~ 30 April 2008 ~

Adventures in words

Daniel Boorstin on word overusage in America:

The word “adventure” has become one of the blandest in the language. The cheap cafeteria at the corner offers us an “adventure in good eating”; a course in self-development … in a few weeks will transform our daily conversation into a “great adventure”; to ride in the new Dodge is an “adventure.” By continual overuse, we wear out the once common meaning of “an unusual, stirring, experience, often of romantic nature,” and return “adventure” to its original meaning of a mere “happening” (from the Latin, adventura, and advenire). But while an “adventure” was originally “that which happens without design; chance, hap, luck,” now in common usage it is primarily a contrived experience that somebody is trying to sell us. Its changed meaning is both a symptom of the new pervasiveness of pseudo-events and a symbol of how we defeat ourselves by our exaggerated expectations of the amount of unexpectedness — “adventure” — as of everything else in the world.

The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, p. 78

It doesn’t come as a surprise to most that words like “adventure,” and “event” (it’s the Nissan/Furniture Liquidators/Desperate Housewives event of the year!). What’s shocking is that Boorstin wrote this in 1961, and it reads like it could have been last week.

PS. Can anyone spot which overused word I (over)used in the paragraph above?

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2 Comments:

  1. Ron » 1 May 2008:

    That’s shocking!

  2. gavin brown » 7 May 2008:

    IMO, another overused word is ‘amazing.’

    “This ice cream is amazing”
    “That nap was amazing”
    “That movie was amazing”
    “Red Bull is amazing”
    “It (which could be anything) was the most amazing thing ever”

    Gavin

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