Wednesday 27 March 2013

Weasel words

<blows dust from keyboard>

Things have been a bit quiet around here. There are a few reasons for this. I was away baking bread (FUN!), then I got ill (NOT FUN!), then we're about to put our flat on the market (POSSIBLY EXCITING, BUT NOT EXACTLY FUN EITHER!), and then whatever I got ill with wouldn't go away (STILL NOT FUN!). Still, I think I'm on the mend now, and the hols start tomorrow and I have just about got to the bottom of the very long list of 'things that need painting before the photographer comes'. So, things are looking up.

However, the illness, and the painting, and the appalling weather mean I have spent an inordinate amount of time in the company of my computer lately. The end result is that I am officially Bored of the Internet. Yep. I've had my fill of it. Specifically I am bored of two words. Every time I click on a blog post or a website related to baking, or cafes, or restaurants, or flour millers or, frankly, anything, I read one, or both of these words. Or that's what it seems like. I realise that I may be about to alienate the entire population of Twitter but here we go. I do it because I care about words and how we use them, because that's what I get paid to do when I'm not brandishing the polyfilla.

Please note that I do not say 'I care passionately about words'.  And there you have word number one. Passionate. Everybody is passionate about everything at the moment. Passionate about customer service, passionate about baked goods, passionate about being passionate about things. My tipping point came when I was driving home the other day and passed a newly-opened funeral parlour near our home, which describes itself as 'professional, passionate, personal' in 3-feet high letters on its shop front. Now, I don't know about you, but I find something slightly alarming in the notion of a passionate funeral director. I think that 'dispassionate' is more what I'd be looking for, myself. I turn to my trusty Collins English Dictionary and find the following:

passionate adj
1.  manifesting or exhibiting intense sexual feeling or desire
2. capable of, revealing, or characterized by intense emotion
3. easily roused to anger; quick-tempered

So, any which way, it's not really looking good for your funeral plans, is it?

This same funeral director, I notice, offers the option of wicker caskets for the deceased, and I can't help wondering how long it will be before they start to advertise these as 'artisan caskets'. For there we have word number two. Artisan. Everyone who makes anything now seems to be an artisan. Technically, I suppose they are (CED: artisan (n) a skilled workman; craftsman), but the overuse of the word seems to me to be rendering it more or less meaningless. I imagine it's supposed to conjure up an image of some horny-handed son/daughter of toil labouring for hours over his/her lathe/wood-fired oven/embroidery hoop. I don't know. My inner voice just silently screams "home-made!" or "expensive!"'. For me, there's a difference between an artisan baker, someone who's done their time in a bakery learning their craft, and someone who is just good at making cakes or bread, even if they take ages to make it. I have read recently of 'artisan fudge', 'artisan hairdressers' and 'artisan seaweed'. What on earth is 'artisan seaweed'? And as for 'artisan hairdressers', the mind boggles. And for a positively Orwellian take on the word, may I offer you the Dominos Artisan Pizza? Yes, you read that right. The Dominos Artisan Pizza. Google it if you don't believe me.

I swear I'm going to start a picture gallery on the blog of the best ones.

So, when I start my own business, I shall be neither passionate nor artisan. I will try not to be uninterested and amateurish either, you understand, but I hope that my hypothetical customers would take that as a given.

What do you think? Am I just being unreasonably grumpy on account of the never-ending winter, or should these words be summarily despatched to the place where pan-fried blue-sky thinking is so the new black?

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