Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lazy Language

For sale here

I’m trying to make healthier eating choices lately and since I’m going off meds for a month starting today, I need to make healthier choices than ever.  It’s not easy though, I like good food.  On the one hand both my father and paternal grandfather died of heart attacks but on the other hand I don’t want to live in a world without delicious bacon!  So I’m trying to find a good balance between eating well and eating healthy only to find that the marketing department of every food manufacturer is trying to make that as hard as possible.  Worst part is that they are using my own laziness to do it!

Here’s the thing about shortcuts – we can’t live without them.  We need shortcuts.  Sure, its lazy but can we live any other way?  If we had to do life Ent style and take endless hours to ponder every decision in detail civilization as we know it would grind to a halt.  It’s a good idea to carefully consider some things of course, but who has the time to carefully consider everything?  That’s why we have clichés and stereotypes, for better or worse they’re real timesavers!  Unfortunately, advertisers figured this out a long time ago and have been using it against us ever since.

Fat free tea.  Because apparently that was a problem that needed solving.  
Obviously they can’t tell a bald faced lie about their products because that’s the kind of thing leaves them drowning in lawsuits.  However it’s not illegal to tell the truth about your product, even if it’s a very creative truth.  For instance, a few years ago a couple of sunflower oil manufacturers advertised that their products had 0% cholesterol.  This was technically true but only because cholesterol is an animal product and you were never going to find it in a plant product anyway!  Most of the time it seems they just let us do the heavy lifting ourselves.  By just using a few “shortcut” words, we jump to our own conclusions and they don’t have to go making too many claims that need factual backing.  These are words that make you instinctively assume something good (about their product) or bad (about a competitor) when in fact these words are actually quite neutral.  They can mean something good or bad but over time we have associated some with good things and other with bad.  Some examples would be words like:

Traditional.  Ahh yes, you see the word “traditional” and you immediately assume this product is just filled with the goodness and wholesomeness of the good old days.  Just hearing the word brings to mind your grandma’s kitchen – which is probably the intention!  But wait a second, who said “traditional” was the same as “good”?  The word “tradition” only refers to “a long-established or inherited way of thinking or acting”.  In other words it’s simply a way of doing things that’s been around for a while.  That doesn’t necessarily make it bad but it certainly doesn’t make it good and it definitely doesn’t make it the best way.  If you go back a 100 years you would find that people were probably doing the best they could with the knowledge and technology they had, but you wouldn't assume they were doing it better than we currently do in any field - except apparently with food.  For instance the traditional way of traveling between continents was by using a ship.  These days we travel by airplane.  Now is traveling the traditional way bad?  No, certainly not.  However it’s definitely by no means better than the modern form!  Just because something is older does not make it better.  If you find a 200 year old recipe for lemonade that includes 2 cups of badger urine, would you choose that over a different brand simply because it’s “traditional”?

Sometimes "Traditional" is just another word for "pain in the ass"

Natural.  If you see that a product is “natural” then you know it’s good for you because everything from nature is good for you right?  Well no, no it’s not.  Lots of things from nature are terrible for you!  Some of the most poisonous thing in the world are 100% natural.  The thing is that while there certainly are a whole lot of wholesome things in nature, you will find that nature can be pretty vindictive too.  Plants actually produce their own pesticides to ward off bugs, so odds are that the totally organic broccoli you bought from that hippie at the farmers market is probably still full of pesticides.

Chemicals.  Grrr, argh, chemicals bad!!  No one would want chemicals added to their food right?  You probably wouldn’t like it if I added 2-oxo-L-threo-hexono-1,4- lactone-2,3-enediol to your juice would you?  How about if I added some extra Vitamin C, would that be OK?  Sure, no one would object to that, even though Vitamin C and 2-oxo-L-threo-hexono-1,4- lactone-2,3-enediol (or L-ascorbic acid for short) is exactly the same thing.  Think back to your basic chemistry classes for a second.  Everything is made of chemicals.  Your body is full of chemicals and so is everything you eat.  Water, air, carrot juice, rump steak – all made up of chemicals.  There are good chemicals and bad chemicals so to simply and reflexively consider the word “chemical” equal to “toxic waste” is just lazy thinking
Di-hydrogen monoxide - it kills thousands of people each year!!!
Processed.  Again, here is a word that we associate with bad, plastic food almost immediately.  Sometimes that is most definitely the case (looking at you processed cheese).  However, the term “processed” when applied to food simply means that the food has gone through some kind of process.  If it was sliced, peeled, dried or even just washed it’s technically processed.  Therefore if you want your carrot “unprocessed” then you better have it fresh from the ground, dirt and all.

I hate having to be so on guard when I’m grocery shopping, but these people leave me no choice.  Bastards.  They are forcing me to confront my shortcuts!  Not cool guys!  Now I have to judge every product on its individual merits!

So these are some examples of lazy language I have come across so far.  Does anyone else have some more for me?

No comments: