Friday, March 30, 2007

Language, not Lego

Here's the line on the cover of a big law firm's graduate recruitment brochure, which I saw recently:


Of course, you can see what they were trying to do. Opportunity is the generic graduate recruitment promise: join us, and you'll soon be power-breakfasting with world leaders in exotic locations. And "hands on" was an attempt to be bit more specific; to convey that this particular law firm makes a point of giving even its most recent recruits real responsibility.

But, sadly, the result of combining these two components is meaningless. "Hands on to opportunity" is, simply, a phrase no one would ever utter; completely without force, resonance or the truthful ring of everyday speech.

Our language is infinitely malleable, and can be coaxed and moulded into all kinds of extraordinary shapes. It isn't a box full of building blocks that can be snapped together in any combination, to serve the writer's purpose.


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