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Three Words that Annoy Me

February 6th, 2008 by David Kronemyer · 2 Comments

There are three words that have found their way into our contemporary lexicon, which annoy me considerably, and here they are:

“Product.”  This term frequently was used in the consumer entertainment software business, back when there was one.  It refers to “things” such as books, records (CDs, cassettes), videos (DVDs, VHS), etc.  My objection to it is two-fold.  First, it is misused to refer to the work embodied in the tangible medium, as opposed to the physical or mechanical instantiation of it.  Second, even when correctly used (in the second sense), it is implicitly derisory to the creator’s effort.  It suggests it isn’t artistic or unique, rather, it’s fungible and replaceable.  Even if the latter is so – and it may be true more often than you think – it still is derogatory.

“Content.”  Which is a convenient lead-in to the successor to “product,” particularly as aesthetic works migrate to the Internet.  “Content” is every bit (get it, bit) as dismissive as “product.”  It demeans the creator’s effort.  It suggests the work’s sole function is to take up space, attract page-views, stimulate advertising dollars, improve search-engine rankings, or the like.  When in fact it should be the primary driver of these activities, not the subordinate one.  By analogy, “articles” in many newspapers, magazines and other print media frequently are regarded merely as “devices” or “carriers” for advertising, and “content” carries the same connotation.

“Folk.”  If I hear our President George Bush refer to “folk” one more time, I think I’ll barf.  Same with the current crop of presidential candidates, together with their “analysts” (oops, I mean “operatives” or “spin doctors”).  “Folk” is a specialized term referring to a narrow affinity-based group, such as an ethnic tribe, a clog-dancing club, people who play “folk music,” and what not.  It cannot and should not be used to refer to “people in general,” or an amorphous group of individuals to which one is attempting to appeal.  Its mis-use in this context reveals the faux-humanization of political discourse, that is, trying to make yourself sound sincere, when in fact you’re not. 

So apologies in advance if we encounter each other and I am mildly remonstrative on the above points.