The internet and constant media bombardment (there is an ‘AND’ there for you naysayers or defenders of all things internet) is quickly making people into sensationalist linguists. It seems that regular descriptions using appropriate language to fit the situation or subject at hand is just too boring. We are now constantly inundated with the “Most”, the “biggest”, the “best”, and the ever so popular on things like digg.com – “EVER”.
“But Alan,” you might say, “even Jesus regularly used hyperbole to make a point.” Well, maybe you wouldn’t say that, but I guess it could be a good point. Except that one, he used hyperbole correctly – not just tacking on the word ‘best’ or ‘ever’. And he used them in the context of generally life changing grand philosophical “this will blow your first century Jewish mind” sort of way – not to describe how well your freaking cats can bounce around.
There is no reason to have watched this video in it’s entirety. If there was anything redeeming at the end of it, you have my apologies, you still had to sit through all the stuff before it.
For the few of you that actually might read this, you might be pointing out The Best Page in the Universe – a satire site that drips with exaggerations and apparently is very popular. So what? It’s still annoying for it to creep from top ten lists on Digg and over the top web sites to our everyday language. Ever since I noticed this trend, I have been diligent to try and avoid it as best I can in my everyday life. I don’t think there is anything wrong with occasionally exaggerating to make a point but there has to be a limit. Especially when talking or more specifically – arguing – with my wife, there is little room for this kind of exaggeration. “You always (insert phrase) and never (whatever)” or “You are the worst (blank)”. Yeah, that’s fun. Here’s an absolute for you. NEVER use those kinds of phrases or wording. Absolutes like that are never healthy.
The Media Made Me Do It
The ‘best of’ lists prevalent on the internet are not going away because people are lazy or just too busy to wade through the near limitless amount of material zipping around. Plus it’s easy to get noticed on social networks if you have a ‘best of’ list. Suddenly, you become an expert on whatever that list is about (or at least known for it for about 5 seconds). In fact, there is no 15 minutes of fame anymore. It’s now 15 seconds. Thanks, internet.
But what about my original point of constantly being bum-rushed by exaggeration in the media (internet or otherwise)? Bull crap, that’s what. We, ultimately, still have the choice of how to exercise language. The news is on 24-hours now and might have to make the mundane more sensational to vie for ratings but that doesn’t mean you have to mimic them. The Swine Flu is not the worst epidemic ever. This isn’t the worst economic crisis to have ever happened.* Turn off your television or close your browser once in awhile and go for a nice walk. When someone asks how the walk was you can say whatever you want really but I guess it could be something like “That was the BEST walk I have EVER gone on” though it might seem less than genuine.
*Both the Swine Flu and current Economic Woes are still crappy things to deal with so if you’ve been affected by either then… um… sorry for that.