Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just a little more expensive than expensive

Someone I know recently got a new (or at least new-looking) Honda Civic. As usual, the dealer put some badges and whatnot on the car to promote the dealership family. What words did this sage dealer choose to entice people to its lots full of gleaming new vehicular devices?

Just north of high prices

On a purely geographical level, this works. The dealership is in fact north of Houston in the suburbs. And if you consider the city inherently more expensive than the 'burbs, you're saying that the dealership is north of the expensive part of town. Kudos.

Unfortunately, the phrase doesn't work that way. Any time you deal with price, "costs just north of" translates to "is slightly more expensive than." If you're talking about a Civic that costs just north of $20,000, you're saying it's a Civic that is slightly more than $20,000.

So, translated, the slogan says that this dealer "is slightly more expensive than high prices."

I don't know about you, but I'm not going to any dealer that claims to have prices higher than high prices. It was a clever play on words with north, but the existing usage of north in reference to price puts this dealership in a tight spot. You could conceivably say "just south of high prices," but it's still not that enticing a claim economically and then you risk confusing folks as to where you dealership is located. All in all, it's a noble attempt that almost works, but ends up meaning exactly the opposite of what the dealership intended.

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