Tragic, this over-hyped language

It was a phrase used about Schapelle Corby that has finally done me in. A news story promoting a Seven Network segment about her first day of freedom bragged that the show captured “extraordinary vision of her throwing herself into the ocean off Seminyak”.

Having now worked behind a video camera, I can safely say there is very little “extraordinary vision” around not taken by David Attenborough’s crew.

And unless there was footage of a killer whale jumping out from Kuta beach, grabbing her and giving her a good shake, the footage of Corby having a dip was not going to be “extraordinary” or even “spectacular” (surprisingly).

The ensuing interview with her sister Mercedes was described as “compelling journalism”. Perhaps a Pulitzer prize should be on offer? I’m sick of emotive, superfluous adjectives, and other hype, corrupting our language.

Nowadays anything good is “incredible”, “fantastic”, “unbelievable” or “brilliant”.

I had someone come and look at a room I was renting. “Awesome” he said. The room isn’t awesome. It’s a pleasant room in a suburban house, not the Taj Mahal.

The dearth of perspective is troubling. Machu Picchu is magnificent, the Amazon jungle is awe-inspiring. Corby having a dip…? Mmmm, let’s use the word “breathtaking”.

Nor do I take very kindly to the hyped-up clichesof adversity. A “horrible” accident. A “brutal” murder. A “devastating” loss. Are there any other kinds? I have never heard of a happy car accident, or a good fall from a building. Is there a murder that wasn’t an act of brutality? And at what point does the adjective “brutal” make a guest appearance? Is it measured by mess, blood loss, method?

Then there is the “tragedy”. Where is the point of comparison? If it’s tragic when a child is run over by his mother in a driveway, or there’s an act of terrorism; how can it be tragic if a normal person dies due to life’s vicissitudes?

By the laws of nature a fair percentage of us aren’t going to go full term. If I fall off my perch tomorrow, I don’t want anyone describing it as a tragic death/accident no matter how it happens. Heartbreaking for my family, very bad luck for me. But it can’t be “tragic” if the same term is then used to describe the death of children in a fire, or Genocide.

Which is why more adjectives are being used to upgrade a tragedy’s status; for example, a “real” tragedy, a “shocking” tragedy.

Yes, I am guilty too. I have a penchant for “fabulous”, “wonderful” (blush) and “unique”. But I do promise to amend my outrageous, dreadful ways, and to produce extraordinary, awesome, breathtaking columns in the foreseeable and not-too-distant future.


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply