John Kuraoka, freelance advertising copywriter
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Ad Blog: news and views about advertising, branding, marketing, and copywriting
September-December 2017

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November 6 2017
I’ve been deep into Medieval history and Shakespeare’s history plays lately. One of the words Shakespeare is sometimes credited with coining is advertising. It appears at the very end of Measure for Measure. Here’s the full text of the play, from Open Source Shakespeare:
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In the final scene, Duke Vincentio says:

Come hither, Isabel.
Your friar is now your prince: as I was then
Advertising and holy to your business,
Not changing heart with habit, I am still
Attorney'd at your service. (5.1.381-385 Riverside, 2803-2807 OSS.)

It also appears in shorter form in the first act of the first scene, and from the same Duke Vincentio: “But I do bend my speech/To one that can my part advertise....” (1.1.40-41 Riverside, 46-47 OSS.) So, in a way, Measure for Measure opens and closes with advertising, an interesting tidbit given the near-constant deception and manipulation in the story.

However, adding a suffix to turn a verb into another verb isn’t really the same thing as coining a word. Walk, walking. Talk, talking. Advertise, advertising.

Shakepeare uses the word “advertise” in several plays: Richard III, Henry VI Part 2, Henry VI Part 3, and Troilus & Cressida as well as Measure for Measure. Probably every time modern playgoers hear the word in Shakespearean dialogue, their ears perk up with this seeming anachronism. I know mine did.

But Shakespeare hardly invented the word.

I have also been reading the Paston letters, correspondence from an upwardly mobile family that spans the 15th century. In it was a letter to patriarch John Paston I from Sir John Fastolf, whom I’ve mentioned previously as a prime example of how buzz works and how a tasty third-party re-brand can outlive the original. The letter is dated 7 February 1455, over a century before Shakespeare’s birth.

“Right trusty and well-beloved cousin, I commend me to you. And please you to weet (know) that I am advertised that at a dinner in Norwich, where as ye and other gentlemen were present, that there were certain persons, gentlemen, which uttered scornful language of me ...”

The letter goes on to ask Paston to provide as much information as possible on Fastolf’s slanderers. By the way, Paston was not Fastolf’s cousin in the way we use the word today – it meant merely “close friend” or, more cynically, “ally.”

So, two things. First, here's a prior example of the word “advertise,” used in the same way and in a manner that demonstrates the word was in common currency – it needed no explanation.

Second, and every bit as intriguing to me, Fastolf clearly had image problems; his brand was in trouble long before Shakespeare came on the scene and turned him into the lecherous, drunken rogue Sir John Falstaff.
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September 15 2017
A study of the past dredges up some great words for the future. Here’s an article from ITV News (UK) about 30 lost words that academics are trying to reintroduce:
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I don’t think the listed words are “lost” as much as “fallen out of widespread use.” For instance, slug-a-bed (someone who lies in late) is fairly common in parts of the U.S.; at least, it’s familiar to me in ordinary conversation. Quacksalver (peddler of false cures) is probably more familiar in the shorter form it likely evolved into, quack. And coney-catch (swindle or dupe) will be familiar to fans of Shakespeare’s fat knight Falstaff in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Many of these archaic words remain perfectly understandable in context, such as peacockize (behave ostentatiously) and teen as a verb (vex, enrage, or inflict suffering on).

A few words on the list seem particularly suited to resurrection. I’m sure many will be tickled by betrump (deceive) and ear-rent (the metaphorical cost of listening to someone).

Finally, many of the words have the feel of something created specifically to freshen an old idea, like sillytonian (gullible person), percher (social climber), and merry-go-sorry (mixture of joy and sorrow). I sense the hand of the wordsmith. They feel closely related to modern advertising constructions like Midasize, Uncola, and drinkability.

Trivia #1: the word dependability was invented just over a century ago by advertising/PR legend Ted McManus for an ad campaign for Dodge automobiles. It was so useful that it quickly became popular, and by 1930 entered the dictionary as a legitimate word. Dodge’s use of the word “dependability” and its variants as key pieces of its brand ran well into the 1960s.

Trivia #2: This conversion of an adjective into a noun or a noun into a verb for the purpose of linguistic flair has a word of its own: antimeria.

Developing new ways to say old things is part of what we do. After all, as professional roukers, we need to make sure our messages are worth the ear-rent.
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Backwards in time to February 2017

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Advertising strategy and other lies
An advertising copywriter’s bookshelf: recommended books
Brands and branding: a white paper
Do you make these mistakes in advertising?
Free (yes, free) advertising copywriting resources
Four ad copy traps that ensnare even experienced copywriters
How to become an advertising copywriter
How to take your copywriting portfolio to the next level
How to write a brochure: advice from an advertising copywriter
How to write better ads
Long John Silver on writing ads
More career advice: what’s it like being an advertising copywriter?
Napoleon’s advice to entrepreneurs, Part I: starting the enterprise
Napoleon’s advice to entrepreneurs, Part II: the entrepreneurial character
Napoleon’s advice to entrepreneurs, Part III: growing the enterprise
The ART of repurposing marketing copy (Or, why you shouldn’t use brochure copy as web content)
The economy (and what to do about it)
The Tightwad Marketing project
When you should consider hiring a freelance copywriter
Advertising copywriting mentorship
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