December 7th, 2010

lex you idiot

Uberdanken vom Everest

I cannot, and will not, overemphasize the importance of critical thinking.  Language is a weapon, and what’s more, it’s really the only weapon we have against near-constant attempts to control the way we perceive the world.  Approaching every sentence one encounters with rigor, applying keen analysis of every word thrown at you, is a habit that should always be encouraged.

However, like anything else, it’s possible to go too far with it.

I usually know when to back off of a deep read, and the specter of overthinking things is familiar enough that I usually know when to shoo it away.  Sometimes, though, the instinct kicks in and I find myself somewhat shamefully suspicious of what I’m hearing.  Case in point:  there’s a commercial in heavy rotation on Hulu, some mini-documentary by a car company that shows people doing amazing things (going into space, deep sea diving, etc.), to show up the car company’s innovative policies.  That part is easy-to-spot bullshit.  The part where I got carried away, though, was a segment where a woman comes on and says:

I am the first American woman to summit Mount Everest three times.

Immediately, my bullshit analysis software kicked in.  Well, I thought to my fat lazy self, something’s wrong there.  All of those qualifiers!  “First”, “American”, “woman”, “three times” — surely there’s some kind of linguistic con job at work there to conceal a lack of real accomplishment.  And it seriously took me about three minutes to become deeply ashamed.  Becuase, for crissakes, she could have said “I am the ninth Slovenian transgendered M2F to summit K2 one time” and it would still be pretty goddamn amazing.  She climbed Mount Everest THREE FUCKING TIMES, you tool!  And you’re suspicious of her phrasing?  This is what spending too much time by yourself does to you.