Off to Mianus via Dingletown!
Reader “Pulled Up in OG” sends along this article in the Guardian entitled, “How to talk like an estate agent – seven tips”. The phrase in a local listing that caught our reader’s eye and reminded her of the Guardian article came from the listing for 105 Dingletown Road, which promises, “Elegant rooms that can comfortably welcome several coupled dignitaries”, which brings to mind wild, steamy orgies on the dance floor and in the servants’ quarters, but in case that’s not sufficient for your imagination, here’s advice from across the sea:
In the midst of the latest national property boom, our thoughts naturally turn to the happy figure of the estate agent. You might idly wonder if it isn’t too late to switch careers in order to stand in the same blizzard of made-up money long enough that quite a lot of it sticks to you. But in order to succeed, you will have to master the jargon. Estate agents communicate in a dialect renowned for its strangulated syntax, peculiar vocabulary and breathtaking insouciance, dancing on a rhetorical knife-edge between salesmanship and fraudulence. Here are some tips to get you started. All examples are drawn from actual recent estate-agent “literature”.
1 Euphemise relentlessly
“Compact” – tiny.
“Ample storage” – a broom cupboard, big enough for exactly one broom.
“Double bedroom” – a room that is no more than one inch wider and one inch longer than the world’s smallest double bed.
“In an imposing building” – in a brutalist tower block.
“An opportunity to put your own stamp on” – a disgusting wreck. I once went with some friends to see a house where there was a patch of dark-stained wall with matted hair stuck to it, and a small, framed “Home Sweet Home” picture in the hallway was covered in rusty blood–spatter. The previous occupants had really put their own stamp on the place.
3 Accentuate the positive
The creative negotiator can use comforting and even accurate words to pack out the description of any old dung heap. In one place, “The bathroom is fully tiled and benefits from a bath fitted within and a shower-mixer unit.” Surely no one could disagree that a bathroom really does “benefit” from having a bath?
4 Try to sound formal
Just as that bathroom has a bath “within” and not simply “in” it, one should always use the more formalsounding alternative, to demonstrate one’s utter professionalism. Thus, “whilst” is always better than “while”, and I have even encountered, with no small degree of admiration, “whereby” in place of “where”, even though the words don’t actually mean the same thing. Sometimes, sadly, this approach goes completely awry. I am invited to see a flat that “offers ample space to maximise your lifestyle requirements”. But logically, that is one in which my requirements will be maximised, and therefore I, without hope of fulfilling so many lifestyle requirements simultaneously, will be maximally frustrated and despondent.
5 If in doubt, add “-ed”
Call something a “two-bedroom flat” and it seems plain, but add the “-ed” and it becomes a “two-bedroomed flat”, which sounds more upmarket and more made-to-measure. That flat has really been thoroughly bedroomed, twice. (Grammatical precedent exists in perfectly normal constructions such as “high-walled city” or “long-legged squirrel”.) Similarly, turning “open-plan” into “open-planned” emphasises the careful ratiocination of the flipper at the very moment he rammed a sofa up one end of the kitchen, in order to bedroom the place up and add £50,000 to the asking price.
6 Be geographically optimistic
According to cosmologists, the very fabric of space itself is expanding, which more or less scientifically proves that the boundaries of what can correctly be called “Muswell Hill” will very shortly extend way beyond the M25, if they don’t already.
7 Employ cliches that no one can possibly contradict
An ever-popular piece of feel-good boilerplate is, er, “ever popular”, used to describe a block of flats, a road or a neighbourhood generally. As long as the place has not been completely deserted owing to the meltdown of a nearby nuclear reactor, and there are still at least some human beings there, it is definitely “ever popular”. Meanwhile, even the glummest shoebox may be honestly described as “light and airy”, for there will surely be some quantity of photons coming in through a glazed aperture during daylight hours, and there will definitely be air in it as well – unless someone has taken the trouble to hermetically seal the flat and then carefully pump out all the air to create a vacuum. In which case you should probably reschedule this weekend’s “open day”. Good luck!