Thursday, June 12, 2008

Is having a larger vocabulary SO much to ask?

This is something I wrote back at the beginning of the year but I still find very applicable. Enjoy.

My New Years activities weren’t all that exciting. In fact, they were probably what most would call nauseatingly boring; I watched Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve with my sister and her husband at their house. Sweet. I know.
It was while I was watching the show and making jokes at the performer’s expense that I noticed something. Every time a performer would come up on stage after singing or whatever, they would be asked the typical questions. “What do you think about New Years in Times Square?”, “What’s the atmosphere like here in Times Square?”, “What did you think about that last performance?”, etc, the person being asked would reply “It’s amazing!”. Every two seconds someone would say, “It’s amazing!”

After noticing the over usage of this word, I decided to count the number of times they used it in one exchange between performances. In one 1 ½ minute exchange (or 90 seconds) the word amazing was used nine times. That’s once every ten seconds! Do people want to sound like parrots?!

Catch phrases and words change all the time. Take a look at the Billboard Top 40 at any given time and the titles or choruses of the most popular songs will more than likely be the latest catch phrases, spreading like an airborne virus in a subway. Some might remember Will Smith’s 1997 hit “Gettin’ jiggy wit it”. Does anyone have ANY idea what this means? Doubtful. Smith himself was asked what it meant on a VH1 interview and even he didn’t know. But hey, plenty were getting “jiggy wit it” according to how often this phrase would waft into the air among the masses on the street.

Amazing is the latest and greatest in over-abused words to float around in contemporary America. I think it all started when the whole “indie” scene and kids wanted to appear like they had their fingers firmly on the pulse of whatever underground music they claimed to be a part of. Gertrude would ask, “Hey Tommy, have you heard of The Chince Bucket Re-runs?” Tommy would reply with a simple “no” to which Gertude gets totally melodramatic. “Oh my gosh! You absolutely have to listen to them! They’re AMAZING!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either overheard this or actually been the Tommy. The sad part is, I’d listen to whatever it is that they wanted me to listen to and 90% of the time the band or group or singer would totally suck. It was almost like people were just looking for an excuse to use “amazing” in a sentence.

“Death Cab for Cutie is amazing.” Nope. They blow.

“Sufjan Stevens is amazing.” Sorry. Crap.

“The Decemberists are amazing.” Never listened to them but because you used amazing to tell me about them, that’s a big red flag.

I really wouldn’t care if people used “amazing” in a normal conversational syntax. But because the word is flying around like bullets in a bad action movie, every time I hear it I’m tempted to be a huge A-hole and totally grill the person about their word choice. “What exactly about this warrants the use of the word amazing? What is amazing about it?”

So yeah, let’s not be sheep, the broken horses that go wherever the ranchers tell us to go. Language is pretty sweet and to limit ourselves to repeating whatever Hollywood, the record companies, or idiotic celebrities are saying is just plain ignorant. We’re smarter than that. That is all.


Brittany said...

that post was amazing. it really made me think.

Matt said...

yeah, I put this up on the Voice blog a while back and got a few comments on how amazing it was. I don't know whether to laugh or slit my wrist.