Lazy Language and
Alphabet Soup

By Piers Schmidt

It was Dennis Potter who observed that “the trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they have been in.”
But caveat emptor if those words have sprung from the jaws of a property developer and their agents!

Not far from my home in the Cotswolds, there’s a new cluster development of “Luxury Homes” on a greenfield site that is nearing completion.

Every time I drive past the advertising board that proudly announces the arrival of these identikits (perfect for the modern executive), I can’t help but chuckle at the wording they have employed to promote the “just” eight detached properties.

An Executive Collection of Luxury Homes.

Never mind the only-to-be-expected hyperbole, I find myself questioning if a home can in fact be considered “executive” or whether it’s the houses themselves that are supposed to be for executives?

A few miles down the road, there’s an advertising board for a competing offering- differentiated at least in the words used to describe how it’s positioned and described.

A Luxury Collection of Exclusive homes

Are these truly different offerings? One is an executive collection of luxury homes and the other is a luxury collection of exclusive homes? Or is this fundamentally the same message expressed differently but with equal laziness and disregard for language.

I can understand the promise of a luxury home but what makes the second collection “luxury” and the properties “exclusive”? Exclusive to me if I choose to purchase? Or is exclusive just another way of emphasising that we are talking about luxury?

Gilding the proverbial lily.

During the short drive home from the second development, I came up with many variants and discrete propositions I could fashion from the same elements and epithets:

An Exclusive Collection of Luxury Homes
A Collection of Exclusive Luxury Homes
A Collection of Luxury Exclusive Homes
Home to a Collection of Exclusive Luxury
Home to an Exclusive Collection of Luxury
Exclusively Collecting Homes of Luxury
A Homely Collection of Luxury Exclusives
Luxury Exclusive: A Collection of Homes

And there are probably more. Some would say this is merely semantics or pedantic but each arrangement of words conveys a different meaning or should do to some extent. But this thought doesn’t seem to occur to the copywriters responsible for real estate marketing.

And then, I came across the property advertisement reproduced above, prompting the penning of this piece. This time, it’s an “exclusive collection” but look at the many wonderful, persuasive, compelling, descriptive and generic qualities they’ve managed to append to “just” six homes.

Dennis Potter once keenly observed, “the trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they have been in.”

Caveat Emptor if those words have sprung from the jaws of a property developer or their agents!

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