That Thing Thing Again

September 26, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

“I swear they're going through their whole families, just checking on everybody from the tsunami thing . . . [I] overhear from somewhere, ‘Ooooh Ching Chong Ling Long Ting Tong, Ooohhhhh’.” That was part of a rant posted in 2011 on YouTube by a UCLA student complaining about Asian students using their cell phones in the library when she was trying to study. The video went viral, and the PC police swarmed in with justifiable accusations of racism. She soon deleted the video.

My comment (here) was not so much about racism as about a single word –  “thing.”  Turning “the tsunami” into “the tsunami thing” says in effect, “I don’t know or care much about this because it’s not very important.” Even The Language Log took note.

So I couldn’t help but notice this headline in today’s New York Times.

The story is about public relations agents whose efforts to get their clients’ events widely noticed these past two days were swamped under the flood of Pope coverage in the media.

But spare a thought for that handful of souls for whom the papal visit on Friday was less pleasure than plight. We speak of those who toil in public relations, and struggled to have their entreaties heard on this holiest of busy news days.

These are their lamentations.

Consider the 11 a.m. announcement of a new dog park in Astoria, Queens, a $1 million project sure to delight local canines and their owners, but less able to compete for headlines alongside Francis’ visit to the National September 11 Memorial, which was scheduled for roughly the same hour.

“It didn’t really cross my mind until yesterday how many reporters were going to be covering this pope thing,” said Shachar Sharon, communications director for Councilman Costa Constantinides, who hosted the event. [emphasis added]

“That kind of put a damper on things,” she added.

Adding “thing” to a noun insults those who take that thing seriously. You’d think that a public relations specialist would show some tact. But Ms. Sharon probably didn’t think that her choice of phrases would get into the newspaper. After all, she was merely talking to a reporter, not doing the PR thing.

1 comment:

Vikas said...

That punchline is fantabulous!