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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Excited? Enjoying yourself?

There are a lot of Americanisms in vogue which must seem execrable to any discerning mind with an educated respect for language. Calling everything from your girlfriend to your last holiday to your ice-cream ‘great’ or ‘awesome’ is among them. Of late, ‘enjoy’ and ‘excited’ have entered my yuck-list.

While I yield to none in my appetite for enjoyment, and I entirely agree that being occasionally excited is a very good thing, because it keeps you healthy in body and young in mind, you can have too much of a good thing. These days the papers and television and roadside billboards are offering you ‘exciting’ offers on everything from shaving blades to apartments – and I notice with dismay that on the official Google blog that I follow, they seem to be ‘excited’ every day about some trifling new innovation they have launched. They may be gifted in everything from math to marketing, but there is no doubt whatever that they are linguistically challenged! Firstly, no healthy-minded person either needs or wants to be excited all the time: it would be such a bore. Secondly, we don’t really want people we trust with our money and lives and much else with to be excited (and therefore absent-minded and careless) when they are at work, do we? – Just think of your doctor, banker, your child’s teacher or the traffic policeman. And thirdly, staying excited for too long just isn’t possible without damaging your nervous system: a scientist trying to prove a theory or a writer penning a book might take months or years, and while one needs true passion if one has to do such arduous things, one cannot stay continuously ‘excited’ for all that time without falling sick or going out of one’s mind!

As for enjoyment, if some of us are still capable of recalling that the word originally meant feeling joy, one can only weep to see how vulgarly and meaninglessly it is bandied around by everyone everywhere nowadays. More and more it seems that one can only enjoy things (cars, mobiles, hairdos, jewellery, food, whatever) rather than feelings, and even worse, one cannot even enjoy things any more, but only the act of buying them! So my wardrobe bursts with clothes I hardly wear, I rarely listen to anything on the obscenely expensive music system, and I simply cannot understand people who claim to be able to enjoy a lot of things for which they have spent only trifling amounts or none at all – reading books, painting pictures, singing songs, playing games with friends on the field, helping people to do things that they cannot do very well by themselves, watching birds and butterflies, flowers and sunsets and chortling children; making or repairing things of household use with their own hands, exercising, taking long walks and lazing on the grass on balmy winter afternoons, having good conversations, falling asleep after a hard day… the list is endless. What I see instead is that the less people find true enjoyment the more frantic they become to find it, and the more they are convinced that all they need for it is to make and squander even more money… so cheap have these words become that they have to assure you that they are really excited, they truly enjoyed themselves, because excited and enjoyed have become so debased by mindless overuse that they have ceased to mean anything by themselves at all.

There are, I feel more and more often, far more poor people in this world – poor in the sense of lost and unhappy – than there have been ever before. And they are overwhelmingly to be found among the moneyed classes, the only people simultaneously stupid, lazy and solvent enough for advertisers to have brainwashed them into believing that nirvana can be found in the shopping mall!

(I was prompted to write this after reflecting on Rashmi’s comment on my last post, where she mused upon how she found simple and hard-up rural folks to be far happier than their urban ‘superiors’. Thanks, Rashmi, for stirring my grey cells). 


Shilpi said...

Can’t agree more with the “great”, “awesome” (it’s seldom used in the original grand sense) and excited.

The “excited” one has been annoying me for a fair bit of a long time now! Yech and yuck and rolling eyes and a very quick grimace is what it deserves. It’s one of the things that the automated voice tells me everytime I dial Reliance to make calls and the terrible sing-song voice lets me know “Dial 123 for exciting offers…” What sort of exciting offers can they be giving me through Reliance, I ask you? I did notice that bit about the Google blog as well (as for your comment reg. Google - haha)... And even grocery stores speak about "excitement" in relation to weight loss programs, recipes, seasonal gifts and...even vegetables - fresh vegetables. There might be many things to be said about the fresh, particularly fetching vegetable - but exciting? And people these days really do use that word too much - and people working and studying in universities. Very annoying.

I don’t think it’s possible to do anything while being excited…I’ve been pondering over this post of yours, see – at the back of my head - and I’ll say that it’s just not possible. One may be excited before one runs a race or writes or inbetween writing or while reading something one may get excited about an interesting idea...and I'm sure there are lots of other interesting/(exciting?!) possibilities…but one cannot be excited while engaging in the specific task at hand…it’s just not physically possible, I don’t think. There’ll be nothing that gets done. One has to quieten down and focus and concentrate – and I don’t think those (for however short bursts of time) are possible while being excited. And you’re right about that bit about ‘being excited continuously being a big bore’…that is one horrifying possibility or the one where the very excited one has to make a trip to the asylum or have the men in white coats pay one a visit…nothing remotely exciting about either prospect.

Enjoying only more and more “things that only money can buy” is yet another thing that I simply have to nod my head about….but it is very seducing and very comforting for a while. I found that out when I was fairly young and however slow I might be about picking up some realisations – I realised fairly quickly that happiness from things simply didn’t stay for long…not that I don’t buy things anymore and I sometimes wonder too what I would buy if I were very, very rich – but maybe I shouldn’t write an endlessly long comment about that over here.

That bit about all the things that don’t require much money or none is a bit that I read three times over and will read again once this comment is over. It’s a bit that flutters and dances with joy and brings an embracing joy to the reader.

Too many rich people, I think, lack both imagination and love in their lives…that’s yet another thing that’s been bugging me for a while, and a majority of the rich people are somewhat similar – the unhappy rich, that is. Buy this. Buy that. Travel but don’t look. It’s such a sad thing, really. So much money and no time nor love to use it wisely and well!

Delightful connections, once again….makes me ponder yet again over what being “educated” means…Thanks. Egad...sorry about the long comment!

Sayan Datta said...

Until Rashmi writes in, let me just say my two bits here. This might be slightly off topic, so please bear with me -
After ruminating on your posts and Rashmi's comment and the place she has written about in your previous post, I wonder how many such places will remain, in say ten to fifteen years time. This village isn't an arresting spectacle by any stretch, but at least one is able to indulge in the luxury of simplicity and spoil oneself incorrigibly with the pure aesthetics of rural life and an intake of fresh and less polluted oxygen so very rare in Kolkata. In the four days that we stayed there, we did not spot a single vehicle on its rustic and dusty roads apart from bullock carts and bicycles; that was until Mithun Chakravarty with his retinue played spoilsport on the last day. He was shooting for a film, we were told.

What I wish to say here is this - As places such as these become more and more popular with time, partly because it provides city-folks with an escape-route from the daily grinds of city life and partly because spending weekends in the countryside is fast becoming a fad, the apparent innocence and candour of the place will soon become a will-o'-the-wisp of our imagination.

If you go there, Sir, you will see a marked difference between the elderly and the impatient youth who seemed hell-bent in flashing their mobiles at every turn as a sign that they have 'arrived'. I don't blame them much though : naive as they are, they do not know that they are aping an insufferable and unscrupulous class.

As you speak of the subversion of language, Sir, I can also see that the people who expound, even extol it, will also spread the disease of unhappiness like wildfire.

Sayan Datta

Shilpi said...

Another Americanism that makes me fratchy is the absolute non-use of some words because people here have forgotten (or maybe didn't even know?) that they do have different meanings: and so for instance, fags (to mean cigarettes), fag-end, fagged-out must never be used in public (because the word fags was at some point used to hurl obscenities about/at homosexuals [and still is an absolute no-no]); nor can "queer" or "gay" be used in any other sense than to talk about homosexuals (not in a pejorative sense but these words are now always related to homosexuals in the minds of the regular American public) because people look at one queerly...

Also, the sentence in my previous comment should have read: It’s a bit that flutters and dances with joy and brings an embracing warmth to the reader. Sorry about the error.

Rashmi Datta said...

Dear Sir,
Indeed, one is pained to look at the annihilation of language and God knows whether we would end up with History textbooks having lines such as ' ... & zat gr8 day, v wun r freeedum coz of da things sum awsum cool dudes did & OMG LOL gandhi whom v call r DADDY ...' ! With The Oxford online dictionary adding OMG,LOL,WAGS and other such meaningless and base group of letters into their collection, the day may not be very far. Here is the article from The Telegraph -

About the word 'excited' , I certainly wouldn't want my doctor or my child's teacher getting excited all the time. I remember very well the day I got excited about joining a craft course and how I had to calm myself down so that I could concentrate on my work.

As for the phrase 'enjoying oneself', Sayan and I observe people on our evening walks and in our local departmental store. We encounter a lot of people with dazzling cars and mobiles, who seem to 'enjoy themselves' as they flaunt their wealth to their peers but one does not have to look very far to notice that they feel completely miserable with themselves. Why else would they maintain a countenance as if they had some foul smelling substance placed under their noses?

I think someday soon, the situations depicted in the animated movie, 'Wall-E' will come true. There will be bulging men and women seated in 'auto-mobile' seats gorging on 'cup' food who can't even move a muscle without the help of a robot and having talked 'virtually' with family and friends for years, have forgotten the sense of touch of their mate.
Thank you for the post Sir.

Warm regards

sayantika said...

Dear Sir,
I am reading your posts after quite some days, and here I would just like to add that the word 'amazing' should also make it to this list. Indeed, with so many 'amazing' offers and products, it would indeed be difficult to explain when one is really amazed.

Thanks and with regards,

Suvro Chatterjee said...

So sorry to respond so late, Sayantika. You're quite right, of course: how could I have forgotten 'amazing'? Time was when it was used meaningfully to describe things that are really supposed to arouse wonder and awe: so it was 'amazing' that someone could climb Everest alone and without oxygen, and it was amazing that Anne Frank could write so well, and it was amazing that Helen Keller could do so much despite being handicapped the way she was. These days, everything is 'amazing', from the (very commonplace-) decor at a restaurant to your friend's (very ordinary-) cooking to the fact that somebody has managed to scrape through a school examination...

As I often remark, an incredible number of so-called educated people, doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, business executives, actors, are linguistically challenged: their vocabulary is limited to about 100 key words. And I am ashamed to note that despite my best efforts to make them literate, far too many of my own pupils, now in their late 20s and 30s, have turned out exactly that way, and are either unconscious or actually proud of it...