Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Monday, November 26, 2007

Listorama: Facebook status updates vol 3

BetaRish is:

- pretty much done for the day now
- the only one I know
- (insert vaguely witty/amusing/random comment here)
- looking forward to tonight
- broken, after a night of no sleep
- thinking about landraces and Littlehampton
- your co-anchor this evening
- a box of clichés
- really really really really really that bad
- in a daydream nation
- ... oh, hold on, there’s somebody at the door
- looking for street-tag wit
- weak in the presence of beauty. And cakes. And very weak when beauties bearing cakes float past
- humming ‘The Nights Are Cold’ by Richard Hawley
- lacking inspiration for something to put here
- waiting for the day
- immersed in muffins
- the wake-up bomb, except it hasn’t detonated yet
- is the solution. What was the problem again?
- watching you watching you watching you
- what he said
- not running on banks
- not rested
- still not rested
- marvelling that a man can lose his job over the name of a cat
- not pleased with his hat-trick of broken nights
- Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Aenean laoreet ligula eu eros. Nam quis nisl sit amet dui nonummy fringilla. Donnec fermentum, nisi et
- Danger Fourpence
- is on a high after seeing Oli Rockberger play in London – for those who aren’t hip yet
- The Age of Change
- a carnival kid
- utilising daisychains
- agreeing with Ruth
- a bit narked that .txt file has gone missing
- not over yet
- on a ragga tip
- wondering why his fingers are still throbbing
- twiddling with his hair
- prolific
- asleep. Or possibly dreaming he’s awake. Or is awake when he shouldn’t be
- something or other
- famerish
- mostly vitamin C
- cursing not being prescribed antibiotics two years ago
- lolloping towards the weekend
- not cordon bleu
- seeing the best minds of his generation destroyed by facebook
- thinking, no, knowing that ‘In Rainbows’ is startlingly, piercingly beautiful


Monday, November 19, 2007

Commercial: The limits of quenching

Nike is one of those brands that has always known how to speak - that is use a tone of voice not only correct for its audience, but also imbued with its brand essence of 'winning', and more often than not hitting some of the subsconscious notes of the linguistic zeitgeist (the out and out boastfulness of the 1980s has softened greatly over the years, for example).

So perhaps we should worry about the standards of English like what it is taught in the UK, if the evidence of the latest display in the Niketown at Oxford Circus in London is anything to go by. Showcasing the new. shop-based version of their online 'design-your-own-trainers' service, Nike iD, one of their design consultants, Simon is quoted as saying:

Let me quench your thirst for originality

Which at first glance is all fine and dandy, if impossible when measured by the potential combinations of designs allows (54 different styles of shoe to choose from, plus hundreds of matrerials and colour options).

But hold on a 'mo. 'Quench'. 'Quench'? Are you sure? As in:

-satisfy a thirst
-snuff out: put out, as of fires, flames, or lights; "Too big to be extinguished at once, the forest fires at best could be contained"; "quench the flames"; "snuff out the candles"
-electronics: suppress (sparking) when the current is cut off in an inductive circuit, or suppress (an oscillation or discharge) in a component or device
-squelch: suppress or crush completely; "squelch any sign of dissent"; "quench a rebellion"

(definitions sourced from via this metasearch)

It appears that someone decided that, as it stood, the phrase was 'too weak' or 'not sexy enough' or 'not working hard enough'. And so, in modern parlance, decided to sex it up.

Trouble is, now it conveys something something that actively works against the spirit of Nike iD. Try these substitutions:

Let me snuff out your thirst for origninality
Let me suppress your thirst for origninality
Let me crush completely your thirst for originality

Now, you could cavail and say that this is a wilful, and over-the-top, reading and that anyway the sentences don't make sense when 'thirst' is still used in them; that it's not Nike's fault that word-inflation is hitting even dependable adverbs like 'quench'; and anyway, everyone who reads it will get the idea, and basically know what it means.

But some people will read it and think: "So, if I use this service, Nike will destroy my orignality, and any sense of creativity that I might have had." Satisficing suggests that once the temporary thirst has been slaked, when it comes back, you'll need to drink again. Quenching suggests that you'll never need to drink again. Which to these ears translates as: less sales.

Which is why it is important that word-inflation is monitored and countered wherever possible. Frank Bruni in the New York Times has written recently (wincingly so, in fact, as Beta has been guilty of using this word a lot on behalf of a certain red financial services brand) about how restaurants in New York are abusing the word 'enjoy' to the point of insensibility:

Would I “enjoy coffee with dessert?” I don’t know; it depends how good the coffee is. I’ll have some, yes, then we’ll see.

Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Egads. It’s a semantic pox, either getting worse by the moment or simply less bearable upon the thousandth exposure to it. And it’s a fine example of restaurantspeak, an oddly stilted language that has somehow survived the shift toward casual dining and that sounds even odder and more stilted in light of the new informality.

So, in the name of sense, and of messages meaning what they say, let us enjoin and enjoy the struggle to quench word-inflation.


Thursday, November 15, 2007


It's been a while. So to celebrate:

1. Free Rice - you must have seen this. A great word game that (somehow) manages to get rice to people who need it in the developing world. Beta does OK at the game.

2. An interesting discussion about how planning has to evolve, to support the ways that consumers - and so brands - are changing.

3. Timothy Garton Ash in today's Guardian says:

I find it suggestive that Britain, probably the freest society in Europe in the last century, is now the most watched society in Europe, while Germany, a country with a unique 20th-century double experience - Nazi and Stasi - of unfreedom, is now, according to Privacy International, the least watched.

Who wants to move to Germany?