Wednesday, July 07, 2010

"It isn't...but it is..."

Somewhere I have the beginnings of a post about overused words and phrases (not to be confused with my post about over-using contemporary colloquialisms). This was inspired by Randy Michaels' banning the use of over 100 words and short phrases by Chicago's WGN employees. Some media outlets tried to make this come off as unfair, but in fact, Michaels was banning the words because they are overused, have lost their meanings in many instances, and are often misused. A good number of them are used so often that listeners/viewers sort of glaze over when they hear them. Phrases like, "the robbers fled" and "police are still seeking those responsible."

I believe that some words or phrases are used in TV and radio news reports simply out of habit, or because they are associated with a concept and are automatically used when the concept comes up. I read an example of this today:

But Pawn Stars isn't like any other History Channel show. Like 'American Pickers,' another great show on the channel, Pawn Stars delivers entertainment value that TV viewers simply won't find so easily elsewhere.

Wait, wait: it's not like any other History Channel show---but it is like another show on the channel? It appears that someone wanted to praise the show, and so out tumbled "'s not like any other..." a phrase often associated with greatness. But having written that and then negating it, I wonder if the reporter had really taken the phrase's meaning. Or did he use the phrase because it was linked in his mind with the concept of really good or great?

Is "Pawn Stars" also "more unique" than other shows?

By the way, I enjoy both shows. I notice two mistakes that nearly every "Pawn Stars" customer with something to sell makes. Some ask for the retail value, as if they're cashing in Savings Bonds and there's no need for profit to be made by the buyer. Do they not notice that they're in a business that makes money by buying and reseller? If a seller isn't asking the Earth for an item, she usually asks for exactly what she wants--which she isn't going to get because for the sake of form Rick and the Old Man will chisel them down. Rick Harrison has said as much.

Say a person has a collectible that she thinks is worth $500 to the shop. She's researched it and knows that items like hers are fetching $1,000 on eBay or live auctions. She will go in and ask for $500. Rick will offer $300, and they'll wrap up at $400 or $425. If the customer had started at $600 or $700, it's likely she would have left with $500--having given Rick or the Old Man the fun of chopping down the price. (BTW, does anyone else think the Old Man has an eastern Kentucky accent? Does anyone else notice how much he likes to say "Back in the day..."?)

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