Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Talkin' loud and sayin' nothing: a pet peeve

If I have any kind of agenda that I'm trying to push with this blog, any attempt to try to influence the thinking of others, it's to look for and question the things you're presented in day-to-day life that are supposed to be taken seriously at their face value but are, in actuality, really stupid and a thinly-veiled insult to your intelligence. The best, and most irritating example I can think of is a wildly popular phrase that's liable to be touted by almost anybody who provides any kind of public and/or professional service:
It could be just about anybody whose services you've paid for, even athletes and entertainers. When somebody says "We're going to take it to The Next Level", you think, "Oh good, I'm glad they're doing that! That's a benefit for me!" They're trying to tell you that they're going to do something better and they're using dynamic, powerful language to convey that message. I know you're busy and don't necessarily have time to decipher every mindless slogan somebody blasts you in the face with every day. But think about it for just a second...why do they need to "take it to the next level"? Probably because the level at which they've been performing isn't good enough and people are starting to catch on. Their hope is that if they imply that they'll make things a little better, it will be enough to keep you satisfied. But if they're capable of taking it to the next level now by just saying so, why didn't they do it before? This isn't something they should be bragging about, it's something they should be apologizing for. And if there are levels, why don't they just skip all of the ones that aren't at the very top? Unless the next level is the one labeled "ULTIMATE, ABSOLUTE BEST", why should we care? Besides, to what are they actually committing by just throwing this statement out there? Their hope is that it sounds so dynamic and powerful that you'll assume that they're so fired-up and go-getter-y that you won't even ask that question. It's just empty phraseology designed to throw you off their scent for a while, giving them time to think of what to say next time.
Maybe I'm being overly cynical and there are those who are committed to improvement. It's just that I'm much less inclined to doubt their sincerity if they say exactly what it is they're going to do and not just bop me on the head with some open-ended catchphrase.

Think about it in the context of your kid bringing home a bad report card...

"These grades are terrible!"
"I know (looks at floor, shuffles feet)."
"Why? You're not stupid. Are you just goofing off in class?"
"I dunno (continues feet shuffling)."
"Well, what are you going to do about it? Because this is totally unacceptable."
"I'll tell you what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna TAKE IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL!"
"Okay. And what does that mean?"
"The Next Level! I'm taking it there!"
"'re going to do better?"
"You bet!"
"By taking my approach to my academic career to The Next Level!"

"I still don't know what that's supposed to mean."
"The Next Level!"
"All right, specifically does 'The Next Level' involve paying attention in class and finishing your homework before you watch tv?"
"Because if not, I'm not interested in 'The Next Level'."
"Well, it is what is."

1 comment:

Drum Riley Calhoun said...

I think you just explained to me why people who talk a good game but have no substance behind what they say seem to be so wildly successful. Bullshit seems to carry them gracefully through life, while those of us who have the substance, but not necessarily the talent for BS, do the work and never quite make it to the top.