Friday, January 14, 2005
No, not to make sure that ads are better-written. Rather, to debate at length whether the tenor of the editorial standards is 'prescriptivist', or some such thing.
Here's what I think. (I know you were expecting this "here's what I think" part. But I did fool you somewhat by not writing about the seven other much more important bit of search industry news from the past couple days.)
We're running out of establishment figures to rail against. Take Bush. I mean, we really needed that guy in office. Without him, would we, the Jon Stewarts of the world, have any function whatsoever? Clinton was cooler than us, and that just won't do, at least for our self-image.
Now what about this What Not to Wear show? Brilliant. In real life, of course, no one could give two hoots what you wear. A couple of weeks ago, I went to meet an industry colleague in preparation for a meeting with a client. He was in a suit and tie, I in a sweater looking like a slob; it was the first time we'd met, so I felt both silly and resentful. "Man, I really should have picked up my dry cleaning." And then, "I mean does this guy not get it? We're changing the world here, not wearing ties. I'll bet he collects cuff links."
Then I went to meet him and the client, on the client's premises. This time I showed up wearing a nice suit (no tie though) and a flashy overcoat I'm still not sold on. This time, my colleague was in something like a sweatshirt. Also, he was slouching the whole time. None of this mattered. It appears that when it comes to how you dress or how you sit, you might as well flip a coin.
This surely must be shattering to the fashion industry's pocketbook, and to the self-image of those who always dress for success. What Not to Wear is an important bit of fiction. Those who play along with the show's premise and believe that image is everything get their ego stroked; meanwhile, those who feel like they disagree with the whole thing can snicker up their outdated sleeves about the whole thing being "prescriptivist." Perfect! Both the establishment and the 99.5% of the planet who believe they're anti-establishment get what they need.
So back to Google, and their editorial rules for advertising that appear to err on the side of "old-fashioned" English. Google's like that clever cousin who's either just a bit too cool for their own good (making Establishment Gramps feel comfortable as he weaves tales of hubris) or just a bit too uptight for the 'rest of us.' Overeducated hawkers of thongs can rest secure in the knowledge that they would use the edgy construction of "them" -- em, to be exact -- if only "they" (or as I like to say, "ayy") would allow it.
Google's your uncool cousin. It's like the government young people would rail against, if the act of even bothering to rail against the government weren't proof that you bought into the very importance of all that.
They're like a government you wouldn't bother to overthrow (because you'd be too cool to bother). But instead would lightly critique in a Times article that only lightly plugs your lacy thongs, which you sell on the side. Down with The Guvernment! In a detached, please-buy-my-stuff-and-be-titillated-by-my-tale sort of way.
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And for a glowing review of the pioneering 1st ed. of the book, check out this review, by none other than Google's Matt Cutts.
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