My Turn: Curbing word inflation

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Published: 1/28/2022 11:21:15 AM
Modified: 1/28/2022 11:19:57 AM

One of the major problems (other than COVID, though the virus certainly sticks its thumb into this ointment as well) which has recently dominated the news, both in print and on TV, and which has dramatically affected our daily lives is the staggering rate of inflation over the past year.

Most reports put it at around 7%. The last time inflation approached this level was back in 1982. I remember it vividly, because that was the year I bought my first house, and the mortgage rate was through the roof. A 30-year fixed rate hovered between 16% and 17%. To jog your memory a bit, this was the year that the Great Falkland Islands War was “raging,” gas was 91 cents per gallon, a first class postage stamp was 20 cents, and a bag of Cheese Puffs was 89 cents. The Dow closed at 1046, the average price of a new house was $82,200, and the average income was $21,050.

Despite prices at the supermarket rising astronomically, there is one commodity which is losing its value dramatically — words. The hackneyed phrase, “Words are cheap,” rings louder and truer than ever these days along with its popular rejoinder, “Actions speak louder than words.”

In order to help control this insidious trend in our “economy,” I am taking action and submitting a column with few words. I am doing so to help revive their value and reverse the crippling inflation rate seen on this page and all around us.

My parents brought me up constantly instructing me to be polite and courteous by saying, “Thank you,” “You’re welcome,” “Please,” “I’m sorry,” and other words of respect and gallantry when appropriate — and often when they weren’t appropriate in my opinion.

When I forgot or neglected to do so, I was called on the carpet and embarrassed in front of the person I offended with instructions such as, “Jonny, say, ‘Please’”, “Didn’t you forget something?”, “Don’t you say ‘Thank you?’”, or “Say ‘Excuse me.’” I would then blush, lower my head, and dutifully mumble the words apologetically.

During the last several years, however, I have noticed inflation rearing its ugly head. This degree of courtesy is nowhere near enough to put you in the good graces of others. The phrases I was taught have lost a great deal of their value and must be supplemented with endorsements to reach the appropriate level of acceptance.

“Thank you SO much,” is now the minimum deposit to show gratitude. “Thank you SO SO much,” is now the gold standard. The other day, I heard Hoda Kotb on the “Today Show” actually say, “Thank you SO SO SO much,” to one of her guests.

“You’re welcome.” has become, “You’re VERY VERY welcome.” “I’m sorry” has become “I’M SO VERY VERY sorry.”,and “Please” has become “Please, Please, Please.”

It’s no wonder that I have trouble keeping my columns within the prescribed word limit. The Recorder should maybe increase the “debt ceiling” in order to help keep the economy humming. I’ll do my part here and sign off succinctly. Thanks for your attention.

Jonathan Kahane lives in Westhampton.


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