Category Archives: Freelance copywriter

The future’s bright…

After being alerted to Google’s ‘Ngram viewer‘, I thought I’d use it to track ‘orange’, recently described as the only common English word with no homonyms (doubtless nonsense, tho’ the nearest I can get is ‘syringe’ – definitely close but no cigar). The result was fascinating:

What a weird graph! Could the peak around 1650 be something to do with Nell Gwynne? She was supposed to be a big citrus fan, wasn’t she? And why the calamitous fall from those heady days back to near-zero 50 years later, only to recover its 1650s popularity in the early years of the 21st century? The mystery of Orange…

The ngram viewer is a wonderful tool, BTW, albeit one that comes with significant caveats, as witness this article in Wired.

Copyrights ‘n wrongs

My latest upload to YouTube at the weekend got blocked for copyright infringement. Set me thinking, and not for the first time, about the inherent tension – in the online world in particular – between exposure and monetisation.

I remember reading somewhere that when they were making Doctor No they couldn’t afford the car they wanted to use so they had to borrow a Sunbeam Alpine – a car about as rorty as its name would suggest. Nowadays, far from charging for the use of their vehicles, brands like Aston Martin and BMW pay vast sums to have 007 put the pedal to their metal. Indeed, a Bond swig during Skyfall ‘is believed’ (© Daily Mail) to have cost Heineken £28m.

Where, I wonder, is the crossover between ‘you’ll have to pay’ and ‘how much do you want?’

Whoever owns the material I’ve tried to put on YouTube has clearly taken a business decision to prioritise immediate monetisation over ‘spreading the word’. I’m not paying for it so I can’t use it, end of. Others in their position seem to take a different stance: any exposure is good exposure. Anything that spreads awareness of the value of our property has to be good for us. I’m intrigued by the way two different third parties, in essentially identical positions, have adopted such diametrically contradictory approaches.

The annoying thing as a YT poster is that the only way to find out which stance applies for any given record is to turn it into a video, and upload it. Whereupon it might or might not get blocked. Which, if the latter, means a fair bit of time & effort down the pan. Most of the stuff I upload is old/obscure enough to get through, but maybe one in four gets blocked.

My clamouring fans will never now get to enjoy the dulcet tones of Johnny Hodges – Jazz Giant…not to mention the idly browsing producer who might otherwise have stumbled across a perfect backing track for their new movie…

Evenin’ all

Came across a new bit of prime officialese while attending to a glitch on my YouTube channel: “Met police use “tactical contact” to take down a moped rider who escaped by riding at speed through a park and down pavements.” ‘Tactical contact’ being shorthand for crashing into a fleeing rider, to knock them off their bike.

Good to see the police are maintaining their excellent record for tactical euphemism.


Just started reading ‘Tomorrow to be brave’ – the autobiography of Susan Travers – the only woman ever to serve in the French Foreign Legion. It’s a cracking read! She’s a very interesting writer, in that she’s really not that great a writer, but she’s a great example of simple, clear, just-tell-it-like-it-is exposition. Witness this account of her arrival in France, having been abruptly transferred from her English boarding school:

So vivid!

(Sitting here with snow falling in the back garden, how I would love to be teleported to Le Suquet in the spring…)

It’s the drugs

On my recent release post-surgery, I was given a sheet of instructions covering the goody-bag of drugs I’d been handed:

I suggested to the nurse that the information – really very important, and quite complicated – seemed to be a jumble of what, why, when & whether, with no real order or structure. Why present such varied messaging as an undifferentiated list of bullets?

Subsequently, and with a head full of opiates, I nevertheless came up with:

Doubtless this could be further refined, but compared with the original….

I do find it strange that communicating with the patient is palpably given such low priority in the overall scheme of things, when you would have thought it one of the key success factors.

Take back our slogan

Amid the insanity, a comment of Trump’s last week set little bells ringing…

‘…to take back our country’. Now what does that bring to mind?

While it’s doubtless overstating the case to describe a snappy slogan as ‘the’ reason for Brexit, the essential message is clear – and worth a ponder for anyone wanting to get messages across, thereby (and this is after all the point of the exercise) getting people to behave in ways they otherwise wouldn’t: KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Let’s face it, no previous president has ever had such command of the simple.