People, as a general rule, are pretty dumb.
Evidence: Buzzwords. These, of course, are trendy words/phrases that appear in the cultural lexicon and are glommed onto by media, motivational speakers, advertisers and the glib. Wikipedia states “Buzzwords are typically intended to impress one’s audience with the pretense of knowledge. For this reason, they are often universal. They typically make sentences difficult to dispute, on account of their cloudy meaning” Famous past examples include: “thinking outside the box”, ironic (thank you, Alanis Morissette), paradigm, synergy, iAnything, e-Anything, next-gen, etc.
Now, what bothers me is NOT that these words/phrases become popular, but the fact that people use them incorrectly . . . and sometimes to blatantly lie.
Case in point: Whole Grain – the latest buzzword to hit food marketing. Fruit Loops are now, apparently, whole grain. You can also get “whole grain” white bread, any oxymoron if I ever heard one. Now, I’m all for sneaking nutrition into foods, but seriously, bleached wheat flour is pretty much WHITE flour. And highly processed grain is certainly no better for you. People are kidding themselves if they think that Froot Loops, even if “made with real fruit juice!” is ever going to be a good alternative to, say, Kashi . . . or another “adult” cereal of your choice.
But cereal is not the reason behind this tirade. Popcorn, in fact, is. While fueling up with some afternoon caffeine from the vending machine at work, I noticed that the microwave popcorn sacks for sale were emblazoned with a little starburst containing the words “Made with Whole Grains!”.
Seriously? Do people not know that, by nature, popcorn IS a whole grain? That the little hull that, when popped, gets irritatingly stuck in your teeth is basically what constitutes it being “whole”? Come on, now.
Besides, this is just another prime example of the distraction factor of buzzwords. People see phrases like “whole grain” dangled before them and they automatically think “healthy!” But of course, perhaps the artificial butter and real sodium ATOP the whole grain is really what they should not be distracted from.
Buzzwords are essentially the linguistic equivalent of dangling something shiny in front of a baby. It’s our own fault for falling for it, really.