If you’re in marketing—especially if you’re a copywriter or someone who cares about words—you owe it to yourself to pick up Victor Klemperer’s dense and almost impenetrable book, “The Language of the Third Reich.”
Klemperer, a linguist and a Jew in Nazi-Germany, and later a subject of the East German Communist state, made analysis of the language of the speech of the Master Race his reason for being.
Like Orwell, he looked deep into language to unearth true meaning.
I know this is complicated for a blog on advertising. But we need to look at our industry, I think, from a philological point of view. To get to the true nature of our world we need to examine the language we use and question why we use it?
Why do we harp on the word “authentic,” banging it around like a stick in a swill pail? It's probably because we're covering up for being inauthentic.
Why do we use the word “curate,” when it’s clearly not what we mean? We could say “pull together,” or “select.”
But we choose—with the fervor of religious zealots—to use language that no one seems to understand. Often in the service of creating work that no one will see. With a message that seems trivial at best. You know, to win awards we pay for.
We have created a language that has no meaning. A language that is built to obscure, befuddle and confuse rather than communicate with precision and clarity. We have embraced that language. Every meeting seems to me to be the same two or three dozen words repeated over and again in a different order.
Truth be told, I leave meeting after meeting not knowing what was said, what I’m charged with doing, or why. When I ask for clarification, I get the opposite. And the distinct impression that no one really knows what or why the fuck.