The language of industrialization

One the things that I sometimes think about is how certain professions are affected by becoming a large industry. In other words, certain vocations are changed by the number of people who work in them and the fact that those people need something to talk about. And because of this, language has a way of becoming ridiculous, almost self-parodying.

I can imagine how abstract that sounds, so here’s an example: let’s say there’s a person who runs marketing or PR campaigns. They run those campaigns well. They consult with other people, do their research, come up with a sensible plan and implement it well. Good on ’em. But now, because of the number of people who write about PR and marketing (some of whom write very interesting things), that capable person is celebrated. And inevitably described by overblown language. So, “advisor” isn’t good enough. Gotta spice it up a little bit. And before you know it, we’re talking about gurus, mavens, masterminds, ninjas! And it’s all a quite silly, trumped-up way of discussing people who handle their shit.

Here’s another example: sports. A tremendous number of people write about sports. Many of them are reactionary twits. Because sports have become such a giant industry with such cultural importance, writers are prone to blowing up sporting events (which, of course, I personally do care about deeply) into the Most Important Event in the History of Ever. A good chunk of that blowup comes from the sheer volume of people spouting off about the game but another big part is that they talk for so long about the same damn game that they’ve been blathering about for ten days that they have to find some way to keep it interesting. So Belichick becomes Eisenhower. And Tom Coughlin is Patton. Or maybe Belicheck’s Rommel? And John Mara is FDR? I dunno. I can’t keep it straight.

What’s most amazing about this to me is that these flowery, erudite descriptions of greatness and tragedy hinge so much on moments that could easily go either way. Tom Brady was given a B by SI writers after his performance against Baltimore while Flacco was given a B- or C (I don’t remember). That make sense only if your grades are outcome-deterministic, which of course they always are. Because Brady played like shit. Flacco, if not for an incompetent kicker and Lee Evans getting an inopportune case of the dropsies, would be going to the Super Bowl. And no one would be hearing about Tom Brady’s iron will or Bill Belichick’s miserly genius or whatever else Berman & co are chattering about.

I guess my point is that when large amounts of people have to talk about something for a living, they end up sounding like clowns. Because in order to make things interesting, or at least to keep discussing the same thing ad nauseum, people feel the need to depict events in increasingly apocalyptic or dramatic terms. As someone biased towards simple language, I often find those terms to be pretty silly.

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