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Catch phrase

[ 2010-05-18 13:21]     字号 [] [] []  
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Catch phraseReader question: Would you please explain “catch phrase”?

My comments:

A catch phrase, or catchphrase, is a phrase that “catches”, one that sounds attractive, captivating and is therefore easily remembered.

A disease that catches (many people), for instance, is one that is infectious. Likewise a catch phrase spreads quickly. Look at it this way: a catch phrase is simply a group of words (phrase) that has become one CATCHWORD.

Dictionary definitions correctly point out that catch phrases are best used as slogans for a particular group or movement.

Nike, the sports gear maker, has “Just Do It” as a catchphrase to pitch many of its products. McDonald’s, the hamburger chain on the other hand, says “I’m Loving It” in its commercials. The catch phrase of our government, of course, is “Serve the People.”

No kidding. All people who are my age or older know that “Serve the People Whole-Heartedly” has been the motto of the Party for, like, forever.

It still is, I believe.

Youngsters, I know, are more familiar with the more recent “Let Some People Get Rich First”. That really means “let’s get rich no matter what.” And currently, it’s really hard to tell which one of these two catchphrases is more catching – that is, more captivating and infectious – but if you are a believer of the second, it hardly matters.

In other words, for you, it’s: catch as catch can.

Anyways, here are three media examples of “catch phrase” – the first one is a warning against its overuse, the second teaching you how to create a catchphrase and the third, a recent political example:

1. Under pressure to create (usually against a deadline), a writer will naturally use familiar verbal patterns rather than thinking up new ones. Inexperienced writers, however, will sometimes go further, and string together over-used phrases or even sentences. Consider the following example:

When all is said and done, even a little aid can go a long way in a country suffering from famine.

The argument is commendable, but its written expression is poor and unoriginal. First, consider the phrase “when all is said and done.” Once, this phrase was clever and original, but so many millions of writers and speakers have used it so many times over so many years that the phrase has become automatic and nearly meaningless. This type of worn-out phrase is called a catch phrase, and you should always avoid it in your writing, unless you are quoting someone else: you own, original words are always more interesting.

- Catch phrases, by David Megginson, August 16, 2007, Writingcentre.uottawa.ca.

2. Step 1: Decide why you want to create a catch phrase. Knowing the personality of the person or the details about the product will help you create the best possible catch phrase.

Step 2: Consider the audience you are trying to reach, especially when trying to create a catch phrase for a product. Some details to consider about your target audience are age, education and interests. Knowing these details will help you later.

Step 3: Brainstorm the words to be used in your catch phrase. One simple way to get started is by making a list of adjectives about the person or product you want to be associated with your catch phrase. Also, make a list of actions that would be associated with the person or product.

Step 4: Create your catch phrase using some of the words you listed while brainstorming. You'll want to come up with something catchy but not too lengthy. The more your phrase stands apart from others for a similar product or person, the easier it will be for your audience to connect it to your product. In most cases, a catch phrase is simple English that will reach a broad audience. A good catch phrase will often be a call to action, pushing the audience to react in a certain way.

Step 5: Share your decided catch phrase with either friends you trust or a focus group. This is an important step, since not everyone will react the same way to things they hear and see. Listen to the feedback you receive to see if the resulting impression is the one you intended to convey.

Step 6: Market your catch phrase to the general public. This can be done in different ways depending on your person or product and your intended audience. Advertising venues such as print, television or radio are the likely destination of a product catch phrase. If your catch phrase is only for personal use to become memorable, find ways to work it into conversations at parties or add it as a signature in emails. The key to any kind of marketing is repetition. The more times people hear the catch phrase you created, whether directly or just in passing, the more likely it is to stick in their head. As time passes, they will start to associate the catch phrase with the product or person.

- How to create a catch phrase, eHow.com.

3. Not long after President Obama took office, he unofficially put an end to a favorite phrase of his predecessor: the “global war on terror.” True, George W. Bush used it so much that GWOT, as it became known in Washington, had largely lost its impact. But it got the job done—and Obama had yet to find a tough, pithy replacement. Until now.

In a speech today before a conference on post-9/11 intelligence-reform efforts, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair didn’t once utter the words “global war on terror.” But at least twice he talked about the administration’s efforts at “countering violent extremism.”

Blair’s aides had no immediate comment on how the intel czar came to use the catchphrase. Two officials of another government department involved in counterterrorism efforts, who asked for anonymity when discussing internal administration discussions, said that use of the new buzzwords “evolved” from discussions among counterterrorism officials. (The discussions apparently evolved enough that, in typical Washington fashion, insiders have already granted the phrase its own abbreviation: CVE.)

CVE has been slowly catching on among the Obama crowd. Daniel Benjamin, the State Department's top counterterrorism adviser, used it in testimony he gave to the Senate Armed Services Committee last month. As Benjamin explained it, “The primary goal of countering violent extremism is to stop those most at risk of radicalization from becoming terrorists. Its tools are noncoercive and include social programs, counter-ideology initiatives, and working with civil society to delegitimize the Al Qaeda narrative and, where possible, provide positive alternative narratives.” He added, “We are working hard to develop a variety of CVE programs.”

Last August, John Brennan, the former CIA officer who serves as the top counterterrorism adviser in the Obama White House, gave a speech in which he explained that the president had made a conscious effort to move away from using the GWOT catchphrase. “The president does not describe this as a ‘war on terrorism,’” Brennan said. “That is because ‘terrorism’ is but a tactic . . . [and] by focusing on the tactic, we risk floundering among the terrorist trees while missing the growth of the extremist forest . . . Likewise, the president does not describe this as a ‘global war.’ Yes, Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups operate in many corners of the world and continue to launch attacks in different nations, as we saw most recently in Jakarta. And yes, the United States will confront Al Qaeda aggressively wherever it exists so that it enjoys no safe haven. But describing our efforts as a ‘global war’ only plays into the warped narrative that Al Qaeda propagates.”

- Obama’s ‘Intelligence Czar’ Plugs a New Counterterrorism Catchphrase, by Mark Hosenball, April 06, 2010, Blog.newsweek.com.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


Sore loser

Never look a gift horse in the mouth

Turf war

Private citizen?

(作者张欣 中国日报网英语点津 编辑陈丹妮)