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Catch It, Bin It, Kill It

Andrew Steeds

This hugely successful campaign is also an example of things that can go wrong when you condense information.

For one thing, what’s ‘it’? It’s never explained; the only item referred to in the more-detailed text is ‘germs’, which is plural and would therefore suggest it should be ‘catch them’ – which, of course, is less punchy!

For another thing, did nobody think about the double meaning of ‘catch it’? This leaflet was linked with bird flu, winter cold, other ailments that we talk about ‘catching’. ‘Catching’ in the way the leaflet means it is actually less common.

And then, for all that the leaflet works and has been widely used, it’s got some weird moments. Do we really say ‘catch your cough or sneeze’? Those words are still verbs not nouns, surely? And why ‘dispose of’ rather than ‘get rid of’, which would be much more in line with the rest of the text? (And, by the way, doesn’t that look to you like a laundry basket, not a bin?) Why ‘transfer germs to’ rather than ‘pass germs on to’?

It’s good, but it would have been even better with a further moment’s reflection.