Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sassy, Sexy Words

I'm sensitive to language the way that some people are sensitive to the use of herbs and spices. There are certain words that, when used in certain contexts, make me want to spit.

This isn't at all unusual. If people weren't known to be sensitive to certain words, there wouldn't be poetry...or the Marketing industry. What seemingly sets me apart is that many of the words or phrases that common wisdom categorizes as appealing (if you can gauge common wisdom based on ubiquity) are the same ones that make me cringe.

A case in point: "the biggest selling XXX in America." Watch television for two prime-time hours and you'll know that every advertising agency in the US would take that phrase to the bank. Obviously their clients don't need my money. All that "the biggest selling..." tells me is that a lot of people bought it. It doesn't tell me why. Is it the best constructed or the best tasting? Does it last the longest or give the greatest value? This is what I think of as a lemming pitch: buy it because everyone else does. Well, with apologies to your mom for borrowing her maxim, if everyone else was jumping off the roof, would you? So this pitch is never going to make me want to buy something. On the contrary; because I like to think of myself as apart from the herd, a pitch like this will make me put that product on a list of items to avoid like the plague.

This reverse-reaction is the main symptom of my buzz-word allergy. For example:

  • Advertise a book or film or television show as "sassy," "saucy" or "sexy" and I know to avoid it.
  • On stage or on screen, I will never willingly see a "romp."
  • I think nothing should be "buttery" except for things that are cooked with butter.
  • Food products that are "fresh" or "hot" are enticing. To hear fashion, ideas, or celebrities described as either makes my skin crawl.  And "trendy" (in any context) makes me gag.

I wonder if I'm losing out on some great products because of my reaction to the pitch language. Or maybe these products are really not for me, and this advertising is pitch perfect. Either way, it sometimes makes me feel a little lonely.

PS: I am also allergic to cats. Literally. But the endless "cute cat" meme on the internet is gradually turning this into a figurative allergy as well.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Covetable Copy (2)

I thought it was about time that I pay tribute to the writing of Anne Sexton.
"Depression is boring, I think, and I would do better to make some soup and light up the cave"  Anne Sexton, The Fury of Rain Storms
Seeing as I drew the name of my blog from this quote, I obviously consider it to be covetable copy. Like other Sexton phrases that stick in my brain, it declares darkness with a flippant shrug. It's an almost Chekhovian line. I have a particular love and envy of writing that has that Janus face of comic and tragic.  

My favorite Sexton collection is probably Transformations, her retelling of a cluster of classic fairy tales. Written years before Sondheim and Lapine began Into the WoodsSexton's take on these stories is both darker and funnier than theirs and, oddly, more contemporary. With fairy tales trending so strongly right now, I'm hopeful that Sexton's work will be discovered by a new generation of readers.