…said the byline to a large nice-looking hoarding I saw recently. The hoarding was for a real estate company selling apartments. The message that the copywriter wanted to convey, I thought, was that in this apartment complex there was a lot of fresh air so one could ‘More Breathe!’ and at the same time the apartments were all so spread out that we could get by with ‘Fewer Talks’. I could be wrong but there were no other clues to what the copywriter could have possibly meant.
I also felt that the copywriter nailed the main problem in the world as ‘More Talks. Fewer Breathe!’ and then went and created a slogan that was exactly opposite. In a way solving all the problems of the world with a small shift in the sequence of words. I thought it brilliant! It reminded me of the slogan popularized by Meher Baba ‘Don’t worry, be happy!’. I imagined this copywriter also as a smiling sage gazing into the centre of the universe and coming up with the easily spreadable life mantra – ‘Fewer Talks. More Breathe!’
Whatever I may think about the spiritual value of the message, it is clear that the material meaning is not very clear. I have heard it said that these big hoardings are expensive to design and display. The people selling the apartments have persumably engaged an Ad-agency who have come up with the design and text on the hoarding. What was the Ad-agency thinking? What were the people who paid the money to put up the hoarding thinking? Nobody thought the slogan strange. And what will the people like me who pass by and read it think? Will anyone phone up the number on the hoarding and buy an apartment inspired by the ambiguous slogan?
The slogan also reminded me of a story that Pawanji tells about his experience with the students of a premier institute. Pawanji was teaching this bright class of computer science undergraduates. There were children from all over the country and speaking to them Pawanji had an insight. He suddenly felt that these children had very superficial language skills. He asked them to look out of the window and write a short essay on what they saw. The children struggled to do this easy task. Pawanji found out that in their single-minded pursuit to reach the premier institute most of the children had focussed on transactional English. They had lost out on learning both English and, sadly, also their mother-tongues to any deep level. Their parents who were less ‘educated’ had a larger vocabulary than these children.
Now, the slogan on the hoarding can mean that we have lost our self-consciousness about the superiority of English and are comfortable with whatever broken English we can get away with. Or it may mean something else. Whatever it is, always remember to ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy!’ and to never forget: