Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On Yet Another Cultural Snubbing Of The Adverb

I generally do not pay attention to television commercials.  I seldom watch anything when it is actually aired anyway - I live the DVR lifestyle, recording and watching programs when I want to and usually fast-forwarding through the commercials. On the occasions when I do have to sit through the ads, I am certainly not focused on them.  That is, until the other night when a commercial's tag line forced my attention, the way fingernails being dragged across a chalkboard might force your attention.  Only this was even more unpleasant to my ears.

Capital Blue Cross has a new ad campaign, and the slogan the are using is an example of one of my biggest grammatical pet peeves.  It is the type of lax grammar that underscores my belief that our culture is hurtling ever more quickly toward the world that Mike Judge envisioned in the movie Idiocracy; a world where "the English language [has] deteriorated into a hybrid of hillbilly, valley girl, inner city slang, and various grunts."

Capital Blue Cross' new slogan is: "Live Fearless."

"LY!" I shouted at my television, which had already moved on to the next brain-numbing commercial. "Live fearlessLY! Do you people not know what a freaking adverb is?!?"

This isn't the first time a company has completely ignored the basic grammatical construction of an adverb. Back in the '90s I was driven batty by Apple Computers and their "Think Different" campaign.  "Think different?" I'd say to anyone who would listen. "Apparently someone on Apple's advertising team didn't proofread careful!"  I wish more people would have gotten the joke than did, but that too is a comment on our language dying: if it gets said on TV, it must be right.

Yes, I know, English is notoriously one of the most difficult languages to master. It is infamous for setting up rules of grammar and then offering a never-ending string of bizarre exceptions to those rules.  Adverbs, though, are pretty simple. 99% of the time, they're going to end in -ly.

He didn't run quick; he ran quickLY. She didn't yell angry; she yelled angriLY.  You shouldn't live fearless; you should live fearlessLY.  Simple, no?

I guess I had an advantage, being of grade school age in the 1970s.  We had songs to teach us things.  We had Schoolhouse Rock and Sesame Street and The Electric Company all throwing musical lessons at us about everything.  I still can recite the entire Preamble to the Constitution after all these years by hearing the Schoolhouse Rock song in my head.  We learned to count, we learned how bills become law, and we sure learned grammar!  Anyone my age remembers "Conjunction Junction" or that it's "quite interesting, a noun's a person, place or thing." 

We had two great lessons on adverbs, both of which I still hear in my head today, and both of which strongly underscored the -ly suffix.  Schoolhouse Rock offered us "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly (Get Your Adverbs Here)," which is quite fondly remembered by my circle of friends, but to me the one that really nails it was offered up by The Electric Company, who enlisted the incomparable Tom Lehrer to write the brilliant "L-Y." Anyone who grew up with this one has no excuse for improper adverb usage (and it's quite a snappy little tune, too!):

I don't suppose the folks at Capital Blue Cross will be making any changes in their advertising campaign based on my objections.  Still, I needed to rant, lest my head explode.  I've said my piece and will say no more, except to ask that please, anyone out there who is in charge of coming up with the next big slogan for the next national ad campaign for the next big brand, please do one thing:

Proofread careful!

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  1. Bryan, Thanks for joining my blog. MWAH! Now you can vomit.

    Don't know if you had this commercial where you are, but in Philly Independence Blue Cross used to run a commercial guaranteed to be loathed by everyone on the planet over the age of 50. To the tune of "I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now," the spot featured a montage of shots of a young child aging in stages until about age 65 over the course of a minute. There were several different versions too. What moron 30 year old approved this ad? This is the nightmare of every older person anguished over how fast we age; how wonderful to see a young boy doing pull ups joyfully turn into me in a fucking minute! I wanted to throw stuff at the TV whenever I saw this. Ironically it must have been successful for them because it ran for a long time.

    Okay, thanks again. Got that off my chest.

  2. Thank you! I'm glad I'm not the only one out there who yelled "LY!" at the TV when this commercial ran. I think the script was written careless...ly.

  3. Haven't even read the whole article, yet. Got to the part where you shouted "LY" at the TV! I had the EXACT same reaction when I saw it on the side of a SEPTA bus (Philly). Grates my nerves that so much money is spent on a campaign, but not enough to hire a proper editor. However, I can guarantee that they will contend that it was done intentionally. Now, I'll go read the rest. lol

  4. Yup, I say "Fearlessly" every time I hear that commercial. It's an adverb and it requires the "ly". I remember the commercial...which is what they want, but I remember it negatively, which is bad for them. I think, how freaking ignorant...makes it look like they don't know what they're doing.