It’s a slow, cold Saturday and I slouched along surfing the web in pursuit of the latest news going viral as I pondered the lack of meaning in all this activity known euphemistically as life. Surely only a few sites would be so trite and cliched as to incorporate viral in both headlines and stories (let alone surfing). Wrong again. Suppose it’s rather like expecting adult behavior from publicly-elected representatives. After all, if the public operates on the level of an anthropoid, why would those individuals who we voted into office be noticeably different?
Back to viral surfing. I found plenty evidence of slow thinking among the weekend staff of CNN…certainly to be expected…but these two terms (among many other expressions that are used in place of a real vocabulary) were ubiquitous in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, even within the pages of the UK Independent. CNN, Ted Turner’s misbegotten stepchild, did manage to top the others. Going Viral appeared in three ledes, to say nothing of frequent incorporation in stories themselves. A note written by a former Marine in San Diego was the first reference to “going viral.” His missive to Dianne Feinstein denying any intention of respecting a putative law requiring registration of his assault-style weapons went…oh, shit…viral. So did a tale about Superman flying along the coast of California. Hmmmm. I just couldn ‘t find the energy to explore any further. This is a Quixotic pursuit, even for me.
What is fun is to consider just how terms and expressions become trite, overused, cliched. The first instance a writer referred to an incident, a message, a photo that popped up on one day and was seen all around the world the next as…viral…might have been considered clever, even adroit usage. Same might apply to a car that was…totalled…what a great term. The first time it was used; not the ten-thousandth.
Totalled allows the speaker (or writer) to avoid destroyed, wrecked, smashed, crushed, eradicated, trashed, wasted, fucked up…no, I’m not making use of my synonym finder, though I often do…just as going (or went) viral obviates expanding one’s vocabulary to include widely read, exploded, raced across the wires, on every lip, picked up internationally…well, on second thought…maybe viral is a good term. Or, and this is certainly a real possibility, maybe I’m as brain dead as the person who wrote multiple ledes using viral.
Back in my radio days (daze?) many announcers could and did fill an entire shift moving from one cliche to another without every having to think about what they were saying. “Welcome to W-O-M-B-FM, the warm spot in the depths of your radio, I’m not quite sure who I am. It’s 8:45 in the AM, the sun is up, and we have a message from Jack’s Off Sausage, the friendly place to get a hand on lunch.” Return in 60 seconds, music is qued, spin a record (or punch a tape or a CD) then repeat the first line incorporating a new sponsor, do the same thing over and over until the shift is completed and it’s time to wrap one up and apply a bit of flame.
Isn’t that the story of life?