Blog in 06 2011.
I like a good rhyme. Even better, I like a good rhyme that shouldn’t actually be a rhyme but the writer has decided to shoehorn one in anyway. On a totally unrelated note, I also like to prop up broken furniture with books or other bits of broken furniture and I tend to carry a roll of duct tape in my bag, just in case something needs mending.
Anyway, let’s take a moment to celebrate one of the rhyming greats: Ogden Nash.
Ogden Nash, who had his first job writing streetcar ads with the same company that F. Scott Fitzgerald began his pencil chewing (although I can’t quite imagine the creator of Jay Gatsby using his prose to flog laxatives or trilbys). Ogden Nash, who once fell in love with a woman because (he later reflected) her last name was Blorange and offered a solution to the fruit with no dictionary rhymes.
Ogden Nash, who when asked why he left New York for Maryland replied "I could have loved New York had I not loved Balti-more."
You get the idea. Here are some of the best extracts from his word mangling poetry:
And he said the world was round,
And everybody made an uncomplimentary sound,
But he went and tried to borrow some money from Ferdinand
But Ferdinand said America was a bird in the bush and he'd rather have a berdinand.
Bankers Are Just Like Everybody Else Except Richer
Yes, if they request fifty dollars to pay for a baby you must
look at them like Tarzan looking at an uppity ape in the
And tell them what do they think a bank is, anyhow, they had
better go get the money from their wife's aunt or ungle. (and)
And all the vice-presidents nod their heads in rhythm,
And the only question asked is do the borrowers want the
money sent or do they want to take it withm.
He’s also a master of brevity,
While still maintaining a sense of levity.
I was passing the time the other day by browsing through Wikipedia’s list of infectious diseases. Somewhere between actinomycosis and zygomycosis, I noticed something intriguing. Quite a few of them had alternative names next to them in brackets.
I could go on.
I’m going to go on.
Pertussis is whooping cough. Tetanus is lockjaw. Tinea barbae is barber’s itch.
In each case, one’s opaque, the other’s clear.
One’s devoid of connotations, the other paints vivid pictures in your head.
One’s formal, the other seems somehow a little bit less serious.
One’s Latin. The other, for the most part, is Anglo-Saxon.
In a city like ours, there’s always someone from the office out doing something fun, quirky, interesting, different. And there’s always someone (or a few of us) wishing they’d known about it too.
So Culture Shock was born.
It’s our way of getting out and doing, seeing, exploring things we normally might not. To give you a taster of what we’ve been up to already, we’ve popped over to the British Library’s Evolving English exhibition, been to a spoken word event and seen our Nick Parker do a reading of his short stories.
It’s not all about adventuring around town either. You might’ve read about our lunchtime Bananagrams sesh. That was part of Culture Shock too.
As it picks up steam, we’ll get some reviews and stories up. If you’ve been somewhere interesting, thought-provoking, or seen somewhere you think we’d like to go, drop a comment below or tweet us. And we’ll let you know what we’re up to.
It doesn’t have to be word-nerdy at all. We just want to know what we’re missing out on so we don’t miss out next time.
It’s imaginative. They call fingers ‘cheek slappers’, ‘clapping utensils’, ‘shake traps’ and ‘high-five dispensers’, amongst other things.
The writing guidelines suggest people use fake proverbs, mixed metaphors, illogical comparisons and lists, and ‘highly technical language when it's least called for to overcomplicate things’.
They recognise the power of the written word. And (unlike in many companies) the writers rule.
And bits of their writing tickle me. Like this deal for a Moroccan restaurant.
‘Morocco is famed for Casablanca, a city named after the Humphrey Bogart film, and couscous, a reduction made from couscouscous.’
What’s not so good?
They’re inconsistent. My ‘welcome to Groupon’ email was somewhat lacklustre.
You have registered for the Groupon newsletter for London with the following email address: [email protected]
Congratulations! From now on you’ll hear about new deals as they arrive and will be able to take advantage of London for a whole lot less!
Your Groupon team.’
And often it’s just plain weird. Like this offer for thread vein treatment:
‘Bread brain agreement, not to be confused with thread vein treatment, is the tentative approval of certain undesirable elements of the mind's dough, including rye wit and kneady behaviour. Get under the crust of unwanted extras with today's Groupon.’
But does it really matter? The writing might be bizarre at times. And at times it might make you mad. But gosh darn it if they’re not just giving something new a whirl.
I say, why bloody not. And they’ve just been valued at $30bn. So they must be doing something right.
*From Groupon’s style guide. It’s their example of writing about hypothetical worlds/outcomes.
It's always good to read a well written, interesting opinion piece. Even better when the opinion is one you actually agree with.
Yesterday we tweeted about this article about pointless, annoying legalese in email sign-offs, from FT.com. Anyone who's stumbled across our blog before, been to one of our workshops or even just spoken to anyone from The Writer for five minutes will be able to see why we love it.
We bang on about this sort of thing all the time.
Your email sign-off is a really public part of your tone of voice, so why not think about it more?
Because we feel so strongly about it, we're offering to rewrite corporate email disclaimers (for free). We'll do the first three who get in touch.
So give us your worst, corporate legal teams.