Find your voice and get your story straight
Watch your language – what Dr Who and Old Spice have in common.

Watch your language – what Dr Who and Old Spice have in common.

Bow ties are cool.


Or rather, making it sound cool when you say “Bow ties are cool”…

…is cool.

I think so.

My kids think so.

(In our house it’s like Derren Brown has hypnotised everyone to say “Bow ties are cool” every time someone on TV says the trigger word “cool”.)

And judging by 59 “Bow ties are cool” related videos on YouTube – a combination of bow tie clips from the recent Dr Who series and user generated homages – plenty of other people think so too.

Bow ties are cool.

And the premise of this post is that idiosyncratic language, well delivered, is cool.

Cool and powerful.

Cool because it’s powerful.

Most of what’s been written about Old Spice recently focuses on the awesome way in which the TV campaign has been “remastered” for social media.

But this campaign was a triumph of idiosyncratic language long before it became a social cause célèbre.

I’m on a horse.


Swan dive!

Silver fish hand catch!

As someone who occasionally reviews books I’m a sucker for elegant, idiosyncratic language.

A lot of my favourite ads feature persistently catchy turns of phrase.

And most of my favourite bands include great lyric writers.

From the Beatles…

The day breaks, your mind aches
You find that all her words of kindness linger on
When she no longer needs you

To the Arctic Monkeys

Well now then Mardy Bum
Oh I’m in trouble again, aren’t I
I thought as much
Cause you turned over there
Pulling that silent disappointment face
The one that I can’t bear

And lots of things in between – Elvis Costello to Eminem.

(It’s why, for the most part, I never really got into Oasis. Most of their lyrics are meaningless nonsense. A jumble of references crammed into rhyming non-sequiturs.)

It was one of my high school English teachers that first made me aware of the power and beauty of language. Mal Jones was (is I assume), a tall, heavy-smoking, Liverpool supporting welshman with a blue stain on his best jacket pocket where a biro leaked a couple of days after he bought it.

We were reading Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee.

And in the chapter entitled “First Bite At The Apple” is a passage detailing Lee’s encounter with Rosie in a sun-baked hayfield somewhere in the Cotswolds.

We kissed, only once, so dry and shy, it was like two leaves colliding in air.

Mr Jones went off on one about the poetry contained in that one sentence. And, as you’d expect from a class full of 14 year olds in a Wigan comprehensive school, we all feigned indifference (well it was feigned indifference on my part at least).

But the realisation that ideas could be conveyed with such elegance has stayed with me ever since.

In this day and age when everyone is so concerned with having their content repeated and shared, you can still do a lot worse than including quotable language in your ideas. Indeed seemingly one of the best ways to get retweeted is to post a pithy 140 character quote.

Think about the words in word of mouth.

Idiosyncratic language is cool.


  1. Pingback: Jim Steinman’s a poet. But Wagner don’t know it. « Sawdust

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