I have two new posts up at Macmillan Dictionary Blog, excerpted below.
The unreality of real estate language was prompted by the amusing hyperbole of property ads, where ordinary lawns are “magnificent”, rooms are “filled with natural light”, and dreams lie forever on your doorstep. It is a world where
medium is ‘large’, average is ‘first rate’, and unusual is ‘extraordinary’. Any site that isn’t a ruined shack sinking into a swamp may be described as ‘superb’. A well-maintained building is ‘stunning’ and ‘fabulous’, a better-than-average view ‘must be seen to be believed’, and everywhere but the most dilapidated neighbourhoods are in a ‘most sought after location’. (Hyphens, unlike typos, are often scarce in these ads.)
The comments offer such phrases as “deceptively spacious” and “compact and bijou” as further examples of this less-than-reliable repackaging of reality. You can read the rest here.
Apologies are being expressed – or are they? examines the possible differences between saying “I’m sorry” and “Apologies” (and variations thereon):
Authentic remorse tends to be effectively communicated so long as sincere effort is made through tone, gesture, penitent behaviour and so on. But the words, as an explicit admission of wrongdoing or shortcoming, can be an important part of reconciliation. . . .
Because it omits the subject, ‘Apologies’ is somewhat disembodied and abstract, a bit like saying ‘Mistakes were made’ instead of ‘I/We made a mistake.’ It can be personalised, for example as ‘My (sincere) apologies’, but this feels formal – at least to me – whereas ‘I’m sorry’ does not. Omission of the subject is why the passive voice is not best suited to apologising . . .
It’s a very subjective area, of course, and “I’m sorry” can be as sarcastic as “Apologies” can be sincere – which is partly why it’s so interesting. The comments from other people helped to develop the discussion beyond my hunches and experiences. I didn’t use corpus data in arriving at my cautious conclusions – for which, my apologies.
Here in the currently floundering, depressed, Southern California real estate market you’ll come across some doozy highly loaded advertising catch-phrases like “charming fixer-upper’, “great curb appeal”, “freeway-close”, and “unobstructed views’, to cite just a few buyer-beware zingers.
Now right away, “charming fixer-upper”, has oxymoron written all over it. Pray tell, how can a likely dilapidated dump-of-a cracker-box-of-a-dwelling that would require major labor and multi-extra dollars poured into it to bring it up to snuff, fall into the category of a ‘charmer’? (“Charming” is usually a covert code word for cramped, and tiny…… like a doll house.)
“Great curb appeal” is great if your fancy curbs, but we’ll give the seller a pass on that one. So, in other words, the house looks okay from the street, but like a heavily made-up blind date, as you get closer to the genuine article you begin to see the chinks in the ‘amour’, so to speak.
The alleged perk, “freeway close”, just means the property-for-rent-or-sale is literally a mere stone’s throw from a pollution spewing, noisy major traffic artery, so good luck on the healthy air quality, and maintaining the integrity of the family gene pool.
The “unobstructed vistas” feature is a kind of vague plus, especially if you find you’ll be looking at 360-degrees of suburban blight, or an overgrown, unkempt, empty lot, next door.
Way prior to the advent of the online dating scene, back in the mid-’80s I signed up w/ a dating service for folks who were into the arts, nature, animals, and books— a kind of hook-up agency for artsy-fartsy, creative types like me.
One particular gal who early-on caught my fancy from her short listed profile (no photo included), wrote that she was “Rubenesque’*. I kinda knew from my background in art history, and being an artist, that the Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens painted rather hefty, one might venture to say, zaftig, fleshy, often fully naked, ofttimes clothed, and partially clothed, very Teutonic looking women.
Yet, when I eventually rendezvoused at a mutually-agreed-upon fine restaurant w/ this “Rubenesque” gal, expecting to meet a rather pleasantly plump, dark-haired woman, self-described as wearing blue jeans, cowgirl boots, and a pale yellow long-sleeved shirt, I was greeted by a medium-height, approximately 230 lb., almost out-of-breath, woman. (I doubt it was her seeing me for the first time that left her breathless.)
I’d say she WAS definitely “Rubenesque”…… times two.. More like Botero-esque**. Needless to say, not what I was expecting.
A pleasant, bright woman, in all other respects.
Sadly, this was both our first, and last date. Frankly I felt a tad deceived by her “Rubenesque’ description in her profile blurb, although if she had been upfront and truthful, and wrote down ‘grossly obese’, her chances at successful matches I reckon would have been slim, to none. (But who knows, some guys are genuinely attracted to plus-plus-plus-sized women.)
I submit, this little detour into the dating game zone just adds credence to the old cliched adage, “buyer beware”. Whether its selling property, or marketing potentially harmonious, romantic relationships, we should always be on guard for the obvious, and sometimes, not so obvious red-flags.
* it’s interesting that the term derived from Rubens’ for corpulent women, i.e., “Rubenesque”, has come down to us sans the “s” at the tail end of the Flemish painter’s last name. IMO, with the “s”, it would sound very weird.
** The much-celebrated, and globally renowned Columbian artist
Fernando Botero is best known for his almost exclusive rendering of very fat people in his sculpture, paintings, and drawings. Even his animals–birds, dogs, cats, and domestic livestock– are chubby creatures, and very endearing in their curvy, expanded forms.
An effective apology acknowledges the offense. So, “I’m sorry you feel that way” is a kind of commiseration but not a good apology. To say “I’m sorry I did that (and it won’t happen again)” is a solid apology. Something simple like “I’m sorry” or “My apologies” is quite light but probably good enough for minor transgressions.
You may also have noticed, Stan, that market towns always bustle and anything in a valley always nestles. Some houses are said to be deceptively large. Leaving aside the question of what that exactly means, if I were in the property business, I would avoid words that suggested that anything at all was deceptive.
Alex: Those are great examples. Calling a property a charming fixer-upper is very like saying it has immense potential: a way of euphemising the amount of work it will need. I find charming vague or evasive in many contexts, but I’m susceptible to using it myself. I’ve never come across Great curb appeal or a BrE equivalent.
Eugene: Well put. When a sincere apology is warranted, “I’m sorry you feel that way” – a classic non-apology – makes me wonder whether the party purporting to apologise is deceiving themself or being disingenuous.
Barrie: Ah yes, market towns that bustle with activity (what else?) except when they’re quiet and peaceful: you’d be forgiven for thinking they have a volume control button. On the deceptiveness of deceptively, a recent comment at the Macmillan page links to a discussion at Superlinguo (and from there to Language Log).
In my view, “I’m sorry that you feel that way” has an implicit air about it that connotes, ‘you shouldn’t really be feeling’ a certain (usually negative) emotion; basically making the apologizer appear innocent, or less culpable within the social ‘transaction’, whilst, in effect, discounting how the upset person genuinely feels. Bottom line, hardly a solid expression of real remorse, or true empathy.
@Barrie. I too have encountered the term “nestles”, or “nestled’ used say in travel writing circles in describing a wee-town-in-the-glen sense, (as you pointed out), but “nestle” also appears in some real estate advertising hype describing a home that’s say is “nestled in a cozy cul-de-sac”…. which, in reality, may turn out to be an isolated, somewhat overgrown-with-vegetation-run-amok, cramped little abode on a poorly lit dead-end-street.
The term “cozy”, as seen in house, or cottage-for-rent advertising, can often be a mere code-word for way-too-small, and all rooms are bathroom/ commode-adjacent. HA!
Here in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley (“The Valley”), we have this interesting phenomenon of small neighborhood enclaves whose residents view themselves, and their immediate environs as slightly more upscale than their déclassé adjacent neighbors, and proceed to officially petition to become separate, autonomous communities; usually w/ a fancier, more charismatic name, in an effort to disassociate themselves from their alleged more down-scale neighbors. They often succeed in their ‘succession’ efforts.
I live comfortably in Van Nuys—a fairly middle-to-lower-middle-working-class municipality, ‘nestled’ (HA!) smack-dab in the geographic center of The Valley, and thus the official seat of greater municipal governance for the entire ‘Valley’.
Yet within the last several decades, at least three independence-minded communities—- West Hills, North Hills, and Lake Balboa—-successfully petitioned to become separate constituencies, no longer having to be associated w/ the less tonier, blue-collar Van Nuys. (Sadly, “less tonier” translates as more working-class, poorer, Latino/ Spanish-speaking.)
One suspects the once-powerful local real estate lobby may have had a marked persuasive impact in promoting these eventual community ‘defections’.
So much of the real estate market’s sales pitch schtick these days appears to revolve around sheer hype and illusion, rather than reality. The aforementioned Lake Balboa appellation, for instance, seems to conjure up a more idyllic, nature-bound neighborhood, than the tired, old, foreign-sounding ,(hard to pronounce, i.e. Van-Nyes), Van Nuys*.
(Granted, there is a smallish publicly-accessible Lake Balboa (really a grand pond), w/ wild and domestic ducks, geese, paddle-boats, and limited fishing, in the neighborhood.)
But frankly, there’s little difference between the recently newly-minted community of Lake Balboa and Van Nuys proper, beyond the smoke-and-mirrors often used by the craftier of real estate ‘illusionists’, to seduce the gullible buyer, or renter into more costlier digs.
Hope I didn’t come off as too cynical, here?
*Isaac Van Nuys, an early Dutch immigrant to the L.A. area became a very successful and wealthy rancher, farmer, livestock man, and most significantly, one of the handful of the regions pioneering land developers, and visionaries.
I daresay that most people have their bullshit detectors set to max when it comes to reading real estate descriptions. I daresay Prpyat would be described as containing low cost homes, ideal for the first time buyer, with limitless access to wildlife (albeit of the radioactive kind!)
As for apologies, this is a classic of sarcasm:
Alex, what you say about the industry revolving around “sheer hype and illusion” rings true. It has become the norm, and the momentum remains in the direction of greater hyperbole, as far as it will stretch.
Shaun: I hope they do! There isn’t a spot on earth that can’t be dressed up like a naked emperor. (Thanks for the dose of Father Jack; I used the same clip in my Macmillan article.)
I totally agree, most consumers these days are pretty savvy re/ the deceptive gilding-the-lily tactics of many real estate sales folk, w/ their ‘hype-dar’, so to speak, tuned up full-bore when it comes to over zealous, hard-to-swallow, flowery home descriptions.
Unfortunately, unless a prospective home buyer does some major investigative homework (no pun intended) in the neighborhood of their desired property, there could possibly be some hidden environmental, or localized social ills lurking ‘under the radar’, that are only revealed in time, after the ‘move-in’, and the mortgage agreement (or lease) has been already signed-sealed-and-delivered. (You alluded to ‘wildlife’ “of the radioactive kind”, in your post.)
Here in the U.S., people are often unaware that there may be a drug/ alcohol dependency halfway house, or even registered, released sex offenders living on their very street, or just around the block.
Case in point on the environmental front, perhaps a new subdivision is built over an old garbage landfill, or former chemical plant’s ‘footprint’, where methane gas, or even more insidious and harmful chemical emanations creep up to the surface and pollute the neighborhood environment. (Hopefully, government feasibility studies of the geology, and basic lived-history of a specific locale slated for future community development are duly carried out, before any initial ground-breaking proceeds.)
Those poor souls living in the impoverished ‘hollers’ of the U.S. Appalachian region come immediately to mind. Living down-river, or down-mountain from some major gas fracking, or open-pit coal mining operation, these folk can literally set fire to their black-hued tapped drinking water. Granted, an extreme example….. no gilding the lily here.
Sadly, these geographically isolated, socially marginalized folk have few other viable options, in the face of wanton corporate greed, ethical irresponsibility, and reckless natural resource exploitation.
But that’s a whole other area for further discussion.
My personal RE favourite – used a lot here on the island with many properties being ocean front – is “million dollar view”.
My mind immediately goes to stacks of t-bills piled upon the beach and lawn.
“Sorry you caught me” is the truth behind most apologies to my old cynic’s head.
WWW: I think I’ll adopt your literal interpretation of “million dollar view”. Again, the phrase strikes me as mere bombast. “Sorry you caught me” (or “I’m sorry I got caught”) is, sadly, the subtext of too many apologies, at least the ones I read about in the news.
[…] used themself several times on this blog, albeit sometimes only to refer to it. Most recently, in a comment on my last post, I wrote about “whether the party purporting to apologise is deceiving themself […]
I can’t understand why Real Estate Industry is using these kinds of words.
Maybe they think it’s effective, or they don’t know how to do it differently.