LINGUIST List 13.3405

Sun Dec 22 2002

Disc: Linguists and Advertising

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Jack Tauber, RE: 13.3386, Disc: Linguists and Advertising
  2. Suzette Haden Elgin, Disc: Linguists and Advertising

Message 1: RE: 13.3386, Disc: Linguists and Advertising

Date: Sat, 21 Dec 2002 3:33:1 -0500
From: Jack Tauber <>
Subject: RE: 13.3386, Disc: Linguists and Advertising

Just to let folks know- the latest issue (for my region) of TIME
magazine has a two page spread from Ricoh. The left page describes how
wonderfully eco-friendly the company is, the right is a condensed (and
imagically poor) version of the television commercial. I would imagine
that many other magazines (and perhaps newspapers) have been similarly

I am gratified that the discussion of this issue continues on
LINGUIST- it had seemed to me that I might be a lone voice crying out
in the dark, and am very glad to see that I wasn't alone in feeling
the offensiveness of this form of advertizing. But it is still a minor
matter when bigger issues remain, such as on-site cultural and
economic imperialism, large-scale criminal victimization (including
from the sex-tourism trade), rampant disease, etc. Wouldn't companies
make a much bigger impression if they tried (perhaps in concert)to
address some of these? Something they could tack onto their public
records without fear of rebuke.

	Jess Tauber

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Message 2: Disc: Linguists and Advertising

Date: Sat, 21 Dec 2002 08:00:20 -0600
From: Suzette Haden Elgin <>
Subject: Disc: Linguists and Advertising

December 21, 2002

I've sent the letter below to Ricoh this morning, by both snailmail and
fax; the fax number is 973-882-5840.

Suzette Haden Elgin


Kirk Yoshida, CEO
Ricoh Corporation
5 Dedrick Place
West Caldwell, NJ 07006

Dear Mr. Yoshida:

Like many linguists, I am concerned about your current commercial
showing "a chieftain who shares information with his tribe using
simple clicking sounds." In the first place, there is nothing "simple"
about clicks; that's a serious distortion. In the second place, the
"chieftain" can't share information with just clicks -- he also needs
the rest of the language. The unfortunate impression your commercial
gives is that the man is using "simple clicking sounds" instead of
language, and that he manages nevertheless to communicate essential

Something should be done about this commercial (and its recent print
counterpart in Time magazine); it's not good. It's distorted, it
shares far too much misinformation, and it's elitist in the
extreme. It seems to me that it shares information strikingly in
conflict with the image your company claims to have.

Thank you for your time and your attention to this matter.

Very truly yours,

Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D.

PS: I tried unsuccessfully to e-mail this letter to your company using
your website e-mail form, but was skillfully prevented from doing so
by your software. The public could more successfully share information
with Ricoh if there were some "contact us" link at the site that
didn't fight back against that sharing.
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