Friday, April 29, 2005

That Wasn't So Hard, Was It?

I'm watching "Survivor" and I see a commercial for Wal-Mart's digital photo-processing services. And I see and hear something remarkable.

It's quick, it's easy, and the price is terrific.
Parallel construction! In a TV commercial! You know, I'm not sure I've ever seen that before in a case in which it would be so easy to get things wrong. Given that same set of points, 99 out 100 advertising people would have foisted on us:

It's quick, easy, and the price is terrific.
What's wrong with that? Well, it implies either that "easy" is a complete thought on a par with "It's quick" and "The price is terrific" or that "It's the price is terrific" makes sense. Either "it's" applies to all three items or it applies only to the first one; it can't apply to the first two and not the third, at least not in that construction.

If you want "it's" to apply to the first two items and not the third, you need to close off that series by giving it its own "and":

It's quick and easy, and the price is terrific.
That way or the Wal-Mart way -- either is fine.


Stephen Jones said...

Actually the yahoos only just win. Google hits
"it's quick, easy and the" --- 192
"it's quick and easy, and the" ---137
"it's quick and easy, and the" ---- 35

Still a disappointing one in two who choose the least elegant construction but much better than the 99 to 1 you suggest.

M@ said...

The correct way even sounds better -- I'd say it scans much more pleasingly.

Why do people work so hard to get it wrong!?

Pamela Reilly said...

I'll use the comfort brought by the memory of the parallel construction to calm myself the next time I'm 100th in line at Wal-Mart. I'm glad grammar hasn't been discounted.

On an unrelated side note, do you ever sleep?

Bill said...

With workers and painters arriving at 7 a.m. as our kitchen renovation drags on, sleep has been harder to come by. But generally I am out from 4:30 a.m. or so till 9:30 or so, plus a couple of hours earlier or later depending on TiVo mandates and morning commitments.

Jim Donahue said...

Stumbled over your site by accident. It's terrific--keep on fighting!

vtuss said...

Why not make it more parallel?:

It's quick, easy and a terrific price.

Or, it's quick, easy and cheap.

WhichThat said...

The first one isn't logically parallel -- photo processing isn't a price. And the second one warns the viewer to save his money.

abgs said...

"It's quick, easy and a terrific price," is not parallel: it follows the form adj., adj., noun.

"It's quick, easy and cheap" is more commonly expressed in the order "quick, cheap and easy" and has a pejorative connotation.

Eric "Babe" Morse said...

Someone willing to admit to watching "Survivor"! Nice. I got made fun of when I came out of the closet on my isn't-language-funny site. (of course, I also play Fantasy Survivor, which is even worse...)

And, for the record, I used "email" in my thesis, completed in 2000. Then: major sell-out (sellout?). Now: ahead of the curve, baby.

Rakesh Krishnan said...

It's jarring but Wal Mart manages to send the message across in 30 seconds or less. Besides, the (m)ad men who created it know that an insignificant number of people would spot the awkward construction and they would be copy editors too tired to complain.