Letting off steam

In the festive season of hyperbole, Lucian Doyle talks about the use and overuse of certain words when selling models.

Well the nights have drawn in and Christmas approaches. During the warmer months my model railway activities do take a little bit of a back seat, although I still keep my evening rendezvous with the two or three model railway magazines I subscribe to, reading each and every one from cover to cover. I also keep abreast with what is happening in the world of model railways via the usual trade newsletters that pop into my ‘in’ tray on a regular basis.

Many of these businesses have, mixed in with their special offers, news on how their own special commissions are progressing.

All very interesting and for me they provide additional substance and interest to the hobby. However, occasionally I find that some of the content in one particular newsletter is lacking in understanding of the type of person they are targeting. Take for example the occasion when I opened up a newsletter during the summer in which it was claimed that a particular wagon celebrating Father’s Day would be the ultimate gift for a model railway-enthused dad to receive.

My desktop dictionary defines ‘ultimate’ as ‘Being the best or most extreme example of its kind’ or alternatively, ‘The best achievable or imaginable of its kind.’ Now I am probably at risk of being called pedantic but for the life of me I cannot see how a seven-plank open wagon with a fairly mundane and relatively bland colour scheme at the princely sum of £14.99 can by any stretch of the imagination claim to be the ‘ultimate’ gift.

Lucian wonders why overused adjectives such as ‘ultimate’ – which are applied to products by marketing departments – don’t reflect the quality of the actual models themselves?

In fact I would go as far as to comment that such a basic wagon whose heritage goes back arguably 40 years could not be further from being an ‘ultimate gift’ than a sack of potatoes.

I often wonder, when reading such a blatantly inappropriate use of such an adjective, as to whether those who write these words actually understand their meaning?

Or do they really believe that using such a word will encourage the reader to leap for their credit card and place an immediate order, encouraged by the knowledge, and taking the meaning literally, that they are buying a wagon that cannot be bettered?

I wonder if by doing so that they are then understandably disappointed when the wagon arrives and therefore consider if they have a case that would interest the local Trading Standards Office.

I suppose I’m being overly literal but confident I am not alone when I say the word ‘ultimate’ is well and truly overused and almost always not applicable.

For the full article, see November’s edition of Modelling – available now!

For a complete list of stockists and how to get your copy, visit: www.railwaymagazinemodelling.co.uk/distributors

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