by Kenneth Rudich
I recently saw a tv commercial in which a law firm spokesperson introduced a new service called “Affordable Bankruptcy.”
As one fortunate enough to avoid being caught in that kind of position (knock wood), I had neither the need nor motivation to take interest in what they were hawking.
And yet, I found myself nonetheless intrigued with the commercial — specifically, the idea of boldly positioning those words side-by-side, as if there wasn’t something vaguely peculiar about wedding them together like that. Affordable Bankruptcy? Really?
Have you ever heard the term “oxymoron?” Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “a combination of contradictory or incongruous words.” They provide the example “a cruel kindness” to illustrate the point.
Ipso facto, I’m inclined to believe affordable bankruptcy is a form of cruel kindness.
I’ve no doubt this concept is the brainchild of a wordsmith with a keen eye for marketing. Or at least for writing promotional copy.
In actuality, it doesn’t seem even possible for it to exist. But the last thing people want when they can’t afford what they already have is something they perceive as unaffordable, like the prospect of accruing runaway legal fees.
Google the phrase “Affordable Bankruptcy” and you’ll quickly discover there are a slew of professionals who have chosen to incorporate it into their marketing communications.
I guess it’s lawyer logic – as in, concisely convoluted.
On one hand, how can people regard bankruptcy as affordable when they’re already broke and mired in debt? The mere absence of available money to pay for something makes it unaffordable. Doesn’t it?
On the other hand, how can they not afford bankruptcy if they’re irretrievably stuck on the wrong side of the ledger? When bankruptcy is the only alternative for cleaning the slate and starting over, it is affordable no matter how unaffordable it gets.
Just as the word kindness in cruel kindness softens the sting of it being cruel, the word affordable in affordable bankruptcy is similarly reassuring. While it doesn’t necessarily mean inexpensive, low cost or bargain priced, it’s strangely consoling to know there’s an affordable exit for when circumstances take an unaffordable twist.
It’s hard to imagine anyone can say exactly what the term “Affordable Bankruptcy” means, except maybe this: as long as you can afford it, you can afford most anything else.