Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Word Bloat

      I was about to open a box of breakfast cereal yesterday when I noticed this message on the box: "We are passionate and committed..." That brought up quite a mental image of what life must be like in that perfervid cereal factory.
      Nothing new, just more and more so. I remember a day, close to twenty years ago, when CD players were just beginning to appear in cars. I needed to fly from Seattle to Minneapolis, then was going to drive to Chicago, and I wanted to listen to music on the way. So I made certain to reserve a car with a player, but when I arrived, the clerk told me she had no CD-playing cars available, and I'd have to take a radio-only model. I pointed to the large sign on the wall behind her, the company's pompously-worded mission statement, which ended with "We are completely committed to your total satisfaction." I told the clerk I supposed I was partially satisfied - after all, I did have a car at my disposal - but to be totally satisfied, I'd need a car with a CD player, and unless she provided me with one, she would clearly not be committed to my satisfaction, let alone not completely committed. The episode ended with my getting a bit knocked off the rental price, but leaving me still short of total satisfaction.
      Now, cereal makers are passionate, mortgage brokers are one-hundred-percent committed to my financial well-being, every latest movie is the ultimate, any mundane accomplishment is awesome, and radio personalities urge me to see not just their friends, but their good friends, down at the local used car lot. 
     Up your ante, Buster. Talk about collapsing money markets. What's going to happen when the language bubble bursts, and our over-inflated verbiage collapses under the weight of its bloat? Words will have no meaning whatever, and we'll be left mumbling meaningless incoherences to each other. Or are we already there?  

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