Words matter

This is a little bit of a rant. I have been noticing an increase in over the top marketing language. We have revolutionary new products. We have wars on everything from drugs to Christmas. We see it and hear it so often that it doesn’t even phase us.

Here is my problem with this. Language is important. Words have meanings. Every time we co-opt a word for our over the top marketing we diminish the word.

Think about this: the word revolutionary is defined as (from google)

rev·o·lu·tion·ar·y/?rev??lo?oSH??ner?/

Adjective: Engaged in or promoting political revolution.

Noun: A person engaged in political revolution.

rev·o·lu·tion/?rev??lo?oSH?n/

Noun:  A forcible overthrow of a government or social order for a new system.

(in Marxism) The class struggle that is expected to lead to political change and the triumph of communism.

Now think about the last product you saw advertised as “revolutionary”. Was it engaged in or promote a revolution? Did it involve the forcible overthrow of a government system? Or any system? Even if it is a really cool new product, chances are it was not revolutionary.

Our use of the word war is actually worse. We have declared war (officially or unofficially) on everything. If we have a war on drugs, a war on obesity, a war on Christmas (and this list goes on and on), what does it do to our sense of urgency when there is a real war – one with guns, bullets, bombs, injuries and death? It means that we no longer believe that war is that serious. We just do our patriot duty and return to our shopping. When we entered WWII we rationed critical supplies, we retooled industry to build war machines, we recruited women to work in the factories and we bought war bonds. The whole country mobilized in a war effort. War had meaning. It was serious and we took it seriously.  Now that we have wars on everything, how do we communicate the seriousness of an actual war? How do we talk about bombs and bullets and the true sacrifice of our soldiers? How do we mobilize the country?

When we were attacked on September 11th I was ready for the mobilization. I was ready to hear the call to manufacturing to build up for war? I was ready to buy war bonds and to make sacrifices and plant victory gardens. And none of that happened. We were told to go shopping. I don’t know about you, but going shopping didn’t make me feel safer.  And it didn’t feel like a war effort.

So let’s stop the over the top marketing language. Let’s call really cool products what they are – really cool. Let’s rename all those wars on all those other things. Make we can take a stand against obesity and drugs. We can make a pledge to keep the meaning in Christmas if that is what is important to us.

 

And let’s reach for a dictionary and find a more appropriate word the next time we want to use a great adjective. Because words matter.

1 comment for “Words matter

  1. Evyn
    February 4, 2012 at 8:53 am

    The one that gets to me is “awesome”. Perhaps its me; I just don’t easily get awed.

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