Don’t Call Me in the Morning
Writers are people far better suited than most to do a service to society–even to take on a responsibility–of offering guidance on language and how we use it. But we rarely live up to it.
- Writers are the ones who know that I could care less is precisely the opposite of what it’s used to mean.
- They’re the ones who know that probably 90 percent of the time, literally is used wrongly, as a mere intensifier. If you write, “In making her small donation to refugees, the little girl literally wrapped her arms around the world with love,” you’ve described a young monster with obscenely long arms.
- And writers are the ones who can tell you that “to boldly go” is Star Trek’s gift to the universe of split infinitives.
The critic in me has long longed (sorry) to establish a Bureau of Assaults on the Language by Commercials (BALC, as in for God’s sake, why don’t we balk at this crap?).
My latest target? Bayer. Yes, those aspirins we’ve been taking all our lives. I want my money back.
In a beautifully scored and shot series, just released last month, the company touts many reasons to appreciate its products. From crops to heart health, the imagery is ravishing, the voice-over is superb, the arc of these ads’ vignettes is perfect. And then the company asks you to swallow its new slogan:
This is why we science.
No, you’re not wrong. Let me save you that visit with Merriam-Webster. Science is not a verb. And what Bayer is doing is bashing another hole in correct usage–and so needlessly–for its own purposes of being cute with analgesics. Children will march around talking about “sciencing,” thanks to this over-the-counter insult. And we, as writers, should resent it, and say so.
Here you go, I’ll let you experience the headache of this particular travesty for yourself:
Resistance Is Not Futile
The typical feeling when you see or hear something like this–and this is hardly limited to writers–is “what can I do?” But a group of writers, a week ago today, reminded everyone that a sense of helplessness doesn’t have to be the default.
Don’t worry, we’re not here to thrash out the political moment of the day. Donkeys and elephants can lie down together here–we are a peaceable kingdom. My next example, though, comes from the debate of the moment, so bear with me as we look at a kind of intervention that authors and other writers can and should make more frequently.
That’s my provocation for you today. Why don’t we speak up? It’s our own carefully crafted writings that are weakened when we excuse linguistic indulgence as the natural evolution of a living language.
Here’s a look at how it can go when someone steps forward.