Rodi Motor Services (Vic)

Use of indigenous words rather than foreign loanwords, or vice versa, is a matter of personal preference. Both may have their attractions. The use of  “hoard” rather than “collection”, or “make it up” rather than “invent”, reaffirms the writer’s Anglo-Germanic heritage and identity. Conversely,  the use of “elegant” rather than “dapper”, or “judge” rather than “deem”, speaks to a Latinate preference. The opportunities for this kind of layered meaning are plentiful in English.

In a similar vein, the insertion of English devices in Spanish and Catalan contexts has become fashionable over recent years. This is perhaps most noticeable in the international use of English signage and advertising slogans. Take, for example, the Honda slogan “The power of dreams”. which is used on their Spanish website in preference to the Spanish text:

  • Search: “the power of dreams” site:honda.es
    539 results
  • Search: “el poder de los sueños” site:honda.es
    104 results

In other words, on their Spanish website Honda use their English slogan roughly five times as often as their Spanish slogan.

Similarly, NH Hotels prefers an English-only slogan: “Feel the extraordinary”:

  • Search: “feel the extraordinary” site:https://www.nh-hoteles.es/
    43 results
  • Search: “sentir lo extraordinario” site:https://www.nh-hoteles.es/
    1 result

On their Spanish website NH Hotels use their English slogan almost exclusively.

Another example is from L’Oréal. They often use their slogans “Porque yo lo valgo” or “Because you’re worth it” in an abbreviated form:

  • “worth it” site:loreal-paris.es
    634 results
  • “lo valgo”site:loreal-paris.es
    41 results

L’Oréal has a clear preference for their English slogan on the Spanish website.

(Search data is from Google.)

The psychologist Pilar Varela accounts for this thus:

English is associated with what is desirable and upmarket. Those who advertise in English are projecting a cosmopolitan image or a guarantee of advanced technology or quality.

El País, 2016

English is by far the most commonly internationalised language in this regard, though there are isolated other cases. For example, Audi uses their German slogan internationally: “Vorsprung durch Technik”. (We may not know what it means, but it promises German technology. And that is all we need to know.)

This last example is illustrative of a curious feature of linguistic métissage: precision is less important than use.  In other words, the mere use of a foreign device is more important than how it is used. This brings to mind the use of English apostrophes in Catalan and Spanish texts.

Apostrophes are tricky customers. English spelling is hard and the rules governing apostrophes are no exception. As a result many native speakers choose not to use apostrophes at all (see this Wall Street Journal article about the non-use of apostrophes in text messages) or overuse them (as in the so-called grocer’s apostrophe).

Check your knowledge of the correct use of apostrophes by placing one (or not) in the correct position, adding or eliminating letters as necessary,  in the following texts. Check your answers by highlighting the white text in the Solution and Comments columns.

Text Solution Comments
Frances bicycle Frances’s bicycle But some authorities prefer “Frances'”.
Materials Science Materials Science We use the plural form because “material” can also be an adjective.*
People’s Front of North Jutland People’s Front of North Jutland A standard possessive plural.
Student Representatives Council Student Representatives Council We use the plural form because “representative” can also be an adjective.
Womens Studies Women’s Studies A standard possessive plural.
The dog broke its collar. The dog broke its collar. “it’s” is a contaction of “it is”.
Each others ideas Each other’s ideas “each other” is singular. This is a standard possessive singular.
Dominos Pizzas Domino’s Pizzas A standard possessive singular.

* See the explanation and evidence at https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/53587/why-is-it-materials-science-instead-of-material-science

This last example is of topical interest. A few months ago a Domino’s Pizza franchise opened in Vic. The printed materials use standard spelling, as shown in the image above, but the illuminated sign, put up letter by letter, initially read “Dominos’ Pizza”.

As I have said, in certain contexts the mere use of a foreign device is more important than how it is used or precisely what it means.

In fact, somebody must have given instructions for the sign to be corrected. Here’s how it looks now:

As you can see, the apostrophe is now between the right letters but it seems to have rolled over rather and the “s” seems to be on its way down too!

Here’s another weird apostrophe, this time from Aldi’s own-brand Twix-like chocolate bar, which goes by the exotic name GET’IT, whose apostrophe seems to be decoration, nothing more.

Among native speakers such a relaxed attitude to language use is far from universal. As for the apostrophe, an example of such sensitivity is the Apostrophe Protection Society, founded in 2001 to call out incorrect use. As they say on that site,

fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe […] We, and our many supporters worldwide, have done our best but the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!

Richard Samson

About Richard Samson

I’m a teacher living in Osona, Spain. I'm into tennis, dogs, and chickens. I’m also interested in translation and Moodle (well, digital tools for teaching, in general).
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