David Thompson
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August 23, 2009

Comments

James S

"It then dawned on me that this ad was targeting a sector of the population who would be unlikely to fight back."

Victim group detected! Must intervene and fill copy quota.

David

It does call to mind an image of Guardian columnists frantically poring over the week’s media output, determined to find yet more damning evidence of heinous prejudice and outright hatemongering. Must’ve been a lean week.

Anna

It's accent-ist. Pure race hatred. Except when Japanese game shows parody Americans. Then it's funny.

squid vicious

Any chance you can give a comment on this business?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/aug/23/gordon-brown-letter-gaddafi-lockerbie

Is this just Gordon Brown finding new ways to step on his own wiener, or do people really support this nonsense? Even the Guardian article sounded sort of nonplused about it, which I think says a lot.

sk60

Maybe the Guardian will start a campaign against all the ads that show husbands and boyfriends as useless dimwits.

carbon based lifeform

"I decided to complain first to ITV..."

Is there someone I can complain to about inane Guardian articles?

dw

If the meerkat had a French accent would that be 'racist' too?

RebeccaH

Is the talking meerkat (who pronounces "market" properly in his first sentence) actually using "meerkat" to refer to "markets"? It seems to me he's referring to... well... meerkats. As in "meerkat afficianados".

Not that any of that matters one tinker's dam, in the face of the overwhelmingly self-righteous goody-two-shoes political correctness of the likes of Peter Jones and the Guardian.


billm99uk

Makes me quite nostalgic for the era in which "He can't take a joke" was the worst thing you could ever say about someone...

Paul

A couple of advertising creatives, after failing to come up with anything else, noticed that the word market, when spoken in a vaguely Eastern European accent, sounded like meerkat. Ha ha, they said, imagine if we did something around that? Ha ha, the client said, we like it, go and do something around that.

Evil racist pigs, obviously.

I was relieved - and surprised - to see that nearly all of the commenters on Jones' CIF article think he's a bit of a twerp with a twerpish girlfriend. Some have also suggested, mind, that it's all a big Guardian joke and that we've all been had....

Thon Brocket

As everybody knows, meerkats, being from Sethafrika, speak unpleasant guttural Afrikaans-accented English with bad grammar. A lot of them carry guns. Whitewashing them with sophisticated fake Russian accents and smoking jackets is deeply unfair to their hereditary victims and thus obviously racist.

QED.

Ross

What makes it all the more ironic is that the Guardian actually does slander Eastern Europeans on a regular basis.

There is usually at least one article a week accusing them of being nazis whether it be as part of the tedious Labour campaign to smear the Tories European allies or as part of a Stalinist rear guard who object to Eastern Europe's anti-communism.

David Gillies

This reminds me if the late, great Peter Simple's invention of the prejudometer, which you merely pointed at someone to get their degree of racial prejudice in prejudons (the internationally recognised unit of racial oppression, measured on the Alibhai-Brown scale).

Trouble is, he was joking.

TDK

As R says the Meerkat does pronounce "market" correctly. The advert tells us that the stupid audience (English I assume) can't tell the difference between the two different websites "Compare the Meerkat" and "Compare the market". The joke is on OUR inability not the meerkat's.

As it stands, the offence is based no on the inability to pronounce words - nonsense, but on the fact that foreigners have an accent. This is insane. The Guardian would have us politely pretend that we can't even detect that someone has an accent.

David

“The Guardian would have us politely pretend that we can’t even detect that someone has an accent.”

Yes, you could go quietly mad trying to fathom why the advert is “targeted racism” or a cause of umbrage. Even on the level of cartoonish accents, the complaint doesn’t work. Whatever feelings the ad may evoke, I don’t detect hostility towards people with accents – quite possibly the reverse. The meerkat (or whatever Guardian commentators take it to symbolise) is meant to be appealing and erudite, not stupid or contemptible. (By much the same train of suspicion, Mr Jones would have to believe that the “Judderman” adverts were hateful towards, and oppressive of, erm, Finns or Norwegians, or whoever the hell the ad might be taken to represent by people determined to do so.)

I don’t think the article tells us anything useful about the advert; though it may tell us quite a bit about the things Guardian contributors feel obliged to say.

sackcloth and ashes

'a word that eastern Europeans/Russians pronounce “meerkat”'

As someone who has travelled extensively in Eastern and Central Europe, I can safely confirm that this is a load of fucking bollocks.

Jack Okie

The Guardian has performed a great service in alerting us to "article-ism", a particularly vicious form of racism. On reflection, Len Deighton is one of the worst offenders: Colonel Stok in "Funeral in Berlin" is a cruel portrayal of a man trying to speak, through no fault of his own, without articles. The forces of reaction have tried to cover up how the Slavic languages lost their articles, but clearly rapacious Western Colonialism, with its history of hoovering up the resources of the defenseless, is the culprit.

sackcloth and ashes

There is a precedent here. McDonalds got sued over an advert which supposedly insulted the Chinese. It was actually a parody of kung-fu films, complete with badly dubbed English, a moustache-stroking baddie with a demonic laugh, and rather dodgy fight-scenes.

God knows what the PC crowd would make of this one today:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZADg34kh5c&feature=related

David

Clearly, a work of genius.

Wonder Woman

I've spent quite a bit of time in Eastern Europe and my first husband was Bulgarian, as were all his friends. I don't believe I ever heard them mispronounce the word "market" this way.

Perhaps I should quiz the Polish family down the street...

TimT

'My girlfriend and I were watching TV at home when the advert for comparethemarket.com appeared on our screen. I had seen the ad before and not thought anything of it. However on this occasion, my girlfriend, who is Ukrainian, turned to me and said: “I don’t like this advert; it is very offensive to me.” I mentioned it to a friend who said his Latvian lodger also found it offensive.'

I'd imagine learning to cultivate that sense of being offended on other people's behalf - and giving other people reasons to be offended on your behalf - is part of the process of learning English, and assimilating into the English culture. Just like immigrants to America would quickly learn the concept of 'rights'.

billm99uk

''a word that eastern Europeans/Russians pronounce “meerkat”'

As someone who has travelled extensively in Eastern and Central Europe, I can safely confirm that this is a load of fucking bollocks.'

So you travelled extensively around Eastern Europe, walking up to people in the streets and asking them to say "market" and "meerkat" so you could compare the pronunciation of the two?

Ahh, that's why they think the British are a bunch of weirdos ;)

Geckko

What is most bizarre about this complaint, which anyone familiar with the ads could confirm, is that the it is the "Eastern European accented" Meerkat's calling everyone else stupid. Presumably, Anglo Saxons, who can't tell the difference.

The Grauniad truly is the refuse bucket of opinion.

Andrea Harris

Hm. According to Google's translator thingie, "market" in Ukrainian is "rinok," and in Latvian is "tirgus." So the word in their own language couldn't possibly give rise to the pronunciation "meerkat."

But anyway, I can't think of any possible reason for speakers of Ukrainian or Latvian (to rather different languages, by the way) to pronounce "market," which has no sounds that their own languages lack and would be one of the rather easier words for foreign speakers to learn how to pronounce. At worse, they would roll the "r" rather more than native usage demands, or elide it in the manner of some British accents as well as the American Bostonian accent: "mah-ket." In short, I think this Peter Jones fellow is full of crap.

sackcloth and ashes

'So you travelled extensively around Eastern Europe, walking up to people in the streets and asking them to say "market" and "meerkat" so you could compare the pronunciation of the two?

Ahh, that's why they think the British are a bunch of weirdos ;)'

Err, no actually. I spent six months working there in 1994, based in Poland but travelling to Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I've paid other visits to that part of the world, incorporating Russia, Romania and Estonia as well. And that doesn't include my dealings with Eastern and East-Central Europeans who have worked or studied in the UK. Whatever their linguistic tics, and while they didn't often grasp the intricacies of English (you try explaining to someone who speaks a phonetic language like Russian or Polish why 'cough', 'bough' and 'thought' are pronounced differently), I don't recall any of them talking like the comedy meerkat puppet under discussion.

Therefore, I rest my case that Peter Jones is a cock, and you are a pedant.

'"market" in Ukrainian is "rinok," and in Latvian is "tirgus."'

It's 'rinok' (transliterated) in Ukrainian and Russian, and 'rynek' in Polish, 'trh' in Czech, and 'piata' (I can't do the diacritic marks) in Romanian. The latter word sounds like the Italian 'piazza', BTW.

Shane Croucher

Perhaps a clever publicity grabber by CTM (or VCCP, I suppose)?

Shave the Forest

"Perhaps a clever publicity grabber by CTM (or VCCP, I suppose)?"

No, The Guardian really is that bad.

Tim Newman

As someone who has travelled extensively in Eastern and Central Europe, I can safely confirm that this is a load of fucking bollocks.

3 years in Russia and counting, and I agree completely with the above.

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