Love is Blinds

19 03 2011

There’s a shop up the road from my place that sells window coverings – like blinds, awnings, venetians etc. I haven’t been in there but from the street it seems that’s what they’re on about.

More than its content,  what attracted my eye, from quite far away actually,  was the name of the shop. It’s called LOVE IS BLINDS.

What a lovely nest of intertexualities and grammatical incongruences, which combined, appeals very nicely to my kind of brain.

Let’s unpack it.

First off, there’s the snowclone –  a type of cliché and phrasal template originally defined as “a multi-use, customizable, instantly recognizable, time-worn, quoted or misquoted phrase or sentence that can be used in an entirely open array of different variants” (from Wikipedia). A good example of a snowclone is “X is the new Y”  eg “grey is the new black”.

Of course much more is available  via Google on this subject, but the basics are that like metaphors, snowclones allow the new to be understood in terms of the already-familiar. Any good teacher knows that the brain is particularly conducive to receiving new information via old (or already-established) information. I like to think of this as the old information opening the gate(secret key?)  to allow the new information in.

Let’s return to LOVE IS BLINDS. Here the snow clone is the construction “Love is…”  There are many of these:  love is blind, love is great, love is kind, love is (means) never having to say you’re sorry… etc etc. There are even  “love is” websites (just Google “love is”).

Now, usually when the template is in its simplest form, we have Noun+Verb”to be” + adjectival complement eg Love is blind. Here, though, the shop owners have come up with a variant – changing “blind” as adjectival complement to “blind” as a noun (ie the thing you hang on your windows), here rendered plural (“blinds”).

This links in to my second point, which is to highlight the numerical incongruence. By now we’re moving a long way from the notion of love as blind (or causing deception or misunderstanding), to love as in lovely, and as associated with the commodity known as “blinds”. It’s clever because while many words could be used to describe blinds, calling  them the equivalent of “love” is a pretty big ask. So it’s an oblique, humorous, and even modest, way of speaking very positively about the product on sale.

Third, the actual grammatical aberration stimulates another snowclone, exemplified in the phrase “Toys are Us”, itself an amazing example of erroneous English that took off and kept on growing (eg Babies are Us, Cars are Us, Bald is Us, Genes are Us, Designs are Us etc etc). Why is it erroneous? Good question – I’ll return to this in another post. For the moment I want to suggest that  the snowclone  (“X are us”) is intimated in the LOVE IS BLINDS epithet, probably because of the format (noun+verb”to be”+noun) and also because of the plurality/agreement issue.

You see, underlying all of this is the fact that we tend in English to want, with copular verbs like “to be”, to ensure that the bit before the verb shows some agreement with the bit after the verb. In Latin this is a sacred rule, and formal English often tries to emulate Latin (eg the rule about not splitting the infinitive). Obviously in LOVE IS BLINDS we lack agreement in number: as an abstract noun, “love” tends to be rendered singular, while “blinds” as a common noun is undeniably plural.

Similarly, with “Toys are Us”, the correct form would more likely be “We are Toys”, or “Toys are We”, the latter probably rejected because of the rather un-seductive homophone “wee” (urine). In any case, appealing to the majority  (less-grammatically literate folk), “us” is far more user-friendly, and conveys the intended message which is:  Trust us,  we know about Toys!

All of these previously absorbed templates are activated to some degree in the process of comprehension, interpretation and inference. This is what makes communication so intensely interesting while also so intensely fraught –  or capable of capsizing at any moment.

In any case, the anomalous non-agreement of LOVE IS BLINDS is likely to fix the name in one’s mind, and arguably, this is the whole purpose of advertising. Disappointingly perhaps, for the shop at least, when I recently decided to buy some venetian blinds for my study, I first did think of the LOVE IS BLINDS shop, but then was seduced by the sale being advertised in a well-known department store. Ultimately, perhaps, the hip pocket will always win out, even over grammatical fascination.