In recent posts I have been looking at novel ways of mixing words and images and at the exploitation of nonstandard language varieties – slang and jargon in particular – for marketing, advertising and publicity. The format of the dictionary entry itself, the very familiar sequence of headword, part of speech and definition, lends itself to imitation in the same causes, as discussed here by naming expert Nancy Friedman:
After studying Nancy’s article (included here with her kind permission) I tried in vain to find counterexamples: mainstream ads that had succeeded in using the reference-book template in original and striking ways. I did recall, though, some microexamples from closer at hand, the work of the design team at King’s College London with whom I’ve collaborated. These focused on colloquial language such as cliche, slang and catchphrase, presented in the visual style of thesaurus or academic document, playing with the expectations of a local target audience of students.
In 1998 slang, ancient and modern, and the thesaurus were evoked in an advertisment for student accommodation which proved popular with its intended readership:
Just recently an appeal for students to take part in a national survey combined a checklist or questionnaire format with plays-on-words, (over)familiar expressions and the sort of throwaway responses that students might employ:
A little closer in spirit to Nancy’s examples, but more successful I think because target and context-specific is the mug designed for alumni of King’s College which plays on the Latin word itself, its correlates in English and, in dictionary style, its etymology.
In my next post I hope to present for the first time a unique slang glossary and guide, created by a design specialist, which is at the same time a book to treasure, a rich source of information and a memorable art object.