I just learned the Yiddish word ungapatchka. An ungapatchket house is filled with too much junk. A girl can be ungapatchket if she’s going out all dolled up. It has the sense of a good thing ruined by adding too much on top, like too many sprinkles on the cake or, at this time of the year, a glut of child-made decorations on the tree.
It makes me think of the way in which many businesses want to present themselves through their web sites.
‘Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.’ Is Orwell right to make this rule? One recent blog post on clichés, This metaphor aint dead, it’s just restin’ claims that writing without ‘dying’ phrases is in fact unattainable; and even if it wasn’t, the results of such [...]
After the fun of ‘Are you stupid enough to use leverage as a verb?’ (in which you added well-considered perspectives on the evolution of language to my fairly bald argument of that’s one ugly word) I’m going to have to break my silence about the word bespoke.
Bespoke is another ugly word, this time an adjective, as in ‘we provide bespoke software solutions’.
It is not common in US English, but is increasingly found in Britain being used to describe services, especially in IT. It is traditionally a tailoring term, coming from the archaic verb bespeak, indicating speaking about or arranging something in advance.
Tailors have used it for centuries to describe suits that are hand-made to an individual’s measurements, as opposed to off the peg, pre-cut garments. Originally, the term described the process whereby a piece of cloth would be reserved for an individual customer. It suggested craft, care and unique personalisation. More recently, it has broadened in tailoring to imply anything that is made to measure.
Writers love George Orwell. He wrote this:
1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
Legend. If discovering or being reminded of these rules is what you take away from this post – then my work here is done. However, if you want to know what Orwell was really getting at, read on.
Let me make two things clear. Firstly, language is organic. It grows and changes. Words pass out of usage, or take on new meanings. New words are invented for new objects and concepts. People who want language to remain as it is, frozen at the point that they did their English degrees, are probably afraid [...]
I’m working on content for an estate agent (that’s a realtor in the US). On their old site they have one of the worst metaphors that I’ve seen on a serious commercial web site. They have a basket.
That you can put houses in.
Think about that for a moment. As you browse through the site, looking for homes that fit your criteria, you can add ones that you like to a basket. Once they are in there, you click ‘View basket’ to see a list of homes you’ve chosen. There they are, snuggled at the bottom of the basket, waiting for you to – ‘click the register button to post off your details to the agent’. Whatever that means.