Then why don’t you marry an ice cream sandwich?

I would say that one of the most memorable lectures that I heard during my four years at APU came from a guest lecturer in a music class whose name was Harold Best. Harold Best is probably pushing 70, and he’s the Dean Emeritus of the Wheaton School of Music, which means they like the guy so much they gave him a fancy title to keep forever whether or not he ever chooses to work for them again. And after hearing what he had to say, I wouldn’t blame them.

The gist of what Harold Best had to say was this: if you want to be taken seriously, keep your superlatives in check. That’s right, he gave a lecture on superlatives, and his last name is Best. Irony unintended.

Anyway, what he was saying is that the under-25 generation today in America has gone nuts with the superlatives, and we need to back it off if we ever want to be taken seriously. That is, if you overuse the superlative as much as folks in my generation typically do, who’s going to listen to you when you actually have something to say? What good is my word on faith, or art, or the things I’m passionate about when I regularly say things like “this is the best banana I’ve ever had in my life?” Essentially he means the more you use the superlative, the less valuable it becomes, so say what you mean, and mean what you say. Your words are more valuable when you reserve the most passionate ones to describe the things you’re most passionate about.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, especially with the recent passage of good ol’ St. Valentine’s Day. In my opinion, “love” is probably the most common culprit as far as overused superlatives go, especially at APU. Love is the ultimate superlative, and it has become sort of a catchphrase at APU, tossed around casually without any serious consideration. I love Francis Chan, I love grilled cheese, I love Rainbow sandals, I love Jesus. And sure, there’s different connotations in each of those “loves,” but thinking about it you realize the frivolity with which we use that word. If we really do love something, I mean truly love it, then shouldn’t we show that thing or that person the respect of not lumping them in the same category as Naked Juice or slip n’ slides? If we say we “love” all these little insignificant things, then what word are we going to use when something comes along that we really, truly love?

So I challenge you, dear reader, to watch your language… in a couple of ways. First, take a day and count how many superlatives you hear or use. So that means if you turn on the radio, and the DJ says, “the best mix of the 80’s, 90’s, and today,” you count that as one. Walk outside, and think to yourself, “this is the coldest day ever?” That’s two. Chances are, if you start counting at the beginning of the day, you’ll get so high you lose track well before lunch.

Second challenge is this: take a few days, and keep track of everything you say you love, no matter the connotations, whether you truly mean it or not. Cream cheese, Kanye West, garage door openers, your mom, valet parking, whatever. It could turn out to be a fairly long list, but chances are that no matter how long it is, it’s going to be a pretty interesting smorgasboard of items, and one that’s worth examining.

Then finally, think about it. I believe that in order to be a genuine person, you must speak genuinely. I also believe that if language is our currency, then its value is depreciating rapidly. Figure out whether or not you’re okay with that, and then do something about it (or don’t). But at least give it some consideration. We can make ourselves more meaningful and genuine people if we simply observe the things we say and choose our words wisely, and it’s certainly worth the effort, if you ask me.


4 Responses to “Then why don’t you marry an ice cream sandwich?”

  1. 1 mattvaudrey
    February 22, 2008 at 4:43 am

    The is the best post I’ve ever read, and the most insightful question I’ve ever heard in my life. I love blogging, but some authors make me sick, I hate them so much.
    I’m so tired, I could sleep for a week.

    I might just bring my little Fuck Tally clicker to school and count the superlatives. I may get carpal tunnel; middle-schoolers use more superlatives than anybody in the whole planet.

  2. 2 andygraham
    February 22, 2008 at 4:49 am

    It seems you’ve found the loophole in my little quandary here… I can’t tell if this is an actual compliment, or just an example of how the common overexaggerated superlative sounds so passé nowadays that it goes without any sort of regard… hmph.

    Let me know how the whole Fuck Tally thing works out.

  3. 3 Beau
    February 26, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Agreed. This blog was awesome. Lucky for me I check this thing every ten minutes and so I had just read this when I got an email saying something to the effect of, “you have been nominated to talk to honors kids at bill and rida’s steak stop for their end of the year banquet. please submit your topic and rationale to such and such.” I replied with this topic, “Avoid superlatives: The best advice you’ll ever receive about being the most respected person on the planet.”

  4. June 4, 2012 at 4:05 am

    This is a fantastic weblog, could you be interested in going through an interview about just how you produced it? If so e-mail me personally!

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