Coming up with a line that made it into the Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms would be payback for a writing career, wouldn’t it? Your words buying you immortality long after you’re as dead as a doornail*.
Shakespeare leads the way, credited with creating more than a hundred idioms. But lower-profile writers do make the dictionary, too. Like the Ronseal ad team behind the 1994 classic ‘does exactly what it says on the tin…’ (although you’ll usually hear people use the truncated version ‘does what it says on the tin’).
I have to admit that Grassroots Copywriting doesn’t pass the Ronseal test. But when you get comfortable with a name it’s hard to ditch it, and the ‘grassroots’ has been with me since I first set up in business nearly 20 years ago.
My first clients were a mixed lot. I had a government agency that was involved in environmental protection, a publisher in the gardening sector and a forestry company.
The word ‘grassroots’ seemed to work for that mix. I also hoped – and still do – that it might say something about the service on offer. Down-to-earth, fundamental, open to all.
*Like all good writers, Shakespeare was a bit of a magpie. He borrowed here and there. Many of his idioms were all his, like ‘all the world’s a stage’ (from As You Like It). But others, like ‘dead as a doornail’, were not. It pre-dates him by a couple of hundred years.