Like most people I do my best to avoid, or at least ignore, TV adverts, but a couple of adman phrases never cease to irritate me.
Manufacturers of painkillers regularly use the phrase: "No headache pill is more effective than..." Translation: "There's a legal limit on the active ingredients we're allowed to put into our pills and, like our competitors, we've complied with the law so apart from the packaging and the price they're all about the same."
And insurers regularly promise: "You could save up to £xxx." Translation: "You might not save a penny; all this advert promises is that there's an upper limit to the potential saving. And that potential saving is the most extreme case we could justify to the Office of Fair Trading."
In the first example the key word is "more" which to Joe Public might be synonymous with "as" but isn't. In the second example the key words are "could" and "up to".
But presumably most people don't pay close attention to the exact meaning of words, which is why advertisers can fool most of the people most of the time.
The ambiguous Oxford comma
1 week ago