By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)
Newsies, both in print and on the telescreens, seem unable to refer to anyone who has died as anything other than an icon. As a metaphor, this never worked well, anyway, as an icon is a two-dimensional painting or drawing—the Orthodox term is “written”—of a religious figure for inspiration. Obviously a human being, alive or dead, cannot be an icon in any meaningful sense, although he or she might someday appear on an icon after ecclesiastical investigation, documentation, and recognition of a life of recognized saintliness. But since the metaphor has been spun out daily for years, possibly decades, it is time to let it go.
“Icon” has long since joined “give you the shirt off his back,” “never met a stranger,” “his word was his bond,” “they broke the mold when they made him,” and other funerary imagery as filler-language that says nothing. If we mean to praise someone, let us do so in good, plain, declarative sentences, and forego all the babble that everyone trots out for everyone else.
In the run-up to All Souls and All Saints, secularized as “Halloween” with its purportedly pagan Celtic origins, “spooktacular” infests advertisements as a variation of “spectacular.” Every advertisement and every fund-raiser is gas-filled by dull and lazy writers as “spooktacular.” Please, don’t. Just don’t.
Another contemporary failure in speaking and writing is the excessive use of adjectives and adverbs. Or to put it in another way, “Another absolutely contemporary failure, actually, in actually speaking and actually writing, actually, is the unnecessary excessive and repetitive and pointless use of so many overwhelmingly redundant adjectives and really and truly excessive adverbs, actually.”
The best way to say something is to do so without any adjectives and adverbs, in the plainest way possible, and so clearly that it cannot be taken as meaning anything other than what the speaker intended.