Mod Post

Below is a cogent, excellent piece on the importance of language in general and in particular within messaging campaigns. We highly recommend your perusal.

 

Language reflects the culture in which we live, and so criticisms of language use are often met with statements like “We’re just telling it like it is!” or “That’s the way the world works, get used to it.” But language also has the potential to change our culture. When we change the way we talk about things, we change the way we think about things. THEN we start to (slowly, surely) change the way we act about things.

 

We’re very pleased by the transit police’s near-immediate response to the criticisms of their recent messaging for the See Something, Say Something campaign. They’re:

A) Taking down the posters with the problematic wording

B) Asking our, and Hollaback!’s input on alternative messaging to replace the problematic posters

C) forming a committee to review messaging copy going forward.

A solid resolution to a clumsy, if well-intentioned mis-step.

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Lost in Translation: What the Vancouver Transit Police Advertisement Teaches Us About Language Use

Lucia Lorenzi

grammar_policeWhen I recently told an acquaintance that I study and teach in a Department of English Language & Literature, they commented that I must be a real stickler for grammar and vocabulary. In some ways, that’s true. Part of my job is to teach my students to write well and to communicate their ideas effectively. The truth is, however, that I’m much less interested in perfect grammar and spelling than I am in whether or not an idea or argument is conveyed as unambiguously and clearly as possible (especially in academic writing!). After all, even in my own academic and personal writing, I often flout the usual rules or expected usages of grammar. I often start sentences with coordinating conjunctions such as “and” or “but.” I don’t always use semi-colons or dashes properly (although I do try). Ultimately, however, the goal of my writing – and the ways in which…

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SuperDriver, Protector of Women Just Trying to Get Home (19/f)

I thought I’d share a story of a bus driver who was kind enough to go out his way for me one night.

When I was a 19-year-old student and first moved from Victoria I lived deep in Steveston and there were very few buses that could get me home late at night. Of course I would still go to downtown Vancouver sometimes on the weekend, drink, and take the last possible night bus home by myself. Yes, this could be dangerous activity for a young woman, but violence is never the fault of the victim, no matter what I drank, no matter what I was wearing, no matter how unlit the streets at the end of No.2 road were ten years ago. As far as I was concerned, I wasn’t going to limit my life by fear. I was young and invincible. I had bear spray.

Usually I was the last one on the bus which let me off to walk the twenty minute route home along unlit farmlands. I would at the back of the accordion bus and read a book for the long ride from the city. One night I had missed the last bus that would take me closest to home and had to settle one that would get as close as possible, a forty minute walk.

On an otherwise empty bus, a man came and sat down right next to me, essentially trapping me in the back corner seat. He commented on my outfit. “I like your skirt.” “Are your legs cold?” and eventually, “Where is your stop?” He continued by asking and then telling me to come home with him. I sat upright, I looked at him in the eye, and I kept responding with various versions of “no.” I held back my rapidly beating heart with what I hoped was a cold and strong exterior. I was terrified. My stop came, and I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to touch him as I brushed past, and even worse, I was petrified knowing he might follow me off.

Creepy guy eventually left the bus and I got up to ask the driver where this bus went and where we were. The kind driver said that after he got to the last stop he could then drive me all the way home on the bus – and he did. It was hours past midnight, he was at the end of his shift, but he did it anyways, and I can’t thank him enough.

Ever since, when I am the only one on a night bus, I sit right up near the front where the driver can hear and see me.