A Monthly Meditation on Branding and Language
From Your Favorite Copy Shop, Editorial Emergency

#64 (February 2013): Past Perfect

In this issue we disentangle "past" from "passed" and shine the Not Our Clients spotlight on a botched attempt to address a deadly serious issue. Get your madeleines ready, Proustians, and ... dip.

Flash Card: Remembrance of Things Past

ProustMy sister has a problem with "passed" and "past."

She recently commented thus on a Facebook post about the current flu outbreak: "When I flew this passed week, I wore a mask! I was mortified, but I can't remember the last time I flew and didn't get a cold, and I'm sick of it!" (I really wish I'd seen her in that mask.)

I figured this "passed"/"past" confusion was just one of Sis's quirks. It's not like she was mixing up "compliment" and "complement," an extremely common error. But then I saw this in the Los Angeles Times:

"While it's possible that [Judd] Apatow may have delivered his 'Citizen Kane' with 'This Is 40,' its 134-minute running time points to his Achilles' heel as a filmmaker – not knowing when to say 'cut.' '40-Year-Old Virgin' was a comparatively brisk 116 minutes, but all his films since have steadily cruised passed two hours."

Read the rest here.

Not Our Clients: Goodbye Cruel World Edition

We would never make light of a suicide-prevention campaign. In fact, we think such public outreach is so vital — and so potentially effective a use of mass media — that we want it to be as successful as possible. At the very least, poor wording shouldn't invite black humor.

One sure sign would be the deceased.

You see our point, right? "Signs of suicide" are sought by investigators when it's too late. If we'd been brought in on this very laudable campaign, we'd have suggested something like, "Is someone you love suicidal? Know the signs." We're just sayin'.

For more (lighthearted) self-inflicted messaging damage, peep the sad procession we call Not Our Clients. Have you been driven to despair by a bumbling billboard or other media mix-up? This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . If we deposit your discovery in our reliquary of the ridiculous, we'll send you an Amazon gift card, redeemable for such affirmative fare as Life Is So Good, Get Happy and Singin' in the Rain.


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