The Incredible Overuse of the Word Incredible
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Victor (I don't believe it) Meldrew
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The Vote: How it Was Won and How it Was Undermined - By Paul Foot
I don't know what it's like in other parts of the English-speaking world, but in the UK, here, everything's incredible these days. If it's big, it's incredibly big; if it's wee, it's incredibly wee; if it's expensive, it's incredibly expensive. Mind you, with vat at 20% and bankers and corporate bosses’ bonuses still skyrocketing unabated that doesn’t somehow strike me as overly incredible.
Anyway, I looked up the word incredible in the dictionary today, it said, "impossible or very difficult to believe". It would seem then, that the UK has become a nation of people who find almost everything impossible, or very difficult, to believe.
I don’t believe that. When I think of the ease in which the banks and corporations have managed to do us all up like kippers, I think the majority of people believe just about anything the media dishes up.
"And I am also incredibly proud.” Declared UK Prime Minister David Cameron recently. “(T)hat Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make our country stronger”.
I can’t help wondering what it is that he doesn’t believe about his pride in Britain’s believers. Is he saying that he doesn’t believe that he should be proud that their belief is making our country stronger, or, is it just that he doesn’t believe that there’s anything about which to be proud? How credible does that make him, as Britain’s premier, if he doesn’t believe he's proud when he’s making a speech about his pride? I can understand the disbelief mind you (if that’s what it is); for I don’t believe much of what he says either, but such honesty from a politician, is beyond me. One might even say it’s almost incredible - but not entirely.
But in case you think I’m biased, which I am, it’s not just him; everyone seems to be at it now. It seems to me the word incredible is the most hackneyed adjective in the English language these days since the ‘basically’ word ruled supreme above all other eighties adjuncts. Everything was ‘basically’ something or other. It's a bit like the ubiquitous f word. After all, why pause to take a breath, or think about what you're going to say next, when you can scatter a good helping of fs, basicallies and incredibles throughout your sentences? ‘Know what I mean?’
These days, in the UK, we have incredibly cold winters and incredibly hot summers - except when they’re incredibly mild for the time of year. Yet I don’t know how anyone could think that the UK weather is incredible at any time of year, unless he or she’s frying eggs on the pavement for Christmas dinner. That’s barely credible, but more to the point, it’s not the done thing - even now, after the invention of pooper-scoopers.
I’ve even heard people say that some things are ‘incredibly difficult to believe’. Does that mean that such things are unbelievably unbelievable, and does it then follow, that we don’t believe they’re unbelievable and therefore, that we believe that they are believable? Are they saying that they don’t believe that they don’t believe it, or, are they saying that they don’t believe that they’re saying it? Maybe they’re saying that they don’t know what they’re saying or what to believe - and maybe they should just admit that they don’t know what they’re talking about. I will, if they will.
I don't mind so much when teenagers, or sports, TV and film stars are amazed to the point of disbelief at their own antics and achievements, I think the wages that footballers pick up are incredible too, but newsreaders, politicians, and the TV pundits are at it too. Everything on TV is deemed incredible, especially if it’s only slightly unusual. However, things like ‘fractional reserve banking’, for example, aren't deemed incredible, because they're seldom mentioned in front of the hoi polloi - like the non-existence of the tooth fairy or Santa is never discussed in front of the children, or the undermining of democracy is never bandied about the mainstream media. No wonder we haven’t a clue what’s actually going on.
However, if we all don’t swallow wholesale the conventional wisdom that the pundits and politicos dish out to us, we’re informed that ‘the markets’ will make it ‘incredibly difficult’ for our ‘democracies’ to function. At least we know that, to be true - but only if we take it in the vernacular, (which unfortunately, we do).
Victor Meldrew, (UK sitcom character), mightn't believe much of what he experiences either, but almost everything I hear with the ‘incredible’ adjunctive seems entirely credible to me - and I don't consider myself of the ilk that believes just any old thing. In fact, I'd quite happily admit that I'm a cynical old scroat, more inclined towards disbelief than many of those who seem addicted to overuse of the incredibly useless ‘incredible’ word.
I say useless, but I'm not suggesting that incredible is invariably a useless word. It's just that overuse of anything - except perhaps your lungs for breathing and those sorts of things - tends to undermine the effectiveness of the thing in question. However, I’ll quickly add, that I wouldn’t advise the under use of your lungs for breathing, unless you’re a politician, or a banker, or one of those people who’re inclined to overuse the word, incredible. If you are, please, be my guest.
However, I imagine that would probably wipe out 99% of the UK population. That’s neither entirely credible nor incredible but it might be quite desirable - especially if you’re the sort of person, like me, who doesn’t like crowds, particularly if they’re the kind of crowds whose lexicon seems to consist entirely of the incredibly overused word, incredible.