Tamsin Constable

Don’t dig too deep

Home insurance company Hiscox has realised that their policy of using Plain English can be turned into a massive selling point.

Here’s their latest ad offering, based on the phrase ‘call a spade a spade.’ Notice too their slogan: ‘As Good As Our Word’, which implies both a promise in terms of client relationships, as well as quality of service, reflected in the use of high quality Plain English.

On further investigation, though, there are two problems.

First, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable defines the phrase ‘to call a spade a spade’ as: “To be outspoken, blunt, even to the point of rudeness.” Let’s hope that Hiscox’s potential customers don’t read that into the ad.

Second, though the phrase has an ancient Greek source, it has a very different modern slant, used in a racist way (as in black spades in poker). In America, in particular, this phrase is now considered offensive. Perhaps the Hiscox ad team didn’t dig deeply enough?

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