Good, Better, Best

Good, Better, Best

Two things to think about today: favorite words, and hyperbole.

Do you have a favorite word? It is probably the word you use to describe things you like, or want, or about which you have a positive feeling. You may have more than one favorite word, but I’m guessing that you have about three words that are familiar, loyal, friendly, serviceable, (overused?) and that they get a lot of play.

I’m in the market for some new favorites. Perhaps you are, too!

To find some new word candidates I’ve been listening to other speakers. While any excuse to do more listening is welcome, I haven’t found this to be a fruitful exercise. I’m hearing a lot of the same words. “Amazing” is very popular. “Great” is greatly used. Friends who are near my age remind me of some of our old favorites, of which “cool” continues to be heard in some groups. “Neat” was maybe the “amazing” of yesteryear. There are more. You know them.

While doing this listening research, I heard a series of tributes being made at an awards ceremony. Speaker after speaker told us things about several awardees, and almost each speaker described each awardee in this way:

“He is the most (fill in something) person I have ever met in my life.”

After a few of these I began to think less about the message and more about the words. Perhaps in one or maybe a few occasions we could say that someone was the most ‘something’ person we’ve ever met in our lives, but really? Not to take away from the enthusiasm and sincerity of the speaker, but after more than one “best I’ve ever met in my life”, the shine of the sentiment diminished until after a while I heard only “I like this guy” expressed in an inelegant, overblown, meaningless shower of words, and it was no longer interesting to listen.

I wished that speakers could say in simple words what they liked about the person, and I wished that the simple words they used were ones they had chosen. Thought about and chosen.

Perhaps using hyperbole is an alternative to word search. If we can say it was ‘the best movie I’ve ever seen in my life’, we are sort of relieved of having to come up with an actual descriptor.

So my search continues for new favorites, altho I was momentarily sidetracked by ‘brilliant’, which might be the British version of ‘amazing’. But while I’m waiting – and feeling British – I think I’ll experiment with understatement instead of hyperbole in the hope that a good word or two will rise up to demand attention.

I think this is a good idea – not the best I’ve ever had in my life- but good.