Amazing? Really?

Robert Valentine Senior lecturer of advertising

Column by Robert Valentine, senior lecturer of advertising

Adios, graduating seniors.

Of course, some of you won’t leave until after graduation, but a few have been “gone” for a couple of weeks. The body will walk across the stage at the CFSB Center, but the mind wore out and left the classroom long ago.

If you’re one of those whose consciousness has preceded you in leaving campus, you know of what I speak. Chances are you won’t reading this – you are probably on a mental beach somewhere – but if you did it, you would resonate with understanding. Go in peace, but come back for your body and return the rented graduation robe.

For those who are waiting for the physical event (commencement), let me offer a last word of advice which may boost your standing among your soon-to-be employers and elevate you in the eyes of any prospective parents-in-law: Clean up your language.

For the rest of your life your words will inform people about who and what you are. Some words are not useful. Others are actually misleading. Still others have no real meaning anymore. You can do without them and you should.

For instance, if you pepper your speech with more than one use of the word, “like,” per sentence, get rid of it. “Like” suggests either a preference or a similarity; it, like, does not, like, serve to like reassure, like, anyone that you like know, like, what you are like talking like about. You see the point. Such speech is called “babbling” and it will not get you a raise or a fiancé.

You may also discard the word “sucks” as an expression of disapproval. In polite company, the word says little and makes some people uncomfortable. While you may have communicated something when you said, “That tests sucks!” or “This beer sucks!” or “Scatology sucks,” you are really not telling anyone anything of value. Try these alternatives which may prove useful:

“That test had none of the questions from last semester’s test!”

“This beer tastes like American ‘lite’ beer!”

“I have no idea what Scatology means!”

You may also want to live without the word, “totally.” This word suggests a completeness of consideration. It is not really a substitute for actual English words such as “quite” or “very” or “rather.” Therefore, when you say, “We totally beat Sigma Chi last night,” we don’t know whether the Sigs lost by one point or 103 points. In fact, we doubt they lost at all.

When you say, “I was totally blotto,” we have no way of distinguishing between a case of inebriation in which you bounced off a wall, or whether you actually died of alcohol poisoning (although, in the latter case, your ability to babble would raise doubts of your, like, totally complete death or whatever).

Few things in life are ever really “total.”

Finally, if you find something uncommon or pleasing, try to use a word other than “amazing.” Something that amazes us is so unusual or unexpected that it makes us shake our heads in disbelief. We question our perceptions; we rub our eyes; we are stunned, and the fabric of our universe is shaken.

Chocolate sprinkles on a vanilla cone do not really qualify, do they? If the professor gives you an extra day to study for an exam, it is not really an unprecedented human experience. If Josh gets a date with a pretty girl, it doesn’t make us question our sanity, does it? Well? Does it?

Words matter. Your business with words is only now beginning since what you say and write from now on has more meaning than ever. People will rely on you to be accurate and truthful – not to hint at things or gush over the trivial. Your word will become synonymous with who you are and what you are worth in this world.

We should have taught you that over that last few years, but if we did not, you’re on your own. You can do it because you like totally did the graduation thing, which doesn’t suck. Amazing!