What price a word?

Imagine if words came at a price. Nouns $1, pro-nouns $1.50, verbs $2.

Silly idea really but go with me on this – I am trying to make a point. In this rather perverse value system I would put a premium price on adjectives.

Adjectives. Words that describe. Even worse superlatives – ten bucks a piece for them I reckon. The black and white on the word colour spectrum.

I just know I am going to get in trouble with the Grammar Kings and Queens.

But here’s my point. We have denuded the English language by our over-use of adjectives and superlatives and now we are paying the price. Advertising and journalism are the two biggest offenders. – they’ve become parodies of themselves.

A few years ago working as a producer on a news show I was responsible for writing what we called the daily news promo; The teaser – advertising designed to entice viewers to watch the nightly news bulletin – our news as opposed to the other guys. Something big had happened – really BIG. And I was quite literally lost for words. Every day for the past few years I’d feasted on shock, horror, outrage and dismay in describing what were relatively mundane events. Now something genuinely shocking had happened – and the word bucket was empty.

I remember hearing about a clever English spin bowler, sorry cricket tragics, can’t remember his name – might have been Derek Underwood. They said he could make a cricket ball spin at 45 degrees. Here’s the thing: he rarely did. Why? It was his ultimate weapon – the element of surprise. The batsmen knew it was coming, but never when; so when the ball hit the pitch and tweaked, it worked. Here was I spinning my daily news promo, every sentence tweaking at right angles to hammer home the point– until the unexpected became the expected. My words had lost their value.

The lesson. Words are precious – ultimately they do come at a price.

jlc