Tuesday, November 13, 2012

the amazingly extreme case of epic superlatives

Awesome? Epic? Great? Amazing? Super? Galing-galing? Sobra?

They all sound familiar, right? It is because they are the very same words we hear (and use) oftentimes, if not every day. And that reality is unsettling.

Why? I think our penchant for superlatives has just diminished our capability for precision, subtlety, and their unique varying gradients. Our critical mind’s supposedly surgical knives have become prehistoric stone tools.

How’s the food? Great. How’s your trip? Awesome. How’s the movie? Response these days usually falls under “epic” or “fail.” End of conversation. And please don’t get me started when it comes to books. I am a victim of my own complaint.

We’ve been there before (and still there, in fact) with “interesting” and “cute” labeled on things that range from puppies to the up-and-coming boy bands. Ambiguity abounds. In Sianne Ngai’s new book Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting, as pointed out by Daily Beast reviewer Benjamin Lytal, “One of the big changes is this: we don’t use straightforward words of praise anymore.”

It seems we’ve simply embraced all the terms that sound bombastic, go beyond normal, on something bigger just to sound cool, just for the sake of it. Which is really an alarming practice.

Now imagine you’re a ballet dancer. Imagine you worked hard on stage as if it’s your last. Now, how does it feel when you ask a friend how’s your performance and you get an “It’s cool!” response? Fine? Maybe. But great? No. Definitely no. Maybe insult is what you’d be feeling. This is like appreciating the icing on the cake, never going beyond the surface.

But why do we do what we do? Why just eat the icing?

Maybe this is our communal protest against English professors who’ve made our college hell. Maybe we’ve simply adapted to the concept of “bigger is better” in our everyday language, conditioned alongside by empty blockbusters assailed by almost all forms of entertainment these days. Maybe, due to the increasing accessibility of information, we forgo the duty of finding the right ones and use what are at hand—which are usually not the best of finds. Maybe, strangely, we are running out of things to say.

This is not an inquiry on our aptitude in language or an evaluation on personal preference or judgment. This is simply raising awareness on respect to an item—may it be a television series, a short story, even a dish—and the people involved around it. Especially these people. Because when opinion is given, enrichment follows. Discussion flourishes, not songs from crickets and rolling tumbleweeds that trail after the end of an empty conversation.

You see, an empty praise is the lowest form of flattery. One might say it is flattery, no less. But it is the lowest, no less. I say just judge it. Judge everything with thought. So, what’s your say then?


JM said...

onga. add to that the norm that is "grabe.." in people's reactions to things..

f. jordan said...

Yup. That one too. There's a lot more and enumerating each of them would certainly fill up this blog or the interweb.

Anonymous said...

Single-word replies are a convenient defense mechanism for me.

Either I know that the person asking me won't really appreciate decent conversation (hence, "awesome", "epic", & a recent favorite- "noice") so I prefer to shoot a would-be-awkward moment in the cradle. It's also something I do to limit my talkativeness. Lately though I do it mostly because it's a more polite & indirect way of saying "I'm tired & don't want to talk" (seeing as most people jump to the "I don't want to talk" bit & then bombard me with "OMG what's wrong are you okay?" the times I am actually direct =__=). But mebbe that's my bizzarro case lang.

Anyhoo I find I need some kind of momentum before I get to start using more apt words. Like, yeah, a decent conversation. *rolls away*