A Monthly Meditation on Branding and Language
From Your Favorite Copy Shop, Editorial Emergency

#47 (Jan. 31, 2011): Doing the Robot

Happy Belated 2011! In this issue we explore automated tone-gauging software and address the ascription of "whose" to things. But while we've been focused on the inanimate, we want you to know we have souls — witness the way our savage breasts are soothed by a singing maiden in Round and Shiny. Also note our all-too-human righteous indignation at another galling Not Our Clients. Read on, or face the wrath of EE's robo-callers!

Red Pen Diaries: Animate Antecedents — Or ARE They?

ImageWhen robot butlers earn their rightful place in Consumer Reports, I'll let that august publication determine whether the product under scrutiny is an "it" or a "him." At this point in the history of humankind, however, there's little cause for speculation as to what is or is not an animate object.

Surely, proclamations like "It's alive!" — as opposed to "He's alive!" — have muddied the waters since at least 1931. And speakers of various languages assign gender designations to nouns, producing results like "das Mädchen" — Mädchen is German for "girl" but the definite article "das" signifies a gender-neutral, i.e. "neuter," noun, with its intimation of inanimation (let's not even get INTO the German insistence on capitalizing common nouns). But in 2011 America, there's no doubt as to what is an "it" and what is a "him" or "her."

Read the rest here.

We Now Bring You an Urgent Tone Alert

ImageDon't get me wrong: I believe that sometime soon, having an app to check the tone of your outgoing e-mail the way spell-check vets your spelling will be de rigueur. It's distinctly possible that Lymbix Inc.'s ToneCheck, now in beta, will be that application.

Simply download the program and every time you send an e-mail containing "emotionally-charged" language (in the program's own gratuitously punctuated parlance), you'll see a "tone alert." This explains which phrases set off alarm bells, indicates why with a one-word emotion, and gives you the option to revise or ignore. You can even tell the software which words to give a free pass.

It was a niche waiting to be filled, given the wealth of intemperate, splenetic and/or excessively arch business e-mails flying about.

Read the rest here.

Round and Shiny: Libby Lavella, Writ Largo

ImageMusic critics throw the word "intimate" around quite a lot. But the properties associated with that word in a performance context go well beyond soft dynamics. Libby Lavella's new disc, Live at Largo (Bootlegs), achieves a naked immediacy few of her contemporaries would dare.

Recorded directly to disc, with little editing and no "sweetening" (the now-common practice of fixing mistakes), it captures the spontaneity and spark of her high-wire shows at L.A. nightclub Largo.

The result? A rough but riveting record of a great singer in her element. In addition to a handful of strong originals (notably the incandescent "I Live in Hope"), the Australian-born, L.A.-based troubadour takes on an intriguing array of covers. Several of these are by Australian acts (the Church's "Under the Milky Way Tonight," a strikingly downbeat take on the Men at Work hit "Overkill"), while others demonstrate Lavella's mastery of classic pop ("I Only Want to Be With You," "Crying," "Crazy").

Audience sounds aren't restricted to applause between songs; you can hear their chairs scraping, their interjections, whispers and coughs in the tiny room. But all the environmental noises only contribute to the feeling of being there as Lavella weaves her spell. We'd like to experience this kind of intimacy more often.

Not Our Clients: Crash Course Edition

In calling the world's public goofs onto the carpet, we tend to focus on spelling errors, malapropisms, inadvertently made-up words and the like. But nothing quite gets under our skins like skewed syntax. Take the subhead on this L.A. Times item:

If you only cause accidents in 49 cities, you're in the clear.

Sounds like the plot to a Jerry Bruckheimer film, doesn't it? "In a world of high-speed danger, one man must crash 49 cars in 49 cities to save his family." Of course, all that carnage could've been avoided by rewording the sentence. But who has time for that?

Feel free to rubberneck as you cruise by our museum of totaled treasures on the Not Our Clients main page, and share it with your friends using the easy-to-remember URL NotOurClients.com.

Have you driven by an appalling signage wreck? Witnessed a sentence careening out of control? This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it a photo, scan or screen grab to us; we'll dispatch an Editorial Emergency vehicle to the scene for a full report. If we choose to post your pic, you'll receive an iTunes Gift Card, redeemable for tire-screeching tracks like "Crawling From the Wreckage," "Crash Into Me" and "Accidents Will Happen."


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