Not long ago, I wrote about clichés — about how each generation latches onto a clever expression with all the enthusiasm of someone who has just rediscovered the wheel.
Last fall, I was convinced that “24/7” would stand as the cliché of the century, even as “double-down” and “live-work-play” were surging.
Time to reassess.
Recall that clichés are words and phrases that, through overuse, lose nearly all the punch they entered the ring with.
Lately, I’ve become alarmed at the growing use of the term “viral.” Back in my younger days, it was a word everyone dreaded. Today, it denotes a feature — often a video — that everyone is talking about.
I know it’s been around a few years. The fact that it’s a cliché is kind of old news, but what makes it worthy of note now is that it has sort of mutated.
That’s kind of rare, although not unprecedented.
Recall that just after every ad agency, journalist and government bureaucrat had saturated media with “24/7,” someone had the bright idea to morph it into “24/7/365.” Clever, huh?
Okay, fine, by their very nature, clichés stay around far longer than they should. Some stay around long enough to attract flies.
When I see a headline claiming that something has “gone viral,” I take a pass. I’ve looked at some “viral” videos, and, to be honest, they were hardly worth the time. Even if the video is accidentally of some value theoretically, how much worse off are we for having missed it? So far, I’ve survived in my ignorance.
Not only has “viral” found its way into every news feed I see, but it has taken on a life of its own.
Recently, I heard a report about an online humorist whose jokes had been “borrowed” by another blogger. The program moderator mentioned that the first time it happened several years ago, the humorist’s original post received a fair number of views.
But when the thief posted the bon mot on his own website, it received more than 20 times the number of hits.
The moderator then said something to the effect that “accounting for ‘viral inflation,’ the re-post would easily qualify as having gone viral by today’s standards.”
I swear, he used the term “viral inflation.”
In what realm does that make sense?
One could argue, I suppose, that clichés are no longer clichés when they morph into something else. If such is the case, then “viral inflation” must run its inevitable course until it becomes a cliché itself, possibly attracting more flies before it fades into the oblivion it deserves.
But isn’t it all a little Frankensteinian?
With few exceptions, these monstrosities should never have been created in the first place.
It’s a little like adding ice to a bad bourbon, trying to improve the taste of something that should never have been uncorked.