Monday, May 25, 2009

Public Trust Shaken By Fresh Revelations

The nation's trust in its chosen vanity products is being sorely tested by continuing revelations on the Quinquireme blog about improper copywriting in the toiletries industry, reports today's Daily Telegraph.

In what is coming to be seen as the scoop of the decade, Quinquireme editor-in-chief Patroclus reportedly paid £4.79 for the exclusive right to reveal the widespread linguistic and grammatical inaccuracies pervading the sector.

The scandal started as far back as August 2008, with an exposé of poor translation skills at upmarket hotel-toiletries firm Gilchrist & Soames, but it was not until this month that the Quinquireme began a full-scale investigation into the extent of the problem.

The blog's decision to drip-feed its revelations day by day is causing anxiety not only among makers of shampoo, conditioner and other bathroom essentials, but also among a populace that is finding its faith in its personal grooming products severely shaken.

Today's blog post caused embarrassment for shampoo manufacturer Aussie, maker of such products as the 'Three Minute Miracle' deep-treatment conditioner and 'Dual Personality' shine serum. In particular, the blog cited the unnecessary insertion of a comma into the copy on the reverse of the 'Miracle Moist' shampoo bottle.

Nowhere to hide: blog reveals comma misuse by haircare firm Aussie

As well as publishing a damning photograph of the misplaced punctuation mark, the blog also transcribed the copy in full for the benefit of readers lacking 20/20 eyesight.

Our unique formula, with Australian Macadamia Nut extract, helps condition and smooth hair.
Native to the land down under, the Queensland Macadamia Nut is rich in oils, and has been used in Australia for centuries. And it would have stayed their little secret if it hadn't been for, an intrepid 19th century explorer who schlepped half way across the world and brought it back for the rest of us. What a guy.

"I don't know how they thought they could get away with this," said Jibby McBib, a disappointed Aussie customer. "Just because it's on the back of the bottle doesn't mean people won't find out it's there."

McBib said she would no longer buy Aussie products, but was unsure of which haircare products she could now trust. "You never read about this kind of thing in the media," she said. "It's always all about how it makes your hair look, what it smells like, and that kind of thing. To imagine this kind of thing has been going on all the time behind our backs...well, it makes me sick."

Forensic literary science expert Bilbo McCrum believes the problem runs deeper than simple improper comma use. "Here is a company that promotes itself as being Australian, yet clearly refers to the country of Australia as a place from which macadamia nuts have to be 'brought back' for 'the rest of us'," he said.

"This, combined with the failure to name the explorer who brought back the nuts, or indeed to specify where the nuts were brought back to, very much points to the presence of an unreliable narrator," McCrum continued. "And if the brand's narrator is unreliable, that does not bode well for the trustworthiness of the brand itself."

Ursula Mop, senior analyst at personal-grooming think-tank HAIR, said that the crisis in public trust could have serious repercussions for the country's future. "With so many mainstream cosmetics brands being 'outed' by the Quinquireme, there is a real risk that people will turn their backs on the haircare establishment," she warned.

"I think there's a danger that people will increasingly turn to fringe shampoos as they become disillusioned with the major players."

It's a danger that, for the moment, remains academic, as the public reveals itself to have more common sense than is imputed to it by think-tanks.

"There's no way I'm buying a fringe shampoo," said Jibby McBib. "What would I use on the rest of my hair? It just doesn't make sense."


Terri Nixon said...

Crikey, if it hadn't been for, Twitter I never would have seen this horrific misuse of the comma. I must thank, you for drawing my attention to it.

Marsha Klein said...

Fringe shampoos! Tee hee! Now, they're the very essence of what we don't want.

Arabella said...

If this is happening in Australia, can you imagine the danger facing American consumers....consumers with bangs?

Dave said...

They appear to have started a sentence with the word 'and'. Have you nothing to say about this?

Mags said...

Setting aside the obvious mad insertion of a comma, there is also this wonderful use of unconsidered commas leading to possible sub-clause misunderstandings:

Native to the land down under, the Queensland Macadamia Nut is rich in oils, and has been used in Australia for centuries. Did no-one sub-edit this? Surely there is a Commas Office to regulate how the copywriter's allowance of commas is spent?

Richard said...

Who would of thought it.

John Cowan said...

Dave, it's a myth that there's anything wrong with starting sentences with "And". So just suck it up.

Dave said...

Ah, but 'and' is a conjunction - so clearly it can't be used at the start of a sentence, where it has nothing to join.

Surely Quniquireme's distinguished readers realise the world as we know it will come to an end if people start casually starting sentences with 'ands' and 'buts'.

Dave said...

Ah, John, I see you are from the USA. Probably things are a little slacker over there.

Mags said...

Fowler's Modern English Usage and he King's English has nowt to say about starting sentences with conjunctives but plenty on commas. I think it is a rule created by primary school teachers to save themselves from reading 'What I did on my holiday' essays where every sentence starts 'And then we...'

Hedgie said...

Shocking. I knew there was a reason I didn't like this shampoo.

Dave said...

Sorry Pat. I was writing tongue in cheek, and then our colonian cousin was rude when I'd just taken some of my drugs, which, combined with the pain can make me say things I'd rather not.

I'd delete my comments, but the responses to them would look odd then.

patroclus said...

Crikey, I turn my back for one moment and a drug-fuelled inter-continental usage spat breaks out. Further to Mags's research I've checked the Economist Style Guide and the AP Stylebook, and neither of them has anything to say on the subject of starting a sentence with a conjunction, either. But (ahahahaha) the Economist Style Guide does have 'Don't be stuffy' as a general rule, which is me, er, stuffed.

Chris said...

I'm slightly concerned that people might come away from this thinking that Australians can't write about hair. This is not true. Not true at all.

Boz said...

When is Bilbo McCrum getting his own BBC4 really-rather-serious Sunday afternoon crime drama series?

patroclus said...

Chris: Thank you for that, it was an illuminating read. 'Redford does not use a hair dryer.' Peter Mandelson, I suspect, does.

Boz: Commissioning budget restrictions dictate that McCrum must be incorporated into an existing crime series rather than be given a whole one of his own. 'Cracker and McCrum' has a nice ring to it, I think.

Semaphore said...


Valerie said...

There are many cases of commas which the Brits see fit to omit but which the Americans see value in including.

However, this is not one of them.

I like starting sentences with "However," "but," and "and." I do think this is considered to be taking grammatical license (licence for all you Queen's English types, I suppose).

Nothing, though, excuses that magnificent for,.

By the way, I'm pretty sure that Aussie products are made in the U.S. — possibly, if memory serves, by a company owned by someone who may have once been to Australia.

Billy said...

I only buy shampoo endorsed by unreliable narrators. Whatever their take on other's motivations, they always have nice hair.

Dave said...

Missed out on this, didn't you?

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John Cowan said...

Dave, I disclaim all intention of rudeness, and apologize for creating the impression of it. That's a case of you reading too much into the bluntness of the American manner, is all.