Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ad, mad words

HOW do advertisements capture the attention? Through the principle of foregrounding: used in ordinary, everyday contexts, language does not deviate from standard conventions but when it does deviate, this change grabs attention as it stands out by contrast. To make their copy eye-catching, creators of advertisements deliberately change the ways in which language is used. This is beneficial for the language as well as the user because the structures become more and more novel when each user tries to fit them into a specific need. As David Crystal writes in The Language Revolution: "When a language spreads, it changes... parts of the world differ so much physically and culturally... means that speakers have innumerable opportunities to adapt the language to meet their communicative needs..." Adaptation enriches the language by combining culture-rich input from both sides.

Indian users have their own way of adapting English to their needs in advertisements like ‘Oye Bubbly’. This one combines the Oye, a word that symbolises the joi de vivre of Punjab with the concept of a fizzy drink, also using the word ‘bubbly’ that encapsulates the Indian penchant for pet names along with the appeal of the film Bunty aur Babli. Another advertisement also capitalises on the popularity of this film with its slogan ‘Bun, tea aur butterly’. Similarly, ‘I am lovin’ it’ is typical of the Indian user immortalised by many a poet. ‘Hungry Kya?’ is an eye-catching blend of Hindi and English while exploiting the many-layered tag ‘kya’.

‘Freshizza’ is a blend created with ‘fresh’ and ‘pizza’ while strong glass becomes ‘stronglas’ so that the attention is grabbed. ‘Dew’ is given a fresh connotation as a trendy activity with the expression ‘do the dew’. Another advertisement uses the word ‘service’ as a pun by using it for both service for the customer and service in the game of tennis. Similarly, the promise of extra miles becomes more prominent with the neologism ‘xtramiles’. And, an insurance company creates a verb and noun blend to sell a lifestyle by naming itself ‘Metlife’ and using the slogan ‘Have you metlife recently?’