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11 Comments

  • Great and pertinent post, Stan. Beware the estate agent who describes a flat as ‘compact and bijou’ – it’s obviously a broom-cupboard.

  • Stan: following on from Beth, a description popular with UK (real) estate agents is ‘deceptively spacious’ – which (i think) means ‘it may look tiny but you’d be surpised how big it is’. Back in the 1960s there was a London agent named Roy Brooks who deliberately bucked the trend with his ultra-honest, often very funny descriptions which appeared in the Sunday papers. I remember my dad reading them out. A famous one was: ‘back bedroom suitable only for a dwarf’. It seems the company still exists: http://www.roybrooks.co.uk/the-book

  • Beth: “compact and bijou” is admirably euphemistic! They could add: “All appliances within arm’s reach”, or “Enjoy the amazing convenience of using the bathroom from the kitchen.”

    Michael: Thanks for introducing me to Roy Brooks. The website mentions a few golden oldies, but otherwise seems to have adopted the usual OTT lingo, with an occasionally puzzling twist: “Devastatingly beautiful”; “Incredibly edible”; “near to all local Shops” (obviously); “outrageously good links into London”; “scrummy views”; “Shops, Bars, Eateries are literally on your doorstep”. That last one sounds a bit crowded.

  • Stan:
    (real) estate agents are used car salesmen with a different inventory. It’s a clear case of caveat emptor.

  • […] The unreality of real estate language was prompted by the amusing hyperbole of property ads, where ordinary lawns are “magnificent”, every room is “filled with natural light”, and dreams lie forever on your doorstep. It is a world where medium is ‘large’, average is ‘first rate’, and unusual is ‘extraordinary’. Any site that isn’t a ruined shack sinking into a swamp may be described as ‘superb’. A well-maintained building is ‘stunning’ and ‘fabulous’, a better-than-average view ‘must be seen to be believed’, and everywhere but the most dilapidated neighbourhoods are in a ‘most sought after location’. (Hyphens, unlike typos, are often scarce in these ads.) […]

  • @Michael Rundell,

    Some colleagues of mine were stumped by the use of ‘deceptively big/spacious/light’ in Real Estate jargon here in Australia. So they did what any curious and time-poor person would do and set it as a semantics assignment for an undergraduate semantics subject (http://www.superlinguo.com/post/8102577419/deceptively-deceptive).

    There appears to be a genuine semantic ambiguity with how this word is used, which Real Estate agents happily use. (See also Eric Baković’s post on Language Log http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=3468)

  • We Americans, of course, can use the bathroom from the kitchen no matter how large the kitchen is — provided we don’t mind changing our clothes afterwards.

    The American journalist and writer A. J. Liebling, writing about the second Florida land boom in 1915, said that the public had become so skeptical about Florida land advertising that they discounted it 90% — so he had to inflate it 900%. One new town, for example, was said to have “great yachts docking at the harbor daily”, which turned out to mean that there was a trench dug behind where the buildings would be erected that led to the sea.

  • Lauren: Thanks very much for the links – very interesting discussions.

    John: That’s a wonderful bit of exaggeration. I’d love to see Roy Brooks (comment 2, above) describe the same place, and to compare the two.