Dead Copywriting for the Dead Sea

It's difficult to write original copy for any location or project associated with the Dead Sea. Whether you're promoting its hotels and spas, its beauty-care products, its natural wonders or anything else. Seems that everything has been said.

Having written, translated and edited a lot of that type of text, I thought I was inured to the common, trite and/or pretentious bla-bla. But one writer (I don’t want to know who) managed to surprise me. I'll call him Yankele for the sake of convenience.

Yankele wrote, for example:

- תוכלו גם לטבול במי מרפא טבעיים וחיים
Tuchlu gam litbol b'mei marpeh tivi'im ve-hayim.
Excuse me? You can dip in what kind of natural, healing water? The Dead Sea as a source of mayim hayim? The connotation of this idiom is refreshing, potable water.

- תוכלו למרוח את גופכם בבוץ השחור ולחוש את הבריאות מחלחלת אל כל תא בגופכם
Tuchlu limro'ach et gufchem babotz ha'shachor ve'lachush et ha'bri'ut mehalhelt el kol ta begufchem.

You can apply the local black mud to your body and feel health as it suffuses every cell of your body.
- Nu, schön, I'll let that pass. If that's what Yankele feels, fine.

- The thermo-mineral water… nourishes the skin, making it shiny and beautiful.
Or something to that effect. Which I think is an exaggerated promise.

- The friendly sun caresses you 330 days a year.
Dead Sea sun, in summer, caressing? At 40 deg. C? Scorching is more like it.

- The only lake in the world in whose water you cannot drown.
This is plain wrong. Of course you can drown. If you're floating comfortably on your back, you're not likely to drown. But many floaters, when attempting to get back on their feet, have found themselves inadvertently face-down in the water. Not fun.

This is just a sample. There were plenty more wild exaggerations and inaccuracies in the text, stemming from either ignorance, provincialism, or just carelessness and being swept away by the desire to write impressive copy.

Though I had been asked to translate the Hebrew text into English, and did my best to side-step the above problems, I couldn't help but express my exasperation with the Hebrew. I provided my client (the Super Duper Agency, not Yankele et al) with a marked-up version of the Hebrew, pointing out the problematic words, expressions and statements. I didn't expect to be paid for this, and indeed Yankele et al refused to pay, which is understandable; they didn't ask for a critique or editing of the Hebrew. The agency, however, appreciated my efforts and said they'd find a way to compensate me, which is very decent of them.

I wondered what would become of the Hebrew text. Would the end-client ignore my comments and use the text as written?... Quick Googling of some of the Hebrew phrases indicated that the text was probably based on the official Dead Sea website. Looks like they wanted a shorter, spiffy version for advertising purposes. I do hope they come up with something better than the document that landed on my desk.


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