There was a news piece a few weeks ago that got me to thinking.
The news piece in brief: A puppy was shot by a hunter. The hunter turned himself in, but claims it was accidental.
Whenever this story came up on the news, the phrase used almost invariably was “leaving the family devastated.”
Devastated? Really? Like, the burned out of your house, lost your child in a car accident kind of devastated? I don’t think so.
I’m really not a cruel person. I think it was a bad thing for a child’s puppy to be shot and killed accidentally or otherwise. I just don’t think it’s devastating.
The most telling part was when someone in the community gave the family a new puppy. The news reports all said “the story has a happy ending.”
If you were devastated by losing a child, the story does not have a happy ending when you get another one.
So, I nominate ‘devastated’ as an over-used news word. It should go right along with horrifying, tragic, brutal, scandalized and … and … .
It’s early. Tell me some of your least favourite over-used words in the comments. There are lots.
But I also walk on the other side of that line. I’m not a news-writer, but I do work in marketing, so I am constantly trying to find new ways to describe the same things. I have three types of plays I’m trying to market: funny ones, sad ones and musical ones. There can be combinations of that, but essentially that’s what I’m up against. My consistent dilemma is how to describe a funny play without using that ubiquitous word ‘hilarious,’ or a musical without resorting to ‘toe-tapping’ or a sad play without using ‘heart-warming.’
People want to know what they’re going to feel when they go see a play after all. It’s a big commitment to actually get out of the house after a long day at work and go to another part of town to watch something play out in front of you. You want it to be good. You want to know if you’re going to laugh, if you’ll like the music, or, if it’s that most difficult to market kind of a play–a weepy play; is it at least a good kind of weepy?
It’s tricky business, let me tell you. There are no under-used words to describe something that will make you laugh. I resorted to the word ‘rioutous’ last time and thinking about it now, I still cringe. Sometimes I just want to be honest: “I laughed when I saw this, I think you will too.” It’s not a phrase that will get picked out of a press release I grant you, but it’s a pretty good describer.
So, you have a mission–what are your most hated, and over-used phrased on the news and in marketing. Go!