall apart, you just want to break the skin, loosen them up and get the juices moving.”

Who says cookery writing is unimaginative?

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Michael Pilgrim
Michael Pilgrim

Chairman and founder