Oversaid: The Most Informative and Critical Blog Post on Professional Linguistics of 2012

You can wear out a word. It can be as banal as “greatest” or an unforgivable as “awesomesauce,” but at a certain point, the word steps out of fashion. You can wear it too long or paste it into too many press releases. You can torture a word by saying it to everyone who doesn’t matter. It’s cruel, it’s wrong, and it’s the way the PR world eats.

Of course, any type of promotional language can suffer the same fate. Another example: the agony of LinkedIn. Here we the meaning being sucked out of some of the English language’s most prominent sacred cows: “creative” and “innovative” no longer seem so uh… “spicy.” Words are only alive as long as we attach them to real things. When words start to describe nothing, they disappear like ferries into the background noise of the business world. OVERSAID means dying. OVERSAID means irrelevant. OVERSAID deserves a slap in the InDesign.

What the Company Wants to Read About Itself

A larger company pays a PR company a retainer of thousands of dollars a month in exchange for certain communications services. Mostly, this PR company is in charge of emailing everyone else about the company. What does the company want to read about itself? Maybe the complicated details of everything that is wrong with their culture? No.

The company wants to read something about how it is the best, the leader, the foremost product and/or service. And that’s exactly what PR companies type out. They pronounce it. They shout it from Midtown rooftops. If they shout it loud enough, maybe it becomes a little more true, as long as perception and reality live together in a penthouse downtown.

The Real Word from the CEO

Are they really the best? Maybe companies need to go through a teenage phase of depression and self-doubt. These massive money machines are the biggest offenders when it comes to typical, dull language. Their brands extend to the far corners of the globe and back. And all of them have real existential struggles (healthcare, profit margins, product creation, the environment) going on behind closed doors: ALL good stories, with a lot of drama, some of which will eventually find its way to an iTV near you. Unfortunately, most companies take the easy way out. They fling mush out into the digital void in hopes that the real comedy, tragedy, and history never leave the conference room IP phones.

Putting Your Bland Foot Forward

When there is nothing to say, say something. When there is something to say, it’s probably negative. Avoid it. These are the models that safe communicators live by. Of course, seeing language through a prophylactic film has always served big companies, big brands, and politicians. So why not let it serve you?

The answer: because sometimes you need to be remembered. Not always! Not usually! Be bland. Unless you can’t be. Sometimes, you’ll want the words you say to stick in someone, over even to make them do something. If that’s the case, it isn’t even the words you use so much (try not to use them up), but the way you use them, the motion of the verbal ocean, so to write.

New Definitions for Tired Signs

In honor of people, organizations, and companies that use language in bold new ways, I have a proposal. A few of these OVERSAID words deserve new definitions. Let’s give it to them hard.

solution (adj.) something that stinks of process.
SS 2013 Levi’s denim was very solution.

leading (adj.) being the drunkest person a party, or the craziest person of the night.
Daron was really leading tonight. We couldn’t even get a cab because he flashed all of 6th Ave.

creative (n.) the worst of the large collection of something awful.
At Flushing Dynasty Foods, the spring rolls were basically the creative. They tasted like towels.

Do you have your own new definitions for tired signs? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Recent Posts

A Conversation about Ergonomic Futures

Lafayette Anticipation associate curator Anna Colin talks to artist Tyler Coburn about Ergonomic Futures, a speculative project engaged with art, design, science, anthropology and writing. In this interview, Coburn discusses the research, production process and network of collaborators of a multilayered project ultimately concerned with the futures of humankind. Anna Colin: When one comes across your museum seats Ergonomic Futures (2016—) in contemporary art exhibitions—and soon in natural history, fine art, and anthropology museums—they look… [read more »]

nils lange + saliva : l’eau des algues

L’Eau des Algues Two alchemists already aware of each other’s Instagrams meet for the first time in a gay sauna. They are swimming; it’s the Hood By Air afterparty in Paris. They are Lukas Hofmann and Nils Amadeus Lange. Months later, they meet again. They are on the edge of yet another steaming pool; it’s the Manifesta Biennale closing event at Cabaret Voltaire. They are performing the perfume titled “L’eau des Algues.” Head notes: Zürich… [read more »]

Toward a Low Key Voting System Where Votes Are Actually Considered | Adrian Massey

While reading A Very Short Introduction to Game Theory, I came across the following passage, “If you want people to vote, we need to move to a more decentralized system in which every vote really does count enough to outweigh the lack of enthusiasm for voting which so many people obviously feel…Simply repeating the slogan that ‘every vote counts’ isn’t ever going to work, because it isn’t true.” I was jarred. For me, anecdotally knowing… [read more »]

Tough Luck | Tyler Reinhard

When life is being super unfair, just do what we all do: suffer the consequences. I wake up and the first thing I do is check my phone. A convenient euphemism for using Facebook’s machine learning techniques to discover which 300 entries are statistically most likely to stand out from the tens of thousands of brain dumps my friends and family have produced over the last 48 hours. Impressed by what Facebook provides, I think… [read more »]

America Is Hard to See: A Guide to not being depressed about US electoral politics this November

In order to make sense of state politics in the birthplace of statistical marketing and the internet, one has to be wary of the effects of these technologies on the country’s popular media. In a time when our news and advertisements are tailored to our pre-recorded political opinions, it can be especially difficult to empathize with differing political views. Likewise, learning about the histories of state politics is not encouraged by platforms that profit from… [read more »]

On self-care and the election | Eva Saelens

We can get together and laugh about it. We can heave sighs and express disbelief, but it’s never enough. This presidential election year has lasted for years, and they sit on citizens like a slick film. We feel touched by an unshakable germ, invaded by a blood-sucker, afflicted by a social cancer, drained of the plump vitality of life and the amazing liberty of choices, and transformed into a cynical, depressed shrivel. After being touched… [read more »]

Swarovski Crystal Meth at National Sawdust

Swarovski Crystal Meth, a collaboration between Ser Serpas, Daniela Czenstochowski and Gia Garrison for the National Sawdust “Selkie Series” performances, curated by Alexandra Marzella. Music composed and produced by Daniela Czenstochowski Poem by Sera Serpas Sound Edit Mateo Majluf Vocals Sera Serpas, Gia Garrison and Daniela Czenstochowski All Images Olimpia Dior i went to the desert con mi mama outlet store shopping is fried onto mi conciensa, big bags, wins bigger losses fragmented lux economy… [read more »]

Hasbeens and Willbees Auction @ Romeo Gallery

Shop items from the most recent Hasbeens and Willbees luxury auction now! Featuring Bjarne Melgaard, Bror August, Women’s History Museum, Lou Dallas, Hermes, Gautier, and more. All photography Dillon Sachs Styling Avena Gallagher Hosted by Rome Gallery NYC


What is a piece of clothing that “works”? Who is working whom? Is the one who poses the one who actually “works” hardest? The S/S 2017 collection of Berlin-based, Swedish- Vietnamese designer NHU DUONG entitled ‘WORK COLLECTION’ plays with the ideas of professionalism, leisure and appropriateness through a range of garments that are inspired by work outfits and hobby uniforms. Overalls, raw denim outfits, kung-fu pyjamas, biker pants, baggy tights and gloves, bomber-jackets, bomber suits,… [read more »]

Preparing to Welcome the Chthulucene | Agustina Zegers

Preparing to Welcome the Chthulucene is a text made up of living exercises to accompany Haraway’s theorization of the Chthulucene and her upcoming book Staying With the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Haraway posits that not only should we name the Anthropocene carefully (including the terms Capitalocene and Plantationocene within its narrative) but that we should also be using this crucial ecological timeframe to move towards a dynamically multi-species, “sym-chtonic“, sym-poietic future: the Chthulucene.… [read more »]