More Nitpicking

May 17th, 2007 by Bob Bly

It’s a small thing, but it bugs me.

Continental Airlines, in their commercials in inflight video, talk about how their dedication to service includes “meals at mealtime.”

First of all, it sounds redundant. When else would one serve meals?

Second, it’s odd, old-fashioned phrasing.

At various times of the day, I get hungry, and think it’s time for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

But I never mentally say to myself — “It’s mealtime.”

Why does this matter?

Because copy should be written the way people think and speak.

To me, Continental’s wording is oddly jarring, which distracts from the message and makes one aware that one is heading scripted commercial copy.

Do you agree that “meals at mealtime” doesn’t exactly flow off the tongue?

Or am I being too much of a nitpicker on this one?

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 17th, 2007 at 4:48 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

18 responses about “More Nitpicking”

  1. Jim Logan said:

    It sounds folksy to me. Kind of down-home. I’m not sure who their target audience is…you don’t see Continental much in California.

    Does the language fit other parts of their campaign? Maybe a regional campaign where that language is more commonly used?

    No argument there.

  2. Pam said:

    Seems especially strange, considering that an airline – in the travel business, of course – would necessarily cross time zones. Which would make “mealtime” completely arbitrary, wouldn’t it?

  3. Sheri Cyprus said:

    I’m with you on this one, Bob. The redundancy here is not only stupid, but “mealtime” sounds more fitting for a dog food commercial than a commercial targeting human airline passengers!

  4. Dale Butler said:

    I think maybe it’s because they are advertising the fact that they still serve meals at mealtime, while other airlines do not.

  5. Kenneth W. Davis said:

    Bob, I confess I like the folksiness of the line, but it’s a largely irrelevant claim. It seems to me that many, perhaps most, domestic flights deliberately avoid flying at traditional meal times, just to keep us from expecting meals. I often find myself landing somewere just before noon, for a connecting flight at 1:30 or 2.

    And as for international flights, as Pam says, what’s mealtime? (Although I admit that getting breakfast at 7 or 8 a.m. Europe time–even though it’s only 2 or 3 a.m. body time–helps me adjust to the new time zone.)

  6. Michael said:

    “Meals at mealtime.”

    True, it does seem redundant; also a bit queer to my eyes as I’m unaccustomed to the word mealtime. After moving to this new state, I’m still having a time trying to figure out the difference between “supper” and “dinner.”

    I’m guessing what the airline’s trying to get across is that you get meal at times when you’re normally accustomed to getting your meals, i.e., since their flights are scheduled so that breakfast, lunch, or dinner fall around those actual times, it means they don’t serve you breakfast at 3 p.m. nor dinner at 2 a.m.

    That’s my guess. The meaning of that, however, is buried in their assumptions that the average person will make that obscure connection.

    I’m not real fond of the overly casual tone, either. In my mind, airline professionals are highly trained experts at keeping the plane in the air. To have them coming across like the spokesman for Motel 6 seems out of place.

  7. Frank Catalano said:

    Amusingly, this is the exact same phrase that Alaska Airlines used to use when promoting their advantage over competitors: “…and meals at mealtime.”

    Funny how Continental (now an Alaska partner) would appropriate this a handful of years later.

  8. Al Rickert said:

    Sounds to me like Cracker Barrell might own some Continental stock. Maybe they could add a few rockers in first class while serving their meals at mealtime.

  9. Gisele said:

    I agree that it does not flow. The wording says, “Here comes cutsy marketing speak because we don’t have anything intelligent to offer.”

  10. Rob Swanson said:

    Because of the cynicism of most airline travelers (such as myself) it seems an example of “bizzaro speak” implying the opposite of what it says. I read it and think “they mean they don’t serve meals on any flight I’m on.” You hop on a plane and they offer you trailmix and you think, “darn, it must not be mealtime. My mistake.”

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