4 Sep 2012

No Labels

Easy come easy go... We live in a society where we stick labels on anything that moves, on anyone. We pep up our conversations and writings with a liberal use of words that take up space and have no meaning. Labels that help us codify people, styles, ideas, concepts, feelings. Hands up, I am myself guilty of labelling.

'Sheepish', photo by Karena Goldfinch, via Flickr (25/03/2010)

First we've got those passe-partout labels that are supposed to describe someone: worn-out, vague, elusive overused 'one-size-fits-all' adjective labels that are stickable and reusable and adaptable to all circumstances like velcro patches... Labels that don't mean that much to anyone anymore: cool, awesome, rad, great, fantastic...  And those adverbs that nail the message, reiterate it: a (little) bit, kinda/ sort of, very much, a lot/ loads, really, truly, definitely, totally, absolutely...

Problem is, my definition of 'cool' might be slightly off centre, your definition of 'cool' might be off limit, their definition of 'cool' might be plain preppy conservative... And I certainly won't agree with my dad's definition of 'cool' unless it involves Steve McQueen or a vintage Ford Mustang.

Cool as the Camaro! (Pict source via Tumblr)

I still have nightmares about my philosophy classes back in my last year of secondary school. I was 17, dressed to impress (in a bad way!) and just about managing my own eccentricities as a gothic rebel, so this was as philosophical as it was gonna get for me in that lifestage of mine. Then in class we were told not to use words like 'very' anymore. Either something was good or it wasn't. My teacher's pet hate was anyone saying 'absolutely true/ right'. Truth is absolute.

The teacher was even more suspicious of adjectives that involved wider quantification like huge, immense... Everything is in proportion and in relation to one another in the great scheme of things. She lost me. I recall a similar stance from Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society and this certainly left an impact on me. If philosophy never became my cuppa tea, at the very least it raised some awareness in me and did make me self-conscious about word usage and in particular those easy labels.

The King of Cool! (Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images, photo by John Dominis)

For instance, you either love someone or you don't. You don't love them 'just a bit'... Maybe you like them instead. Maybe you are fond of them. If you love them very much, you adore them. Then sure enough my philosophy teacher would step in and give us a spiel about adoration. Some words need to be used carefully, or - at least - with moderation.

Now check out those loose chat-up lines:

- 'Did you have a great time last night, honey?'
- 'I had a good time!'
- 'A good time, uh? Is that all you had? What was wrong?'
- 'Nothing was wrong. I just had a good time.'
- 'Just a good time, now I see... Well honey, don't worry about the next time, cos we're done!'

Now please - can I have those labels back? I kinda need them very very much!

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