Thursday, 2 October 2014
From starting every spoken sentence with ‘So’ to the now obligatory ‘boots on the ground’ whenever the Middle East is discussed, or the ubiquitous and thoughtless over-use of ’implode’ instead of more apposite words such as ex-plode, or the less dramatic and more accurate, collapse, decay or ‘fade away’, the language of these lands is daily degraded by those who should defend it. We live in an age of lazy journalism, churning out cliché-ridden column inches devoured by lazy readers and soundbites lapped up by lazier listeners. What are words worth?
Cookie-cutter, easy-on-the-ears aphorisms abound, picked up and passed on by the witless in an attempt to capture the zeitgeist by endless repetition; lexicographic fashion parades with everybody displaying their originality by using the exact same phrases; wearing out words with overuse to the point where they cease to hold meaning. “I’m passionate about” and “It is my dream” pervade the speak-and-spell, word-weary world of wannabe media Messiahs, while the supposed intelligentsia purvey trite phrases such as “speaks to” and “it is what it is”… and the redundant ‘going forward’.
Overarching visions abound, as do narratives and road maps and various ways of saying “we don’t really know what we’re doing”. We bob around on a sea of maladroit, muddled verbiage, where, without irony, even the British now say “I could care less” when they mean the opposite. Instead of having a plan we discuss formulating a strategy, which is one way of admitting we don’t actually have a plan. We replace actions with words and imagine they are the same thing; thinking that sending out hundreds of CVs is the same as looking for a job. Or that having 3000+ Twitter followers is synonymous with having a social life.
And talking of life, how is it that the eternal cry of the teenager spurned is now taken up with such credulous alacrity at any perceived slight? Quite how being the butt of a practical joke or a voluntary Aunt Sally through your own awkward participation in social media now constitutes ‘ruining’ or ‘destroying’ your life is beyond me. The stilted language of entitlement prevents the ‘me-me-me’ generation from ever giving voice to original thoughts, their mouths simply opening and closing to perform the ‘feed me’ song of hatchlings in the national nest.
It’s just one of those occasional thoughts that pop, unbidden, into my febrile consciousness during my morning commutes, but maybe standards are at the root of many of our social ills. It is impossible to avoid clichés altogether but it would be nice to stand out from the herd occasionally. The last remnants of the born-in-the-war, dress-like-your-dad, do-as-you’re-told generation are dying out and soon it will be rare to encounter the once common, smartly dressed, polite pensioner, rather than the upcoming legions of track-suited geriatric slackers who can communicate only in grunts. Maybe, going forward, we could all buck our ideas up a bit? ‘Going forward’? That can fuck off.