Friday, October 01, 2004

A Massive Cliche

Massive intervention. Massive expenditures. A massive anti-gun campaign. The massive bill. Everything is "massive" these days (those examples were all from one recent edition of the Washington Post). I'm not going to hit you with a geeky copy-editor rule that says "massive" means only "having great mass." Common sense and Webster's New World tell us it can also mean "larger or greater than normal," "large and imposing or impressive" or "of considerable magnitude."

My problem is that the word has become a cliche. Writers seldom opt for "huge" or "extensive" or any other word when "massive" is an option, and, as when any quirky fashion choice becomes the standard (see mid-1970s ties and lapels), it looks silly. When there's an unfortunate double meaning (a massive campaign against obesity), it looks even sillier.

8 comments:

Radish King said...

You forgot your é.
They'd toss you right out of Disney for it.

Bill said...

You must be new here. :-)

My online oeuvre apparently doesn't include my anti-accent-mark rant. Borrow your neighbor's copy of "Lapsing Into a Comma" and turn to the "No Way, Jose" section.

Marcell said...

Have you ever seen one of those bills, Bill? Some of them contain the mass of several large trees.

Or perhaps the Washington Post reporter was alluding to your mass. (-:

Quill Enparchment said...

Other massive clichés (accent marks are part of proper spelling :p) include basically, literally and essentially.

Bridey Murphy said...

Accent marks are part of proper spelling in French and other languages, but once it's been adopted into English, the word becomes English, with all its conventions. (And why is "cliche" suddenly mutating into an adjective?)

Nicole said...

Settle down, everyone. Your dictionary probably lists both cliché and cliche. It's not wrong; it's a style choice.

Nessie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nessie said...

About the accent question...

I work in Japan and often have to distinguish between sake (with acute accent and beer chaser) and sake. Tasting works for me but not for my readers, so I find the accent helps.

Without the accent, I'd have to italicize the drink as a foreign word -- which it isn't, since it has entered the language.