I was standing in line with a friend at one of the huge coffee chains the other day and snorted at the sign that crooned, in a soft yet solid font, about its handcrafted beverages.
“What does that even mean?” asked my friend.
“It means this big chain is trying to make its international recipe directions to staff look like a village business,” I said. I’ll admit I was snarky.
Handcraft means make skilfully by hand, so technically, the use of handcrafted isn’t incorrect. Each super-expensive coffee is made by hand, although a machine is involved. Yet hand-crafted is one of the buzz phrases that’s overused, in fact so overused it rubs my fur the wrong way. It’s used by businesses to imply they aren’t a big business and actually all about heart felt relationships with consumers.
It feels manipulative.
Artisanal feels manipulative too. Artisanal: made in a traditional or non-mechanized way. An artisanal sandwich made along with twenty other artisanal sandwiches for sale in a supermarket deli doesn’t ring true. Oh sure, a supermarket employee made that sandwich (handcrafted, that is), but I don’t know that it really qualifies as artisanal.
Language in marketing is shaped to draw people in, but it can repel as well. The overused word or phrase becomes meaningless. It becomes a shape our eyes skip over because it’s nothing new.
If you saw The Devil Wears Prada (and I don’t know if this scene appears in the original book), you’ll remember Meryl Streep’s character Miranda tearing into Anne Hathaway’s Andrea about the shade of her blue sweater. Miranda chronicles for Andrea the introduction of that particular shade of blue on a runway, and its move through different levels of fashion trend to the mass produced sweater Andrea wears; one of many produced over and over. Its meaning is dulled.
The use of handcrafted is the same thing, and I’m throwing artisanal in there too. They used to have meaning. Now they are mass produced and have lost their impact.
Writing requires words to cut your shape as clearly and precisely as possible to draw the reader in. Using words that are tired and overused is dull. You can do better than that.
Photo: GaborFromHungary, MorgueFile