23:46 Thu 30 Nov 2006. Updated: 00:50 01 Dec 2006
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I find marketing speak very difficult to listen to. I would guess that most people feel similarly, but if so, why does it persist? Even without dealing with the more egregious examples—such as press releases and “on-message” politicians—it simply gets to me.

Its rhetorical aspect doesn’t seeem enough to explain it. The use of language to persuade in itself strikes me as reasonable, even necessary. Hair-splitting and “lawyerese” also don’t disturb me that much. Marketing speak, however, appears to rely on the formation of meaning around phrases or words that in themselves have little substance.

One could say the same about rhetoric, but rhetoric, at least, tends to have emotional content. Marketese doesn’t even have that going for it. Instead, it conveys a peculiar mixture of comfort or coolness surrounding emptiness. Rhetoric could manifest as an intimidating presence, or a seductive temptation, but marketing-speak never transcends the empty shell, the mask without a face, the hollow suit.

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