Ford and Chevy butcher the American idiom


TV commercials afford the writers of advertising copy precious few sentences to get their messages across. 

Hence, one would think they’d take considerable care with the English language.

With Ford and Chevy these days, however, not so much.

Ford runs a series of TV ads for its F-150 line of trucks.  In several, they employ a proud slogan at the ad’s end – namely, this:

“It doesn’t just raise the bar, pal, it is the bar.”

(Sometimes, I think, the “pal” is omitted.)

Well, say what?

To “raise the bar,” in ordinary idiomatic American English means to elevate the previously prevailing standard to some new and higher level. 

It follows therefore that “raising the bar” with respect to some object or commodity automatically and inescapably also establishes a new bar at a new height.

In other words, Ford’s slogan offers at best an empty tautology. 

At worst, the slogan is just a foolish and useless redundancy – and a waste of breath.

These ads must be reviewed and reviewed at many levels by ad agency personnel and Ford Co. management.  Did nobody raise the objection that the slogan was nearly meaningless?

Chevy’s recent ads involve a final utterance that’s hardly any better.

An announcer explains at some length that several Chevy models have won the J.D. Power Dependability Award for three years running.  He feigns having overlooked the victories for successive models. 

Pleasant piano music accompanies his spiel.

The spokesman proudly concludes:  “…Chevy is the only brand to win the J.D. Power Dependability Award across cars, trucks, and SUVs three years in a row.”

And now comes the spokesman’s closing capper, said with a smile: 

“Third time’s a charm!”


The meaning of said expression, “Third time’s the charm,” can be found at numerous sites on the web and in more than a few reference books. 

Miriam-Webster for instance explains that the expression means: 

When “…two efforts at something have already failed…” then, perhaps “…the third will be successful.”

In short, the use of this idiom as the closer in Chevy’s ad would have been linguistically on-target if Chevy had failed to win the J.D. Power Dependability Award two years running and then turned matters around in the third year.

But Chevy, the man clearly said, won three years in a row.

Using the expression to express pride or pleasure in three consecutive victories is nonsense.

I can’t begin to wonder what the ad’s writers intended by substituting the indefinite article, “a,” for the definite article, “the,” in the expression.  Maybe they were trying to cover their tracks.


What’s going on here?  Ford and Chevy are of course two of the oldest best known vehicle brands in the U.S. 

How is it possible they could have lost touch with the meanings of two simple idiomatic expressions in our American English?

Beats the hell out of me!

— Ron Roizen    





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