Recently we discussed the idea of a repository for automotive cliché. But in some cases, remove the offending phrases and the entire edifice collapses.
During the early years of the 20th Century, US politician, William McAdoo once waspishly said of President Warren Harding, “His speeches left the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea.” As putdowns go, it’s rather good, but frankly as an opening line for an article (such as this one for example), it does leave an author open to the whiff of pretension.
Stones, glass houses – I’m there before you. It’s a bit rich of me to fling projectiles at another writer and generally I refrain from doing so, but I really couldn’t let this go unmentioned. Last week, UK weekly, Autocar, ran a comparison test between the Porsche 718 Boxter and the current Lotus Elise Cup 250 – which is available on its website for all to enjoy.
Now of course, the very idea of comparing these cars is futile, since even the slugs in my garden could correctly guess the (predetermined) outcome – Porsche beats Lotus. But the issue here isn’t the pointlessless of the exercise, especially since it gave the Autocar crew a nice day out in the Peak District. No, the prime beef here is Nic Cackett’s verbal prolixity, a verboseness that steadfastly ploughs through the rev limiter of verbiage, crosses the central reservation of garrulousness, before mounting the barriers of tautology and smashing to pieces in a shower of pleonasm. Yes indeed, with this piece Mr. Cackett, our Cup truly runneth over.
In his defence, he refrained from going the full Ffrench-Constant on proceedings, which at least made the piece somewhat readable, but at some risk to the hapless reader’s composure. Take this gem for example: “When we arrive, early in the morning, it is as misty as untreated glaucoma and saturated in what must have been week-long rain. In earshot of the road, there’s enough water babbling past to cool a plutonium rod thicket.” I wonder what Lord Leveson is up to nowadays, because there are sufficient crimes against similes here to warrant a tribunal.
Of course it’s entirely possible the estimable Mr. Cackett was short of ideas for his article, and I do have some sympathy for the task of writing what was a foregone conclusion in a manner that entertains, especially when there was so little left to inform. But might I return for a moment to William McAdoo’s slapdown, because in addition to two sportscars, there was no shortage of pompous phrases blipping and winding through Snake Pass in search of… what exactly? A decent sub-editor perhaps?