Blog in 11 2011.
So, the weird blank-faced Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, are ‘in shops this week’.
Sporting mascots tend not to fare well – they always seem just a bit forced and twee and too obviously about flogging merchandising. And this pair have more than a whiff of that about them: what, exactly, do these two alien Tellytubbies have to do with sport? But I have to say: their names are great.
Wenlock and Mandeville. Wenlock and Mandeville.
Say them out loud. Roll them around your mouth. They sound like they’re a pair of melancholy detectives from a minor existential comedy. Or perhaps Wallace and Gromit’s posher cousins. Or the names of two slightly bland English cheeses.
They make me think of the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock, and Stoke Mandeville hospital. Both places that reek of Englishness. Sporting names are usually so thrusting and energetic and relentlessly positive. Wenlock and Mandeville just seem so... gentle.
I did a little light googling. It turns out, of course, that these names haven’t been plucked out of the air just because they sounded nice – but because of their Olympic ‘resonances’. Much Wenlock was the home of Dr William Perry Brookes, who set up the Wenlock Olympian Games in 1850, and was the ‘inspiration for the modern Olympic movement’. And Stoke Mandeville stadium was the birthplace of the Paralympic Games. It all makes sense now.
In a way it’s a shame the names turn out to be so specifically Olympic-related. Even so, they’re corkers.
(Also, a good thing Dr Brookes didn’t live in Slough, eh?)
Hannover, the largest convention ground in the world, and us. It might seem like an unexpected match. But last week we were there, talking at ConventionCamp, the internet conference (or die Internet-Konferenz if you’re German). We were the only people doing a talk in English. And ours, unsurprisingly, was about words.
In a huge building that seemed more likely to be the setting of a science fiction film than a business conference, we talked about the future of language. These were our top three tips:
Twitter can make you a better writer
Despite what Ralph Fiennes says, condensing your thoughts into 140 characters will make you write more concisely, help you say what you mean and stop you waffling.
Keep things short and simple
Make what you write as tight as you can. Too much fluff, too much formality and too many words will put your reader off.
Grab attention, then hold on to it
We read things on a screen differently to how we read things on paper. We skim read. So cut out anything that someone could scan. Save only the most important information. Nobody likes scrolling. Tschüss.
People keep sending us pictures of this ad. It's for a low-cost gym chain called Fit4less.
Is it good or is it awful?
On the one hand, it's straightforward – you get the message loud and clear.
On the flipside, it's insulting – and there's a pretty big chance it puts you off.
But at the very least, you can't ignore it – it's engaging and guaranteed to provoke an emotional response. And you know what to expect when you walk into their gyms – no frills and not a lot of sympathy. Nick in the office has called them the Ryanair of gyms, which seems about right. And is that really such a bad thing? Ryanair do okay for themselves, don't they? What do you think? How does the ad make you feel?