In youthful days I worked with a chap who was, to put it mildly, prone to exaggeration.
He once told a tale of walking along in Perth when a car stopped and four lads asked where was the best place in town for a drink?
He jumped in the car and took them to his local. Their names were John, Paul, George and Ringo and they became his best mates.
Another tale involved Miss Scotland, who (he claimed) had a part-time job in an ice-cream van that frequented the streets where he lived. Guess who became his girlfriend?
Every workplace and every pub has a storyteller. You’ll have known (and chuckled at) a few yourself.
But people like this, who strive desperately to impress, are part of the reason the language is so often so badly used.
It’s all about drama.
In the summer, Facebook informed me of panic on the streets of Broughty Ferry. It turned out a local café had run out of ice-cream. That isn’t panic, it is mild disappointment.
I was informed recent rain was “insane”. It was quite heavy.
There wasn’t any fresh veg for a day at my local supermarket due to delivery difficulties during last month’s floods. It wasn’t a “famine”.
People increasingly reach for the nth degree. An inconvenience becomes a crisis; a mild disagreement becomes a war; a different idea is fascism.
I also think people are less likely to accept others have different opinions. These self-entitled egoists then use the most extreme words they can dredge from their vocabularies in an attempt to promote themselves as the one and only holders of truth.
Claims get ever more shrill, reactions lurch towards the ridiculous. There is little restraint, dignity, or true debate. People don’t want to discuss anything any more. They want to find someone with an opposing view and shout obscenities at them.
If you’ve ever observed a Twitter (now X) dispute, precious few ever concede a point or allow themselves to be persuaded by logic or even hard facts.
What might have been an interesting debate becomes a shouting match salted with hate.
And the language is misused. Storms of hyperbole rage, silly comparisons are drawn, out-of-proportion adjectives are thrown.
It’s entertaining at times, in the same way a Punch & Judy show is entertaining. But rarely enlightening.
Where once my workmate told amusing tales, the ugly child of inventive storytelling is ad hominem attacks and polarisation to the point of extremism.
I preferred knowing John Lennon’s best mate.
Word of the week
Moving with a creeping, crawling action. From the same Latin root as reptile. EG: “An honest truth moves reptant through twisted minds until it emerges, deformed and blackened, as a belief terrible to behold.”
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