Very simples indeed

To Commentisfree, which is running one of the more embarassing pieces of po-faced Spartery I’ve seen outside a student union:

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were watching TV at home when the advert for comparethemarket.com appeared on our screen. I had seen the ad before and not thought anything of it. However on this occasion, my girlfriend, who is Ukrainian, turned to me and said: “I don’t like this advert, it is very offensive to me.” I mentioned it to a friend who said his Latvian lodger also found it offensive.

The advertisement centres on the word “market” – a word that eastern Europeans/Russians pronounce “meerkat” – using talking CGI-animated meerkats. The sole point of this African animal’s appearance is, it seems, to highlight the idea that east Europeans cannot pronounce the word market properly when they speak English. It struck me how racist it was to parody what is now a significant part of the British population in this way. It also occurred to me that were the ad to use stereotypical Indian or Caribbean accents in the same way it would never be allowed on TV.

Luckily, another commenter saved me the trouble of coming up with a witty, incisive demolition of this nonsense:

I am inclined to believe you are making this up.

I am inclined to believe, for comedic purposes, that you are offending me for lumping Lativains and Lithuanians together into an amorphous Eastern European whole.

I am inclined to believe that the editors of CiF are foolish to publish this and like others cannot believe they have.

I am inclined to believe you are employed by Richard Littlejohn in order to supply copy for his hateful Florida-based rantings.

Quite.

15 thoughts on “Very simples indeed”

  1. This is the point of CiF isn't it? They print nonsensical guff like this as if to say, "See, you plebs can't write like us journos, can yer?" I can't believe that CiF makes the Guardian any money; OTOH it doesn't seem to cost very much, so it carries on. These are the people who ran the Observer into the ground, remember. Apart from the odd person worth reading, like David Mitchell, why bother?

  2. Well, I believe it!

    This from The Times:

    "It could be construed as a black day for the English language — but not if you work in the public sector.

    Dozens of quangos and taxpayer-funded organisations have ordered a purge of common words and phrases so as not to cause offence.

    Among the everyday sayings that have been quietly dropped in a bid to stamp out racism and sexism are “whiter than white”, “gentleman’s agreement”, “black mark” and “right-hand man”. "

    There is more insanity if you care to pursue it, here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/ar

  3. David, I'm sure you believe everything you read in the Times. However, and this may surprise you, minorities and women pay taxes too, and I think they therefore have the right not to be offended organisations they fund. (And this is very different from an advert voiced by the emphatically not racist Paul Whitehouse and paid for by a private company.)

    The article you link to strikes me as poor-written. Quangos _are_ taxpayer-funded organisations: empty tautology simply to boost the word count. I can't think of any circumstances outside of a historical novel or heavy irony where I would ever use the phrase "gentleman's agreement"; it's simply a dated concept. If you don't have a contract in writing, you have nothing. "Whiter than white" is just a stupid phrase.

    It's tedious, but I need to draw your attention to the old standby on this subject, George Orwell's Politics and the English Language. (I'm not sure how links work here, I'll guess that all html gets eaten.) http://orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/… "Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print." Good advice, even for public servants. What you see as purge of political incorrectness is nothing of the sort. It is, to borrow from Martin Amis, part of the war on cliche. Anthony Horowitz is just being an ass.

  4. It was just riding on the back of Borat.

    However, I'm impressed they've managed to salvage any brand recognition whatsoever from such a shitty domain name as comparethemarket.com. Compare the market? The market? Which bit? All of it? In everything? Oh, no, just some UK insurancey bits.

  5. Dave, I must thank you for keeping me up to date. Hitherto I was unaware that there was a 'right' not to be offended. I shall consult m' learned friends instantly because I am offended on a fairly constant basis. Just walking to the newsagent to buy my copy of the illiterate Times provides me with several reasons to be offended – including the miserable git who runs the shop. I would add, dare I say it, that I have often been offended by the distinguished host of this site. In fact, I'm sure if I dig deep enough I reckon *you* probably offended me some time in the past.

    I am not concerned with the lack of grammatical education possessed by some hack who works for 'The Times'; no doubt he is a recent customer of our wonderful 'Edukashun Servis'. What I do defend is the use of the English language in all its variety and richness. Even more do I wish to retaliate against *self-appointed* language commissars who have the impertinence to order people as to which words and phrases they might, or might not, employ. Were they to try it on me they would hear some very ripe 'Aldershotese', an ancient language of ill-repute!

    Finally, Orwell's essay was aimed at *political* writing not general writing or everyday speech which I think he would have defended to the death.

  6. Duff, if you were a gentleman you'd do everything in your power to avoid causing unmeant offence to others, and if you were told that you had been doing so – even by the innocent use of a phrase that you thought completely inoffensive, like "black mark" – you would immediately apologise and stop using it. Because that's what a gentleman does.

    But you're not one.

    On another point, I don't think eastern Europeans actually do pronounce "market" as "meerkat". Judging by those currently within earshot of me, it's more like "merket".

  7. I am reading these comments in disbelieve! This is the reason why our society is fast becoming a politically-correct-health-and-safety obsessed misfit!

    My wife is Lithuanian, she loves the add, she thinks it's brilliant. The next time we wanted new car insurance we checked out their website for quotes, because we remembered the add!

    Commonsense seems to be dwindling these days, this tendency to overreact on obviously TOTALLY miss-understood supposed 'offensive' deeds, is forcing society as a whole to be walking on tiptoes in fear of offending someone and this in it self diminishes genuine discriminations.

    Please people lets all just take a breather …aaand relax, life is beautiful and colourful lets keep it that way!

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