[This entry originally appeared on Clare Lynch’s blog, goodcopybadcopy]
It’s a bit of a grumpy-old-man truism that Anglo-Saxon economies are doomed because we don’t actually make anything any more. While those hard working Chinese have been assembling iPods to slake the rest of the world’s thirst for stuff, we westerners have been building a house-of-cards chav-onomy fuelled by nothing more than the herd’s desire to spend, spend, spend.
Some comfort themselves with the idea that ours is an economy based on the provision of services. One aspect of this is the belief that acquiring material riches is no longer the sole goal of the successful individual. Experiences are the new luxuries we all crave. We want to chill out in water bungalows in the Maldives and get high on truffles in Michelin-starred restaurants.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to become an economist – my mathematical abilities preclude that. But I do think that one irritating symptom of the service economy is a verbal habit that seems to have reached the level of a plague among certain advertising copywriters – and one that makes me grouchy every time I encounter it.
Have you noticed that every other thing we’re asked to part money for is an ‘experience’? We’re no longer invited to get a haircut – we’re encouraged to ‘enjoy a salon experience’. A beer is no longer a beer – it’s a ‘drinking experience’ (truly – check out the certificate behind the bar in the Holborn Belgo’s). We don’t have dinner with each other any more – we ‘share a dining experience’.
What’s the problem with that, you ask? Well, for a start, such phrases break at least three of Orwell’s rules of writing:
1. Never use a figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
Orwell’s rules are to writers what Newton’s laws are to physicists: if you’re going to challenge them be sure to know what you’re doing.
And there are good reasons why you should think about Orwell before using a phrase like ‘dining experience’. Could any meal, even one created by Gordon Ramsey, ever live up to the promise of a ‘dining experience’? Doesn’t it just sound like so much puffery for what is a fairly everyday occurrence? As Paul Fussell would say in his hilarious book ‘BAD’, you read a phrase like that and you reach for your wallet.
Which, if the doom-mongers are to be believed, is exactly what’s wrong with this country.