Speaking of Which | Respectfully Yours

12 Apr,2013

By Vidya Heble


Last week Speaking of Which was trudging through the sand at Goafest, hence the column got pushed a week forward. But even amidst adland frenzy, we were “on duty”, as it were, and spotted boo-boos here and there. Such as “Intergrated” on the display slides during the Abbys. But as we were told, the presentation was put together at record speed, so a typo here and there is very overlookable. Perhaps it’ll serve to “nazar utaarne ke liye” considering that the rest of the fest went off blisteringly well, even in light of the JWT-Ford scandal.


Which brings us, as it happens, in the direction of our topic.


Apart from the fact of the scam ads (ads created solely for entry into awards and not actually released by the client), what was disturbing was the image of women gagged, bound and stuffed into a car boot. In the light of atrocities on women, many of them in moving vehicles, this revealed a line of thinking which must not be allowed to proliferate. Partly, I blame language.


We speak how we think. And often, in reverse, when we say something often enough we also begin to think that way. Think of “Chicks in the dicky”. Let us imagine that the creative brainstorming team at the agency threw out this, or a similar phrase.  It sounds fun and edgy, not “bad” like, say, “Women in the boot”.


When I was cutting my teeth in the newspaper world my boss yelled at us for using the word “kid” instead of “children”. “A kid is the young one of a goat!” he would thunder. “Are we goats?” He hardwired, into me at least, some degree of awareness about words that we casually toss out, such as kids and cops. Though language has loosened up to a great extent, I still say “children” at first mention, and if there are many mentions then I turn “kids” into “children” intermittently through the copy as well.


Another thing that I learnt is that the way you use language reflects on you as well. It does not have to change what you say; you can still write about police high-handedness without referring to them as “cops” (headlines are different). It just means that you are a polite person, and that’s not a bad image to project.


I don’t know what transpired at the creative meetings (if there were any) that led to the horrible Ford Figo posters. But there must have been something leading up to the thought that images of women gagged and tied in a car boot is funny. Maybe the creative team needs to leave their desks and come out to, say, the real world. Maybe they need to stop using terms like “chick” and “babe”, and tell it like it is.


Use language with respect, and you will eventually treat the subject with respect, too.


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