Is the Adjective Endangered?
In a recent letter to the editor of a Montreal newspaper, a retired advertising copywriter amusingly pretends to deplore what he called “attacks on the sanctity of the adjective,” which, he said, reflects “a loss in the battle to save the poor adjective, which has recently been subjected to maddeningly overcute usage by a growing number of copycat advertisers who blithely turn these perfectly useful modifiers into pseudo-nouns.”
Here are his examples:
Tylenol: Back to normal, whatever your normal is.
Subaru: Sexy comes standard.
Campbell’s: Delicious just got healthier.
Cracker Barrel: Welcome to wholesome.
Tide: Style is an option—clean is not.
Cascade: …beyond your wildest clean.
Hyundai: …the end of too good to be true.
It would be fun to imagine what a pseudo-noun would look like. These have the form of adjectives, although they function where nouns normally do, as subjects of verbs (is, comes, got) or completers of prepositions (to, beyond, of). The nouns that they disdain to modify have all been ellipted. We could guess normal comfort, sexy design, delicious soup, wholesome cheddar, the end of offers too good to be true, and so on. And of course the slogans are all the catchier for having the nouns left out.