Friday 20 January 2012

Calm down dears...

A quick glance at the papers and you soon realise it's all gone way too far. A supermarket is described as "totally irresponsible" for "slashing" the price of a choccie bar by 20p. The reporter then goes on to describe Tesco as being "under siege". Okay, so it's only the Daily Mail, but this kind of over-inflated language is the staple of all newspapers and websites and even puts in regular appearances on the telly.

Regular reportage contains words like scandal, collapse and devastating, in reference to events so minor as to be barely worth a mention in the pages of diocesan newsletters. Anger is described as fury, raised voices as ranting and mediocrity as genius so often that we become inured to it.

This superlative inflation - superlation if you will - then denies us the language to describe persons, personalities and events that are truly deserving of high praise, high drama or true tragedy. If it's a devastating national tragedy that a minor soap star miscarries (an event so intensely personal that it shouldn't be selling newspapers for so many reasons) what words can possibly describe the events of warfare or, say, the sinking of a cruise liner with subsequent loss of life?

When the fridge art of a five-year old is described as awesome, what is left to appreciate the Sistine Chapel ceiling?

The British are famous for understatement. A vague sense of being underwhelmed used to be one of our defining national traits which, combined with our ironic outlook on life made us sound urbane, sophisticated and - dare I say it? - yes, a damned sight cleverer than everybody else.

But now, our modern patois, our slovenly McDrawl lacks so much to convey shades of meaning that it has to be peppered with the very antithesis of British speech - exaggeration and excitability. If you describe a taste to me, Gordon Ramsey, as "amazing" I expect to be amazed; I don't expect to taste "carrot" or "meat"... go on, amaze me. If a film is trailed as "remarkable" I don't expect that remark to be, "meh!". And if the headline screams "Tragedy, Crisis, Drama" I expect, nay demand slaughter, rivers of blood and a public wailing and gnashing of teeth.

So, buck up your ideas, broadcasters; use some nouse, newspapers and wise up, websites - go out and buy yourselves a good dictionary. Because your inability to use humble words to describe humble events is going to make me explode. I mean, literally explode, man! I'm going to freak out and go ape on your ass, because you've, like, you've ruined my life. It's a tragedy, I tell you.

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