Hyperbole, superlatives and strong but misleading verbs — our communications world is literally being smothered by them. Whoops, I meant to say figuratively smothered.
Here’s one example we all know: “I gave 110 percent on the field last week,” an athlete tells a reporter, thereby suggesting he must have borrowed 10 percent from somebody else.
“This week,” he says, “I gave 80 percent, because I owed 10 to Tony from last week, and Manny wanted to give 110 percent, so I lent him 10 of mine.”
We live with those kinds of statements, because they’re made by athletes, who haven’t exactly dominated the Nobel Prize for Physics in recent years. If they had, they’d know that anything filled to 110 percent of its capacity is destined to blow up sooner or later.
“He’s at the 20, the 30, the 40 … he’s giving it 110 percent … ” KA-BLAM!
“Ewwww. That’ll take the grounds crew a few minutes.”
Again, we excuse sports hyperbole, because we know the Kansas City Chiefs did not actually hammer the 49ers in the last quarter of the 2020 Super Bowl. They outscored them, yes, but did it without using hand tools.
But speaking of tools, one would be whoever is in charge of script writing for The Weather Channel, where no storm is too small to have its own name and where every cloud carries within the threat of human extinction.
Two weeks ago, as the disturbance that was to become Tropical Storm Fay ran up the coast, The Weather Channel ran this headline on its update: “Fay Lashes North Carolina.” Below that was a panel that showed the current wind speed: 9 mph.
I’ve actually survived winds up to 9 mph, so I’m relatively certain that even a sustained wind of that magnitude couldn’t lash a bucket of packing peanuts, much less an entire coast.
On the other hand, 9 mph is faster than the average speed of a bumblebee (6.75 mph, in case you’re wondering) so it would have been more appropriate if The Weather Channel had said, “Fay arrives in North Carolina — owners of pet bumblebees are advised not to leave them chained up in the yard.”
But as bad as The Weather Channel is, elected officials, political appointees and lobbying groups are worse. In recent weeks, in separate statements, involving separate situations, a governor, the treasury secretary and a lobbyist all said, “This will be a tax on the hardworking people of (fill in the blank).”
What about the other working people? Would these taxes not also apply to the moderately working people, the clock-watchers, the malingerers and screwups every workforce seems to have at one time or the other?
Why are they getting a tax break, when we hardworking people are carrying the freight? And what about the idle rich? You never hear anyone say, “This will be a tax on the lazyass idle rich.”
Clearly, our ability to communicate is broken and we need to return to plain-spoken and honest straight talk.
In fact, let’s give that effort 110 percent and a real lashing, or die trying. Figuratively speaking, of course.