Bah Humbug!: debasing the language … and then a Christmas greeting

I regret that I’m going to do my Bah Humbug Pre-Christmas moan today.  I hadn’t intended to be negative even though this is not my favourite time of year.  But a flyer which came in a package of stuff I ordered over the internet went just too far.

It offered, amongst other things, a wine-making kit headlined as ‘Ultra Premium’.  It has long irritated me that the use of superlatives to hype things which are somewhere between ‘Not Bad’ and ‘A Bit Above Average’ is debasing the language.  Both ‘Ultra’ and ‘Premium’ are much overplayed in advertising, a fact which this particular vendor has clearly recognised in that he has taken the use of superlatives to a new level by combining the two.  Bottom-of-the-barrel-scrapingly, appallingly abysmally, the absolute pits!!!!!!!

And what about the myriad signs which have now become standard in shop windows offering goods at ‘better than half price’?  What does that even mean?  Better for who?  Presumably we, the punters, are supposed to infer that the goods are half price or less, so why not just say so.  Similarly linguistically bizarre are the shop-window signs placading goods at ‘up to half price’.   Presumably they were less than half price and the cost has now been increased.

I prefer understatement rather than hyper-superlatives.  In mountaineering and climbing circles a climb or an in incident which scares the brown stuff out of you is ‘interesting’. Much better.  It doesn’t do to regale the climbing fraternity with tales of ‘I nearly died up there’ …. even if you nearly did.

And while I’m in full flow, what about the turning of ‘like’ into an active verb?  If you say that you like something it nolonger means that you are fond of/love/are keen on/enjoy/or are partial to it (Thesaurus synonyms), it means that you have clicked a box with a thumbs up sign at the bottom of a web page  ….. or a blog.  Advertisers appeal to us to ‘like’ them on Facebook or Twitter or some other of the social networking sites.   It’s meaningless.  Too many people simply ‘like’ each other in order to increase the size of their fan club and boost their ego or their sales.  If I ‘like’ something it’s because I genuinely like it.

I know that the strength of a language is that it is dynamic and that those who complain about its debasement are generally grumpy old men, but where will it end?

Anyway, as my final bit of Pre-Christmas grumpiness I am doing away with the Christmas Robin this year and offer the following as my Christmas Greeting.

So what's so great about robins anyway.  They don't even have proper red on their front, it's kind of orangey-brown

So what’s so great about robins anyway. They don’t even have proper red on their front, it’s kind of orangey-brown

As usual click to enlarge if you want to.  This is really one of those on-line animated Christmas cards.  Just squint, nearly close your eyes and imaging that beak hammering into the tree.   See!!  It works!!!

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