Debasing language in pursuit of profit

I got an email today from an insurance company inviting me to purchase one of their products.

Product, I thought.  Don’t they mean service?  Or policy?  Proposal?  Strategy? Scheme?  System?

No.  They say Product.

A product, to me, is something tangible.  Something you can hold in your hand,  throw, smell, taste, turn, heft, weigh, try or wield.  Something you can kick, wear, burn, drive or stand on. Something you can climb, drop or break.

A thing, made with skill and pride.  That, to me, is a product, and I can’t for the life of me associate the word with a bloodless contract drawn up by a drippy-nosed clerk in a sleeveless jumper, whose soft and clammy hands have made neither honest artifact nor love.

The more I think about this misuse of a hard, tangible, useful word, the more I suspect it offers a glimpse into the abominable things that have overtaken us in the last decade.

Look around you, and see how many transient, insubstantial things are sold to you as products.

Bank accounts.

Romantic weekends away in delightful rural retreats.


Package holidays.

Night classes in flower arranging.


For God’s sake, the entire country has been turned into a tourism product by the spiv marketing drones.

It annoys the hell out of me, because it illustrates plainly how the language of genuine craftsmanship has been hijacked by flim-flam merchants in banks, insurance companies and ad agencies —  people who, by definition, have no practical skills whatever.

In  the past decade, or maybe two, the entire western world has been taken over by swaggering con-men bragging about their products in order to give their activities a spurious image of substance and solidity, when in reality, all they were selling us was one gigantic pyramid scheme.

And that is why the next con-artist who tries to sell me an insurance product, or a banking product will get his miserable half ounce of coke-addled brains blown out by a high-velocity assassination product.

22 thoughts on “Products

  1. The one that really jars me is estate agents use of the word,” space” to describe a room. Space is something you create in a room by throwing out your old shit, it’s also not an outside living space it’s a garden. Sorry if that’s a fraction of topic. GP

  2. That woman on the Newstalk lunchtime show yesterday would have no problem with you, Bock–but she certainly might have some ‘ongoing issues around you.’

    I’m sorry you ever pointed this one out to me, now I hear it all the time.


  3. ‘ongoing issues around you’.. sounds like a lap dance or something.

    Greezy pimp.. I think technically the estate agent could be right. Space is actually the empty, objectless, no-thing-ness that all objects exist in.. so I think space could encompass a place where objects are. :) Sounds kind of silly all right though, a living space rather than a living room.

    Good one Bock.. “And that is why the next con-artist who tries to sell me an insurance product, or a banking product will get his miserable half ounce of coke-addled brains blown out by a high-velocity assassination product.” You know what works too, getting them to keep repeating themselves or saying your mother isn’t home right now. :)

  4. Is this a similar justice to,stabbing repeatedly to death through the fontenalle. I would high velocitise and assasinate such flim flam merchants too. The simmering rage, the burny anger, the REVENGE.

  5. there you have the explanation why the world is bankrupt and language corrupted. in comparison with insurance policies and bank accounts, I think I’ll buy a more reliable product, a Lotto ticket.
    As your mentioning golf, that’s the same serious entertainment as watching paint dry.

  6. I think the use of bullshitty meaningless language like “going forward” is a symptom of dishonesty, or at the very least confusion. An honest person should generally be able to speak plainly. If you cannot say what you mean, then how can you mean what you say?

    I have a feeling that sometime soon people who can actually make stuff, real products, like say food, may be a lot better off than the guys in suits.

  7. Thank you Bock.
    You woke up some thinking in me.
    One or two pet peeves: over use of words such as sentences beginning with ‘Actually’… ‘Basically’ …’To be honest with you’.. I am often tempted to say, “good, I expect you to be honest with me”, particularly when it is a sales person delivering a pitch. Here’s another word I dislike ‘Scheme’. I often hear broadcasts where the reader refers to a new venture, being a ‘scheme’ and a very questionable product it turns out to be. County Councils are guilty of reporting a venture or ‘product’ as a ‘scheme’. Some of these schemes are the Water Scheme, which is often a local water supply governed by a group of local’s ‘local scheme’. When I hear that I tend to think that’s what the whole wretched downfall of our economy was based on, schemes. Are these administrators shemers? Sometimes it is the way in which the word is used that hits a core, or maybe we expect more of the use of language given the choices we have.
    I am not certain that I’ve used the correct punctuation or grammar but I think you get my meaning in this communication. There is a whole generation now only familiar with schemes. It makes one wonder.

  8. If I recall right, it’s a trick of language. Marketers are fully aware that people attach more value to a physical, tangible thing, so it’s not so much of a stretch to use the language of physical, tangible things to describe what they want to sell. It’s certainly not entirely accurate, but in marketing the goal is less about accuracy than it is about an attraction between the customer and the thing being sold.

    Co-opting certain phrases and words in order to create the best impression is nothing new when you consider that just about everyone does it. It’s a little more obnoxious, however, when it’s done in advertising and is especially blatent. I believe we’re approaching a state where extensive co-opting (referring to a service as a ‘product’, for example, as Bock describes above) is perceived in a negative light because it pushes the limits of consumer disbelief.

    This may also be called ‘setting off the consumer’s bullshit meter’.

    I can’t fully discount that in this particular instance it may be perceived negatively because it smacks of corporate jargon, but I think the fundamental concept is sound. Anyone have any thoughts?

  9. I think the danger is that bankers (and the like) start to believe they’re actually making something useful, and furthermore that they possess some discernible practical skill.

  10. ‘Words can’t describe…’ and then they use words to describe what supposedly isn’t describable.

  11. Pensions are called “products” too.

    If my recently bought television, a product, breaks down for no reason, I can bring it back to the shop to get a new one.

    If my pension, a product, loses 30% of it’s value, can you bring it back and say “It’s not working”?

  12. That’s about it – the word product makes something – a pension, an insurance policy, that can vanish into thin air when the provider of the ‘service’ goes bust, seem tangible and permanent.

    ‘Service’ is another one. Financial services is the oxymoron of our times.

    Consider ‘Community’ also. You can guarantee when the word community is bandied about by politicians and/or ad-(wo)men there is no community. In fact it is a catch-all collective noun for their prey: i.e. consumers or voters.

    All of which empties these words of meaning.

  13. another oxymoron is “Public-Private Partnership”. In reality, what is means is that the Public pays for the Private to make extortionate profits.

  14. Litfanjo, to be honest with you, I use the words actually and basically regularly.. and sometimes even going forward.. But to be honest with you I actually don’t really care if those words bother anyone, so going forward I’m basically not going to discontinue using them, just being honest with ya there. :)

    Now I miss the smileys.. How will people know you’re kidding around, I suppose they will have to read between the lines henceforth. I suppose heretofore they were annoying.

  15. While we’re in grumpy mode…(does this blog do any other register?)

    ‘Spirituality’ is another one. Every cringeworthy priesteen and vacuous new-ageist uses it at least once in every few sentences. The meaning of the word departs in despair.

    So we’re left with nothing to describe that [ ] that lies behind Bach’s Passions, van der Weyden’s Descent From the Cross, statue of a dancing Shiva etc.

    Perhaps this is to the good. ‘Wovon man nicht sprechen kann…’ (Whereof we can not speak…)

  16. This site covers many things. Music, food, sport, theatre, cinema, technology, humour. Yo just need to open your eyes and there it is, all laid out for you. Free.

  17. Spirituality is big business Pope.. all wrapped up in a nice feel goody, new agey, you can have it all.. the big house, the big bank account, the nice car, the “soul mate” etc along with “spiritual enlightenment”, “truth realization”, “non dual awareness” all at the same time..
    Don’t ask me how I know those terms.. aaah.. :) Chicken soup written by and for the demented soul-less :)

  18. Hmmm . . . . someone calling themselves Pope going on about how “spirituality” isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

    Makes a change from shuffling paedos around various parishes to escape justice I suppose.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.