Misused Words, a Ridiculous Headline, and PEOPLE Magazine
A rose by any other name would, certainly, smell as sweet. Shakespeare had that perfectly correct. However, it you call something a rose, but it’s not a rose, this could lead to confusion. Substitute, say, a llama. You can call the bloody thing a rose, but it’s not going to smell good. And it’s going to spit. I don’t think anyone at the high school prom wants a llama corsage.
Words matter. It matters how you use them or don’t use them, and if your usage is accurate. For instance, last night, I sat down to read People magazine online. I like idle ridiculous gossip and clothing as much as the next girl. Sometimes, relaxing with an article about George Clooney’s latest ex-girlfriend is a good way to spent a bubble bath (side-note: does anyone else find it creepy that Elisabetta referred to him as fatherly? Ew.)
When I pulled up the page, my jaw fell open. Why? This headline (see if you can spot the one I’m talking about):
Right, it isn’t the one about Nancy Grace’s weighloss. That isn’t a big shocker. You do exercise, you eat right – you generally lose weight. No chocolate-coated miracle pill there.
No, I’m talking about the Baby Lisa headline, the one that describes the strange phone call as “tantalizing.” Does no one at People own a dictionary? Especially given the context of the situation (which you can read about here, if you don’t already have a background in the case). Here’s the explanation (no, too much, I’ll sum up): a baby is missing, the parents seem kind of dodgy, and one of them (the mother) was passed out drunk at the time of the baby’s disappearance.
Apparently, someone made a phone call on a cell phone that supposedly was unable to make calls. This is the mystery. It is not, as the Magazine put it, tantalizing. To use that word implies desire. It implies that something is inviting, desirable but unattainable.
Well, Vezzini, I don’t think that word means what you think it means. Because the word you’re looking for is tragic. This is not an alluring situation. It’s sad. There’s a kid missing. There’s a weird phone call. This is not a game of frakkin’ Clue. It wasn’t Colonel Mustard in the drawing room, with the candlestick.
The long story short is that there is a kid missing. I know that media, especially lately, is fed by sensationalism and hype. I know, unfortunately, that it’s not often about the STORY. It’s about spinning the story. It’s not about the facts or the people; it’s about selling an image.
I also know that People magazine isn’t the epicenter for hardcore journalism. (Honestly, who is anymore? I can’t tell.) But if you are featuring what is an actual news story, shouldn’t you have some level of decency and mindfulness? (Excluding the Inquirer and the odd assortment of things that old people read in the bathroom.)
To me, using the word tantalizing isn’t just incorrect word usage. (Although, it may be.) It is a complete disregard for a horrible situation. It made me angry. Because a kid as missing, and that sucks. Any number of other words would’ve suited that headline (perplexing, mindboggling, confusing, bizarre, suspicious, odd etc, ad infinite). Why not use one of those words?
Perhaps People should stay away for culturally relevant topics, if the Magazine cannot approach them with respect and a dictionary. I suppose that means more features on the Orange People (aka the cast of Jersey Shore). But, hey, at least I know what I’m getting when I see Snooki on the cover: nausea, boredom, and a lingering need to take a shower. Just don’t call her a rose when you do, ok?