Extensive linguistic research has revealed a new pattern of fillers, those little syllables that fill in the spaces while talking like polyps in the bowel or cholesterol in the arteries. Yeah-yeah. Like already, whatever. — Show me! What are they?
Is it something to imitate, or to scorn; as if other people’s speech is sliding to toward barely animal grunts? But what if it’s successful? Am I doing it the right way; or is it a sign that I need to do more to speak like that and improve my chances of a great career, of dating, of perfect happiness. Does it indicate that if I talk this way I can improve my income, and if so, by how much?
It might be hard to say. The article I read cited someone called Obama who spoke a lot of uhs, no ums, and someone called Kardashian, who may not be the president of anything at all, who used lots of ums, but no uhs. This breakthrough in publicity seeking science shows that falling to poor speech habits is no disqualification from a full and glittering career.
The more intriguing question is why this headline, which teases our curiosity and exploits our motivations, works. In the old days headlines like: ‘Vicar caught in afternoon romps’ were enough to spice people’s humdrum lives as they read about a respected member of the community being ridiculous. And it was socially acceptable to hold up such an article while on public transport.
Other tabloid specialties further down the news chain, such as, Zombie Cats from Outer Space were there to thrill and entertain the reader. Add some other angle, such as Nazis and have the art editor put a helmet on the cats and the story was headed straight for some award. One notorious UK tabloid headline involved a London bus discovered on the moon. No one believed it, well, maybe some people did, and probably the same kind of reader that did not believe in the moon landings, but I digress; the London bus moon piece was an adult comic. That style was once a viable entertainment business.
Move along and the traditional announce headline is no longer commercially good enough. Now even established and respected news publishers use click bait to induce the depths of curiosity and that means dollars. Stories are not announced, they tease about an event, or the unruly behavior of a personality, in order to incite a click.
And then, once we’ve had the hit of cheap nasty info and learnt that some person had a bad flight, sold their house for millions below purchase price, had a troubled youth, looked stunning in a dress, supports cat zombies from outer space if they resettle on Earth etc., the nausea and self-loathing kicks in.
If only we’d known all along. Everyone is now in this: business, finance, everyone pushing an agenda and science too, as they utilize smart tactics to get readers.
The eminent brain specialist Susan Greenfield has warned about the use of technologies and the manner in which brain function and attention is modified. It might be said that a corollary of Greenfield’s analysis is the surfeit of pseudo information, the spew of stuff vomited into the media that distracts but is hardly information. The plethora of channels almost makes it inevitable. It can be turned off, ignored even.
The quick hit works. It may work for a while longer. At some time it loses its effectiveness and then another technique has to be found. Who knows, it might be that the old headlines come back and the reader can choose what they want to read, rather be enticed with schlock. I know, I can’t get enough about zombies.
13th October 2014