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The Dangerous Deception of Language

Most British expats who use Facebook or YouTube will be familiar with the ubiquitous and rather annoying funeral adverts that dominate our news feed. They usually start:

“If you used to live in the UK you may be eligible for a pre-paid funeral plan.

Or you may have thrown the remote control at the TV when Hugh from Rhonda comes on and starts trying to put the fear of God into you:

“The bureaucracy here in Spain surrounding the death of a loved one is near impossible for many expats to navigate and I have a warning for everyone who spends more than four weeks in this country each year. I’ve also discovered a simple trick”

You can watch one of the adverts HERE

So, as writers, why should these annoying adverts interest us?

The rhetoric used by Avalon Funeral Plans, and its subsidiaries, is remarkable for being a breathtakingly bold use of deceptive language. Their copy writer should get an award.

Let’s look at the first line in detail:

“If you used to live in the UK you may be eligible for a pre-paid funeral plan.

Most of us would agree that anyone who pays 5000 Euros in advance for a funeral would be forgiven for expecting to receive said funeral when the sad day arrives.

Therefore, the use of the word “eligible” together with “pre-paid” is redundant and by common logic strongly suggests to the unwary that the British expat might get a free funeral plan courtesy of the British Welfare State. The statement is not completely untrue but neither does it tell the truth, which means that it would be very difficult to prosecute the company for misrepresentation.

Rather brilliantly, the statement plays on people’s fear and their greed just enough to capture the attention.

Just imagine if the advert had said, “Give us 5000 Euros now and we will bury you when you die – honest!”

Now this leads me to the real villain of the piece, the concerned Welsh businessman living in Rhonda. We will call him Hugh to protect the guilty.

He leads with “I have a warning” followed by “I’ve discovered a simple trick.”

Again, we have the same mixture of deception, the use of fear and hope. Hugh plays on British ignorance of Catholic customs by implying that the Spanish are conspiring to rip off the families of the dead. His simple trick, somewhat unsurprisingly, involves giving Avalon Funeral Plans thousands of Euros in advance and hoping that they are still in business when you die. So not much of a trick then!

As a writer, most people don’t have your level of written comprehension or your eye for detail. Have you noticed other use of deceptive language – maybe on the news?

Share with us in the comments the Pinocchio statements you have seen in the legacy media.

You can read more about deceptive advertising in the funeral business HERE.

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