Tilted Windmills: Big words that don’t say much
by Mike McLellan / For the Tracy Press
May 03, 2013 | 3290 views | 0 0 comments | 49 49 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The adjectives and adverbs used by zealous television newscasters are often amusing, if not confusing.

Watching a Portland news anchor fervently describe a “massive” whale that washed up on an Oregon beach made me wonder — aren’t all species of whale pretty big? It is as if the newscaster could not come up with a better descriptive term.

Maybe they consider Mount Hood to be a “big” mountain.

Often, the television people want to tease us into listening during the commercials, so they slap an adjective onto the next story’s noun so we watch. But, often they fail.

They are either redundant or simply unnecessary words tacked on so we might be more interested. It can be a hobby to collect them.

Some examples are a “beautiful orchid,” a “frigid winter wind” and “a sad loss of life.” How many ugly orchids or warm winter winds have you experienced? When is the loss of life not sad?

Then there is the “Late-breaking news about an ominous new nuclear power. We will have details at 11.”

Huh? If the story is worth an adjective like “ominous,” it is worth giving it to me now. If it is newsworthy, why not tell me immediately?

But wait — in four hours, the story will be even more exciting. That is, if they remember to run it.

This year, a “bright young man” won a major spelling bee. Is this opposed to the dull-witted winner last year?

The weatherpersons are a cut above the rest.

“A giant, torrential thunderstorm is bearing down on the Midwest,” she says. One bets it is going to rain a good deal.

This is all part of our society of exaggeration. Politicians do it. Advertising copywriters do it. We all do it.

If you do not like what a politician does, he may be “an agent of Satan.” It is a huge leap from not liking policy to being the devil.

Yet, we hear it all the time. People’s language escalates to the extreme.

Maybe advertising has opened us to overstatement and meaningless language. My car is red, although the manufacturer might think it is “Thanks Vermillion.” Please.

The new Miss America might be very pretty, but the reporter said looking at her was the same as being hit by a Taser — “stunning.”

This is not to say that adjectives and descriptive phrases aren’t good. It is just that they are devalued when they are exaggerated or constantly used.

It would be nice to just get it straight. Storms are wet. Mountains are big. Sunsets are pretty.

Don’t talk down to us.

We would greatly — actually, humongously — appreciate it.

• Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4231 or emailing him at DrMikeM@sbcglobal.net.
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