The complex nature of Brains

26th March 2004 at 00:00
David Crystal had an interesting piece on Shakespeare's use of "want" in last week's Teacher magazine (TES, March 5). However, pupils need to be encouraged to apply their critical responses to the complex meanings of words even when their set texts are firmly closed.

At a time when we see the same big department stores in our large towns and the same advertising slogans on billboards in whatever part of the UK we happen to be, I am always delighted, when visiting Cardiff, to catch sight of the prominent advertisement for the city's most famous beer.

The slogan declares "It's Brains you want." A teacher could spend a whole lesson analysing its demotic complexities. First, even though the words are English, the syntax is clearly Welsh. Second, the use of "want" is ambiguous and there is the punning use of "Brains". If "Brains" were in the lower case, it would be the kind of contemptuous challenge proffered daily in playgrounds and pubs.

However, Brains is the name of the beer and there is the implied suggestion that it is the answer to whatever ails you. Those readers who visit Cardiff for the rugby internationals or the football cup finals prominently displayed a couple of hundred yards from the Millennium stadium.

It's not just Shakespeare who had a way with words!

Rhys Williams Nantyfedwen Cwmann, Lampeter

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