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Let’s get pedantic about semantics

Thom Barker
Thom Barker - Submitted

During an episode of the current sitcom Blackish, Dre Johnson (Anthony Anderson) publicly disagrees with his wife Rainbow. Later, while they are fighting about it in private, he says something along the lines of, ‘So, I’m supposed to back you up even if you’re wrong?” Again paraphrasing, her answer is an emphatic ‘Yes.”
I had to laugh because I too have been known to get myself in matrimonial hot water in a similar way and my own lovely bride’s response is usually quite similar.
Nevertheless, and I don’t know why exactly, but I have a hard time letting stuff, even inconsequential stuff, go. You might say I am nothing if not pedantic about semantics.
Blackish is one of the sitcoms I have discovered courtesy of the fact we still do not have an Internet connection making it very difficult to binge-stream cool series.
Bottom line? I have been watching a lot more broadcast TV lately, or having it on as background noise while I engage in other activities such as <begin shameless self-promotion> marketing my new children’s book Lady MacBeth Afraid of the Stairs available on Amazon and all major online book retailers<end shameless self-promotion>.
Unfortunately most of what is broadcast on the couple of hundred channels available to us is utter crap. Even half of what I watch is mind-numbing drivel—which I suppose on some level is the point. Broadcast TV, of course, also means commercials, endless, soul-draining, brain-decaying advertising.
Very occasionally there is a bright spot, something that makes you laugh or cry or think, but mostly it is just intelligence-insulting appeals to buy crap we don’t need that doesn’t work and will leave us emotionally empty enough to buy the next useless thing someone wants to peddle. It’s the economy stupid.
When you combine advertising with my pedantic semanticism, however, you can have some fun (or at least I can).
One of my favourites is for the ambulance-chasing Toronto law firm Diamond & Diamond. They—thinking themselves clever, no doubt—end their ad with a catchphrase, which is a play on their name. “There’s nothing tougher than a Diamond.” 
That is what you want in court, someone tough. The problem is, diamonds are not that tough. They are exceptionally hard, the hardest known naturally occurring substance, in fact. 
And tough can be a synonym for hard, but only when it is being used in the sense of difficult or challenging, not in the sense of resistance to scratching. Only another diamond can scratch a diamond, but they can be quite fragile owing to their orderly crystalline structure.
Of course, “There’s nothing harder than a Diamond” does not really work for the message they are trying to convey, so to hell with accuracy.
Another campaign I love is for an investment bank (might be BDO) in which an earnest business owner is shown working his or her heart out. The voiceover says: “Am I the only one who cares about growing my business?”
It’s your damn business. Why should anybody else care about growing your business? And when the advertiser says they care about growing your business, what they really mean is they care about growing their business. 
Finally, there is the ad for the new electronic assistant from Amazon. They call it “Alexa” because voice-activated tech needs to both have a sexy female alter-ego and not respond to something you might just randomly say in conversation. 
In the commercial, a young woman looks listlessly out her kitchen window as the snow falls and frost forms on the window pane. 
“Alexa,” she asks. “What’s the weather?”
You’re looking out the GD window! You can see exactly what the weather is. 

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