This tirade is brought to you by the fine people at Blue Nile, purveyors of exquisite jewelry and incomprehensible syntax.
It Starts With The Diamond In Your Mind.
You were chosen to perform an inimitable role… to be The Best Man. An immensely considered decision. There are no do-overs here. Do this well and everyone is lifted. How will you rise to the call, how will you surpass expectations? Summon your character, speak from your heart… and trust the diamond in your mind.
Can anyone — literally anyone — tell me what in Christ’s cinnamon grundle this means?
A friend and former coworker shared this with me a week or so ago on the grounds that it is among the weirdest, most impenetrable writing ever and thus deserved systematic dismemberment. The problem was that I didn’t have the first clue where to start. The bizarre vocabulary? The inappropriate overuse of initial caps? The fact that there is no link to any page that may clarify even a smidgeon more context? What does being the best man have to do with diamonds? Why? WHY?
It’s like someone gave a thesaurus ipecac. And it is the surest sign that this was written by either a) someone with a marketing degree and a self-published book of poems no one will buy, or b) a freelance writer who wrote this under duress because the 15th of the month was coming and no, no, NO, they CAN’T make me write it, I WON’T write it, but damn it, damn it, damnitall that scotch won’t buy itself, FINE I’LL WRITE IT but I will NEVER put my name on it oh god how did it come to this.
Or maybe it was one of those guys who’s been in the country almost long enough to sound American.
(I know. Two Family Guy references in two blog posts. I don’t care for your judging eyes.)
Let’s start with the vocabulary. Apparently being The Best Man is an “inimitable role.” I don’t know what the shit this is meant to mean. “Inimitable” means “not capable of being imitated.” This is stupid. The only criteria for being a best man are a Y-chromosome and a pulse. You’re basically the guy the groom calls “bro” more than all the other guys.
Yes, “inimitable” is a very pretty word. And I get (I think) what BN was going for here: “You, sir, are one of a kind.” Fine. So then just say “You are one of a kind.” It’s concise. It’s self-evident. It appeals directly to the reader’s ego.
Here’s a litmus test for Big Fancy Words: replace the word with a less-fancy synonym and see if it still holds up. “Inimitable” means “matchless.” So what the hell is a “matchless role”? What about being the best man is matchless? The guy’s personality? The job itself? What does this have to do with diamonds? It sounds very pretty and it is completely meaningless.
And then there’s “An immensely considered decision.” This is the best-worst line in all of the catastrofuckery that is this piece of copy. “Immense” means huge, significant, vast. What does it mean to “immensely consider” something? Is it a thought process with the mass of a neutron star?
I think the word they were looking for here was “meticulous.” Or “careful.” Or “deliberate.” Let’s envision some scenarios in which any of these words are synonymous with “really really big.”
- I love my interior decorator. He’s enormous.
- We earned a Michelin star by selecting only the most humongous chefs.
- My girlfriend is so ample, she’s impossible to please.
- I have an incredibly selective penis.
…that last one actually kind of works. But you get the idea.
You can’t make words mean whatever the fuck you want them to mean. That’s why we have different words to encapsulate different ideas — and even synonyms aren’t perfectly interchangeable most of the time.
The payoff — “It starts with the diamond in your mind” — is its own special kind of bizarre. I get it, it’s a metaphor. Except metaphors only work when they’re actually analogous to something.
In his essay “Nature,” American writer and founding Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
“Standing on the bare ground, — my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite spaces, — all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eye-ball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or particle of God.”
Nearly two centuries of elbow-padded, smoke-wreathed scholars have not yet been able to puzzle out exactly what it means to “become a transparent eyeball.” Does it mean the internalization of the external? Some form of proprioceptive awareness relative to nature? The natural and divine working in concert to act upon the self?
I think it means Emerson was tripping on more than transparent eyeballs. And Blue Nile, while you make real shiny carbon, you are no Ralph Waldo Emerson. Non sequiturs are terrific in poetry, but they make for really crappy marketing. Your call to action should probably actually include a call to action; save the New Agey jargon for all the horoscopes I won’t be reading.
The worst part is that Blue Nile is a perfectly respectable brand with a product whose quality speaks for itself. They don’t need gimmicky shit like this, especially when the gimmick doesn’t even make sense. Don’t settle for douchey writing just because you think you can. You can’t. And you shouldn’t.
Unfortunately, ad copywriting does not always facilitate the pursuit of High Art. In fact, at its most clever and elegant, advertising is deceptively simple and broadly accessible — which is a far more stimulating and challenging exercise. Just ask the Old Spice Guy. Now there’s a man who knows a thing or two about diamonds.