Real estate lingo, and the sorriest apologies

May 28, 2012

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.

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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.