Wednesday, September 01, 2004

So what do you think?

This is one of the ads that the government is circulating around New York to press for Taiwan's entry into the United Nations:

Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien thinks New Yorkers might get confused by the ad (although she evidently hasn't asked anyone there). She says that people might believe the government is saying that the UN is being fair to Taiwan.

I don't think the ad is as confusing as she thinks. After all, there is no space between "UN" and "FAIR" to make people believe these are different words. Furthermore, why would Taiwan's government initiate an advertising campaign to tell people that everything is OK? (Hmmm... Maybe the PRC can put out some ads doing that. I can see the copy: "UN FAIR...") One of the Taiwanese stations interviewed some New Yorkers on the street and none of them seemed to be confused about the meaning of the ad.

What do my readers--particularly those who study visual communication/visual rhetoric--think? (Do I have any readers who study this???)


Chris Benda said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jonathan Benda said...

I had the same problem with her comment. The ad was perfectly straightforward to me.
Scott Sommers | Email | Homepage | 09.02.04 - 2:43 pm | #


To me, "Support Taiwan's Participation in the UN" is a very clear statement. But maybe Lu H-l's reading involves reading with some inferred insertion of "is"--i.e., "UN [is] Fair" [to exclude Taiwan]--and/or some inverted syntax: "Taiwan's exclusion from the UN [is] fair[.]" I don't think native English speakers would do this sort of inferring and inverting. Would it be more confusing for non-native English speakers? Maybe the black "UN" and the white "FAIR" prompt a reading that's not normally "there"?
Eric Gardner | 09.03.04 - 9:42 am | #


I do not think it is confusing.
Blinger | Homepage | 09.03.04 - 9:53 am | #


I don't think it is confusing,too.
Anonymous | 09.04.04 - 3:36 am | #


I don't study visual communication/visual rhetoric, but it seems to me that the ad _might_ be confusing only if a reader stopped at UNFAIR, interpreted UNFAIR as Eric suggests, _and_ didn't bother reading the rest of the ad. I would think most (New York) readers would find UNFAIR sufficiently ambiguous (or simply unclear enough) that they would, if they were interested, read on--and get a clearer notion of what the ad is conveying.
Chris | 09.04.04 - 1:24 pm | #


Thanks for the comments. I've been thinking that perhaps I'm too close to what's happening (as perhaps all of us are). It might be an interesting experiment to show this poster to some people who don't know anything about Taiwan (my former students at Syracuse come to mind--"What is Taiwan, anyway? A city, like Singapore?") to see how they'd read it.
Jonathan Benda | 09.08.04 - 4:04 pm | #


This is just so typical Taiwan power politics. No one in any higher position then the person asking can let a question about English go by without saying something is wrong (this is the politics of power in the local culture in general, not just English questions though).

Thus, even though the ad agency is a US based firm and knows the local market there best, anyone here in a power positions feels they MUST comment that something is wrong. Just ask any grad student here trying to write their dissertation in English how many sentences have to be moved about and words mixed up for no reason at all.
Clyde A. Warden | Email | Homepage | 09.29.04 - 5:05 am | #


I know what you mean, Clyde. I didn't know that the ad agency was US-based, but I'm not surprised that the ad was *still* questioned, given the position (and the personality) of the questioner.

On the other hand, this public questioning of decisions made at fairly high levels (or even at lower levels) seems to me to be extremely counterproductive. It makes the folks in power look, well, disorganized, at best. (But this isn't news to anyone...)
Jonathan Benda | 09.29.04 - 7:40 pm | #