Pitaro strikes [out] again

One of my favorite pastimes is tearing apart bad copywriting and rotten translations of decent or even half-decent copywriting.

A case in point is Pitaro office furniture. They pour god knows how much money into their "creative" and into placing their full-page ads in weekend supplements and so on, but obviously pay zilch, or near zilch, to their English copywriters and/or translators, if any. I have no other explanation as to why they consistently come up with bad English in their catch phrases, tag lines, slogans. It stands out all the more both because there is very little text on the big page (which, in itself, is a good thing), and because they are so consistent in their transgression.

The first time I came upon their stupid "loose your body" caption, I wrote to them. The webmaster answered politely and forwarded my letter to the Powers that Be, who more or less told me I didn’t know what I was talking about, and ignored my comments. I didn't save their subsequent embarrassing blunders, but do have their latest "gem":

Everyday, is like a day off.

Guys, you meant "every day" not "everyday". And the comma is totally uncalled for. Such a short, simple statement, and you messed it up. How do you manage it?...

Gentle Readers, if you're in the mood, you can have more fun with the text on their home page.

It's that time of year again

I bet you all feel really sorry for me –– it's that time of year again when thou mayest behold me as I agonize over which book to take on my trip abroad…

See, I'd actually made up my mind: I'd planned to take Stephen Fry's Moab Is My Washpot ; the very one which Clara (=Mom) enjoyed so much, that she begged Mr. Fry to write a sequel. (He sweetly declined. See bottom of page). But I can't find the ruddy thing!!! Grrr!!! (Vered , my abject apologies for all those exclamation marks.) Obviously, the minute I buy a new/second-hand copy, the old one will resurface. Besides, I don't have time to get a new one – we're flying Friday morning, and I doubt very much that Natbag  bookstores would have it.

So here I go dithering again.

I've just finished reading Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go . Let me tell you – this blood-curdling novel will never let me go. Clara warned me. I'm not saying I'm sorry I read it – it's very good. But so depressing! I hate depressing books. They depress me. I don't enjoy being depressed. I can't go into details and tell you precisely what it's about, because that would constitute a Major Spoiler. Not that there's a twist in the plot a la The Crying Game  or Planet of the Apes… In fact, going back to the first page of the book, it seems to be all spelled out right there on Page One (actually p. 3). But when first reading it, it doesn't really sink in. You don't quite get it.  The first mention of what's really going on is only on page 80 (out of 282); then pivotal events and crucial bits of information appear gradually closer together – on pages 136, 164, 207, 228. [All page numbers refer to the Faber & Faber paperback edition, 2006.] The plot takes place in "England, late 1990s", and is a dystopia, in the same sense that  George Orwell's 1984 , Neville Shute's On the Beach,  Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange  and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451  are, to name a few famous ones. Yet its tone and point of view are different, low key, and … but that would be telling.

In brief, after that sad tale, I didn't want another heart-breaker. But I happened to pick up Philip Roth's The Plot Against America. Here's yet another dystopia if ever there was one, and on a more epic scale at that. Since I felt I didn't know enough American history to do the novel justice, I started from the Postscript, that runs in tiny print from page 363 to 391. So far I've read a brief bio of FDR and of Charles A. Lindbergh. But, as interesting as it all is, it's not the type of novel I like to take on vacation with me. So I'm stuck.

Now, if I had a Kindle, say…

Israeli Hebrew - It's Not What You Think

Dr. Nurit Dekel's talk at the ITA Lecture Evening (Tel Aviv, October 5, 2010) "Israeli Hebrew - It's Not What You Think" caused an uproar and a furor. Arie Gus' talk was fascinating and enjoyable. Good mix, wouldn't you say? Happily, Nurit spoke before Arie, so the evening ended on a pleasant note.

Without getting into the discussion of modern Hebrew compared to old Hebrew, and to what extent the former is a continuation of the latter or a different language in its own right, I'd like to add my 7 agorot's worth (at today's exchange rate).

I think the purely linguistic observations and analysis totally miss a salient point, mentioned by Micaela Ziv and a few other sensible, down-to-earth people.* Every language has different registers; it has colloquial, slangy, spoken language and it has literary, educated, higher language. In society, you're allowed to use the former so long as you can also express yourself in the latter when and where appropriate. And this is where both Nurit and her colleague Prof. Ghil'ad Zuckerman fall flat on their faces.

Zuckerman says he has no problem with sub-standard Hebrew expressions like "shalosh shekel" (= three shekels, but using the grammatically incorrect form of the numeral); but I am sure he would not be caught dead saying it, because – if he were to do so in an environment where he is not known – it would immediately brand him as an ignoramus, or at least lower-class and uneducated. Certainly not the refined international professor that he is. Same goes for Dekel. She says that she does not correct her daughters when they use grammatically incorrect but linguistically logical forms of verbs and nouns. But she is doing them a disservice. I wonder how she would feel if her daughter went for a job interview, say, and got rejected because her spoken language made her sounded like a common "fakatza" or "frecha" (empty-headed bimbo). Though of course, in reality, many HR interviewers speak Hebrew that is not much better than their interviewees. Perhaps that's precisely what Kedem is counting on – pretty soon, lowest-common-denominator language, whether it's called Hebrew or Israeli, will prevail, becoming the accepted norm. No one will object to it. But that's not the worst of it.

As Micaela wisely and sadly pointed out:

"I am all for languages evolving and see Nurit's lecture as a sign that the revival of Hebrew has been a success. On the other hand, some of Nurit's fine examples indicate what I already know as a former educator: the level of spoken Hebrew is very low.
A language can / should / does evolve; the question is how it does so - i.e., are the younger generation articulate in Hebrew? The answer, sadly - is for the most part - no!
I am not too perturbed about whether Hebrew is adopting more "Europeanized" syntax or not, but I am very concerned that so many youngsters have a very limited vocabulary ("kazeh, ke'ilu") which means they can neither think, speak nor write clearly and coherently - and that is very dangerous for our future.

If anything, studies like Nurit's should be conducted on a written corpus and this will reveal the real issue. The problem is not that informal speech differs from written text. That is true in almost every country. The problem is that today, many young Israelis can only write the way they speak because the education system does not require them to make any serious effort to express themselves well."


* A couple of other sensible, level-headed reactions:

"My dispute with Nurit Dekel is not the name nor the fact that language/s evolve but that she advocated adopting the lowest common denominator as the rule-setter."
Nathan Ginsbury

"Does that mean "the miracle of the revival of the Hebrew language never happened?" No. It just means the brilliant pioneers who toiled with great love and skill to bring Hebrew into the modern age as the spoken language of the renascent Jewish state devised a version of Hebrew that has a lot in common with the European and other languages they spoke. To me this makes it no less a miracle that we speak Hebrew - a version that has enough in common with ancient Hebrew so that we can understand it."
Shoshana London Sappir