Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pizza Hut Fails Basic Grammar

As if Apple's grammatical abandonment weren't bad enough, now Pizza Hut has joined the refusal to use proper English grammar in their advertisements. I know that they've chosen the word because it so obviously breaks the rules, but I hardly think that's the best way to teach our children how to intensify their modifiers. (All of this ignores the nutritional atrocities that this product will commit, but One Step Forward is not a health blog so I'll leave those out of this post.)

Should you be unaware of the reason I find this ad objectionable, the adjective "awesome" (overused as it is) does not follow the -er and -est pattern when you compare just how awesome two things are. As someone concerned with using intelligent English, you use more and most to intensify the awesomeness (I can't believe I just wrote that). Like Apple and their "funnest iPod" ads, the company has chosen to use slang to garner your attention. Like those same ads, I choose to excoriate the choice (and the choosers) rather than be convinced how "hip" and awesome they want me to believe they are. I can't say that I'd have expected better from Pizza Hut, as I had from Apple, but I still consider them unhelpful in the extreme, when it comes to teaching people the finer points of the English language.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Would You Dismantle the Mantel?

Someone noted the other day in a discussion that when you've dismantled something you never say that you're going to mantle it again. As folks often do, that person wondered aloud why the two words were not antonyms and used as such. Naturally, I've had to uncover a reason.

It turns out that mantle and dismantle are related more as second cousins than brother and sister. While both share the same Latin root word (mantellum for cloak), dismantle took a bit of a detour into France and spent generations masquerading as desmanteller. The two words evolved separately in their different environments.

A mantle came to mean a covering or protective shroud in English or the outward appearance of authority, the "mantle of power". As a related tidbit, for some reason it became accepted that the covering for a fireplace should be spelled mantel instead, for no good reason that I could find. In the meantime, the French were using dismantle to mean making someone vulnerable by taking off his or her cloak and then to strip something in general of its defenses.

No source I found even attempted to explain how dismantle evolved from removing a protective outer shell to completely disassembling a piece of machinery into its component parts, but that's generally the accepted English use. Often, a certain destructiveness is implied along with a simple taking apart of a thing. When a company gets dismantled, for instance, those who do so will not be putting it back together again.