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To infinity and beyond


One of the more amusing parts of the job for people in my profession is when we’re asked to come up with corporate straplines, or comment on them.  These statements are important, and it’s quite a satisfying part of our job when we succeed in distilling the values of a group of people and a organisation’s purpose into a crisp phrase.  The fact that such copy is sometimes sneered at is all part of our working life: derision for “advertising speak” comes usually from otherwise intelligent people who can’t write crisply.

Sometimes straplines are honest.  Normally, honesty is a good thing.  Sometimes it can go a little too far: I recall one subversive suggestion in the defence community’s communications world that “Equipping The Good People To Kill The Bad People” would be an accurate summary even if it were a little too direct.  Sometimes they involve the unconditional surrender of the English language, one of the reasons I loathe the phrase “hard-working families” with a passion while entirely endorsing the sentiment.

But this is all a digression.

My little boy turns four this week, and my most pleasurable of paternal duties has been the sourcing of The Presents.

The world of kids’ toys is there for us, of course.  He’s doing really well recently.  A particular favourite of mine is the cohort of Roman legionaries of the Playmobil Legion: utterly brilliant for Dads who know their centurions from their prefects, and best played with after he’s gone to bed.

Now we’re on to the next stage in our Disney education.  I’d never seen Toy Story before: it came out as I headed to university as an undergraduate, much to the surprise of a much younger brass quintet with whom I gamely depped as a last-minute and ageing substitute horn-player recently.  Where’s this brilliant music from, I asked, as we played “You’ve gotta friend in me.”  In fairness to them, their patient explanation avoided patronising the silver-haired Old Git whom popular culture had passed by.

Since The Grifflet discovered the films, I’ve been making up for lost time.Now, in the back of Dad’s Car, I have Woody, associated horse, Jessie, and the piece de resistance, a marvellous Space Ranger with talky sounds, flashing lights, and flip-out wings.  Damn, it’s good fun to play with and we haven’t even given it to him yet.

Let’s bring us full circle and back to the straplines with which we started.  A really good mission statement or catch-phrase is magnificent, for it sounds superb, everyone can sign up to it, and it’s utterly impossible to disagree with.  You can also have plenty of fun re-punctuating it. Buzz Lightyear, I salute you.

To infinity.  And beyond?


Personal views of a wordsmithing, sartorialist, horn-playing, state school Oxonian dad, rugby ref, recovering politico, and fan of vintage tailoring, Ralph Lauren style, and sharp writing.

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