October 8, 2010


My friend who moved to Palm Springs sent me a letter via snail mail the other day. It contained real estate listings of homes he thought might interest me. Also included were brief descriptions of each property. I’m amazed at how many adjectives can be crammed into these ads: cute, cozy, darling, adorable, well-loved, easy access and fixer-upper don’t begin to encompass the panoply of realtors’ descriptions for houses they wish to sell. One begins to wonder if memorizing the Thesaurus isn’t part of their training.

Salesmanship sometimes requires making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and I’d say real estate listings are a good example of that sort of hyperbole.

Here’s another: the pages of dating services. No, I’m not a customer but what strikes me, as I scan the electronic pages of these services, are the similarities between pitching a house and a person. The same words keep cropping up….  Well, maybe not” fixer-upper” or “easy access” but cute, cozy, and darling will be listed.   

“Passion” is one adjective that’s unique to the dating pages, however. I suppose one could become passionate about a house. I like mine pretty well, but passion would be taking my enthusiasm too far. In my day, the meaning of the word was so intense, so salacious it was often uttered as a whisper. Today, “passion” is as common on a dating page as breath mints on a first date.

Ads are a form of writing and require skill if they are to be effective. But the art of the ad and the art of literature tend to differ. One inflates while the other strives for honesty, even as a work of fiction. If I were in the dating game, I’d search for the ring of truth before I’d settle for any other kind of ring.