A place to rant.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Movie taglines

I'm always amused when advertisements present a tagline that reads well in one way, but doesn't make sense (or means something bad) in another way. I'm especially surprised when the unfavorable reading is the more likely one, because I find it hard to imagine a group of highly paid professional advertisement writers not thinking about the other readings of their lines (or just deciding that they don't care).

I just saw a poster for Valkyrie, whose tagline is: "Many saw evil. They dared to stop it." I assume that the writers are using the common construction that typically goes "Many people talk about [some problem], but these people did something about it." The "but" and the emphasis on "these people" (or just "they") are critical because without them it's not obvious that the subject of the second clause is not the same as that of the first. Without this emphasis, one could read that the people who talked about the problem are also doing something about it, but the speaker is actually trying to contrast the two groups' responses. Moreover, I'd argue that this is the more common (and grammatically correct) reading.

Unfortunately, the movie tagline uses two sentences instead of "but" and has no italics. So the emphasis is completely lost. When I read the poster, I initially thought the group who see evil also dared to stop it (which, while noble, is not as dramatic as the contrast I think the writers were intending to convey).

Yes, I know I'm being pedantic, but that's what a blog is for.


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