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Sofa King

I was astonished to learn from Geoff Pullum at Language Log on Thursday about this news story:

A slogan used by a furniture store for nearly a decade has been branded offensive by an advertising watchdog.

The Northampton-based firm uses its own name in ads and on vehicles to claim its prices are “Sofa King Low”.

Police investigated complaints in 2004 and no action was thought necessary, but the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received more complaints.

After further criticism over a regional newspaper ad the ASA has served a ban as the words could be “offensive”.

Three readers of the Northampton Herald and Post claimed the catchphrase was “offensive and unsuitable for general display”.

The ASA upheld their objections because the phrase could have been interpreted as a derivative of a swear word.

“Consumer research had found this to be a word so likely to offend that it should not be used in ads at all, even when it was relevant to the name of a product,” the watchdog said.

“Because of that, we concluded that the slogan was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.”

Perhaps you’re already familiar with the underlying Sofa King pun. It was the premise, for instance, of a Saturday Night Live skit in April 2007 (which I can only link to on hulu, not embed), prompting a Language Log post at the time by Eric Bakovic.

Sophomoric humor, for sure, but ban-worthy? As Pullum points out, why is Sofa King to be banned while French Connection United Kingdom markets t-shirts featuring its acronym? Quoting Pullum again, this is “sofa king stupid.”

Categories: Advertising, Language
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