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In my left hand is a partially full cup of coffee that was purchased from self-service coffee machine at one of the Franklin County Department of Jobs and Family Services offices.

It reads:

AVI’s pursuit of the world’s best tasting cup of coffee took us to South America’s premier coffee plantations where the world’s highest quality Arabica coffee beans are grown in sunbathed splendor and nurtured by gentle tropical rains.

Today this treasure is yours, as our Arabica coffee beans are roasted to excellence, bursting with flavour, then freshly ground and brewed for each cup of coffee.

There isn’t a fresher, richer, more robust, full-bodied and better-tasting cup of coffee anywhere.

This claim is so chocked full of superlatives that you’d think I was drinking a silky golden cup of brown orgasm fit only for diplomats and royalty, and that maybe just maybe an anonymous man’s little pinky had its nail ripped off just before he was made–at gunpoint–to slowly remove his own hand at the wrist with a hacksaw — all for no real point or reason other than to bring me this unmatchable cup of coffee via a vending machine.

As such, it seems hard to not deduce that the writing on this cup is at worst an outright marketing lie or at best a highly dubious supposition.

I mean, coffee from a vending machine offers the pinnacle of coffee-drinking experience on planet Earth?

If there isn’t a fresher, richer, more robust, full-bodied and better-tasting cup of coffee anywhere, then what about all these chain coffee shops and restaurants like Caribou, Cup o Joe, Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonalds, Starbucks, etc. that not only charge way more money per cup (150-200% more), but their coffee’s brewed fresh, facilitated by people, instead of a machine?

Isn’t it pretty much a given that coffee brewed fresh is better than instant coffee eked through the large squareness of a vending machine?

Although it’s rather common in food and restaurant marketing to state that so-and-so uses only the freshest ingredients in their product, it does not stop there.

My recently purchased Serta mattress boasts: We Make the World’s Best Mattress.

This is trademarked!

Nowhere on their website is it easy to find out how they makes this claim, though through a little digging you’ll find that it goes on to state “Our commitment to quality has made us a leader in the industry…”

A leader? How about THE leader? Wouldn’t that equate much more easily with the implicit view of manufacturing THE World’s Best Mattress?

Where is the measuring stick for the use of summit-laden descriptions here?

Or for that matter, what qualifies as the world’s best mattress?

If someone claims that there exists nowhere on this planet a cup of coffee (or mattress) that is fresher (or better) than theirs, and I find one, can sue them for false advertising?

Is the burden of proof to find the truth in this claim on me, the consumer, or them, the producer/provider?

Other examples include QFM 96.3, Ohio’s Best Rock station.

Best how?

Best why?

It does not state why, nor does it seem to care. It’s a radio station out of Columbus, Ohio, and it declares itself to be the best in entire state. (Given that their website offers a Babe of the Day, it’s hard to fathom their caring about this pressing lexical issue.)

Ohio’s Best Rx, a discount pharmaceutical prescription card, Ohio’s Best Massage, America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses, America’s Best Distance Education, America’s Best Flowers, America’s Best Inns and Suites.

All of these state they are the best or they have just appropriated the word best into the title of their companies. (Have some fun and google your state or country’s name and Best. Chances are someone’s cashing in on this powerful and meaningless word.)

None of them claim how or why they are the best.

(Incidentally, 4 out of 5 of these have either a picture or colors of the American flag.)

If it’s not already, the word best is on the verge of becoming semantically bankrupt.

Marketing aside, even people are entranced by it. All over Faecebook in the past year , people have busted out their hyperbolic status updates and declare with a kind of endearing smugness: “Best. Movie. Ever.”

Or song, or video clip, or podcast or whatever.

Best. Whatever. Ever.”

Do we mean this? Or are we just lacking more precise adjectives?

I often state that the most profound and most ambitious American movie I have ever seen is Synecdoche, NY, and then go on to explain why. At some point later, someone will tell me that I said it was my favorite movie. Ever. Or that it was the best American movie I’ve ever seen. And I will lower my head, shake it slowly and try to force a grin (because it was not).

People seem to not really think about what they like and why, or at least not express the why. They just want to say it’s the best and move on. On the whole, We lack the ability to qualify our supreme categorizations.

However, this essentially meaningless best declaration is not without its power and persuasion.

Take for example the Icelandic political party called Besti Flokkurinn. Last year they leveraged the hell out of the most generic of all superlatives during a parliamentary election. Their political bullet points come out swinging:

(Translated from Icelandic by Peter John Buchan; thanks to Harper’s for bringing it to my attention.)

Our policies are the best policies.

ESTABLISH EQUALITY. Everyone deserves the best regardless of who they are and where they come from.We will do our best for everyone so that everyone can be together on the best team.

HELP HOUSEHOLDS IN THIS COUNTRY. Family is the best thing in society. […] Icelandic households deserve only the best.

FUNCTIONING DEMOCRACY: Democracy is pretty good, but a functioning democracy is best. That’s why we want it.

CANCEL ALL DEBTS: We listen to the nation and do as it wishes because the nation knows what’s best for itself.

STOP CORRUPTION. We promise to stop corruption. We’ll accomplish this by participating in it openly.

INCREASE TRANSPARENCY: It’s best to have everything aboveboard so that the general public knows what is going on.

IMPROVE THE LOT OF THOSE WHO ARE LESS ABLE TO HELP THEMSELVES. We want the best of everything for this bunch and therefore offer free access to buses and swimming pools so you can travel around Reykjavik and be clean even if you’re poor or there’s something wrong with you.

(There’s more to their philosophically political blurbs, but you get the idea.)

Basically, they state the obvious, even to the point of absurdity (FREE DENTAL CARE FOR CHILDREN AND CRIPPLES. This is something that is lacking, and we definitely want to take part in promising it), throw a bunch of unsubstantiated superlatives in there, and then BAM!, pull of a 34.7 percent win in parliamentary seats.

Even the name of the party Besti Flokkurinn translates as “Best Party”.

The point here seems to be that no matter how empty this word becomes, it will still possess some sort of latent-but-powerful magnetic sway.

Remember: When you’re down and out, you’re the best.

And somehow, from some angle (most likely your own), you will be.

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KIP TOBIN's real name is Stephen Christopher Tobin, but no one really calls him that, not even his mom. His favorite letter is "i", which is also one his least favorite words; his favorite words tend to include euphonious consonants like Ls and Rs and Ss, such as surly luscious allure. He relocated to middle America last year. He writes fiction and nonfiction but will not tweet. He's currently working on his doctorate in Latin American Literatures and Cultures, studying the intersection of the body, vision and media in contemporary Hispanic Science Fiction . If asked, he will tell you that S. Gautauma pretty much summed 'er all up when he said: All things are transient. Work out your own salvation. He's constantly in that latter process, all the while trying to become as present and aware as he possibly can in this world of simulacra and simulations. You can leave a message on the board here and he will try to get to back with you. His alter ego sometimes posts music mixes on Tip Robin's Mega Maxi Music Mix Mash (tiprobin.blogspot.com), which is unsearchable on the internet and something of a micro, gotta-be-in-the-know phenomenon. He's no longer a part of the social networking revolution. The revolution, it seems, will not be televised but rather streamed, and he hopes he's not watching it. He wishes everyone good luck whenever he can. Good luck.

46 responses to “Brief Middlebrow Realizations of Post-postmodernity #2: The Inevitable Decline of the Generic Superlative “Best””

  1. Wes says:

    Synechdoche was the WORST movie I’ve seen; I know that much.

    Thanks for turning me on to the “Babe of the Day”

    • Kip Tobin says:

      Wow, here you are, first comment, proving exactly what I was trying to nudge people into explaining, i.e. the hows and whys of your opinion. (Incidentally, an early draft of this had my mentioning the same applies to Worst, but I thought the Brief part of this so-called series was too long, so I axed it.)

      About halfway through Synechdoche, NY(which is a literary trope that means one thing can be substituted for another, like if you think someone’s smart and you call him a “brain”, then you’re using a synechdoche to describe him, and I think Kaufman’s meaning was that his film was representative to all of contemporary post-modern life), I thought, what the hell am I watching? Then I finished it. It was unsettling, so much so that I started researching what some of it could have meant, like why Samantha Morton’s house was burning throughout the film and why it eventually killed her, why there was a man who followed around Caden for much of the film (the Jungian shadow), why did time seem so warped? etc.), and I spent at least a few hours looking into it. Then I watched it again. It was, in a very real way, the most sprawling, humanistic film I’ve ever seen, trying to explain life in a little over two hours, in all its complications, confusion, joy, horror, death, sex, frustration, love, loneliness, etc. No other film has ever attempted and succeeded at portraying life as it is.

      Having said that, it’s by no means my favorite film, nor do I think it’s easy to watch nor that I will watch it again any time soon. It’s not a cult classic, it does not even try to really entertain or follow the typical three-act arc, nor is it really funny or very linear at points. It is a squirrelly piece of genius, and I doubt I will see another film soon that will compare to what it attempted and accomplished.

      So, please, Wes, now that I’ve shared my why and how, explain to me why and how Synechdoche, NY was the worst film you’ve ever seen?

  2. Thank you for this superlative soup. I agree we’d all benefit from a reduction in hyperbole these days–although I admit being guilty of this in my writings as well. Unfortunately, it seems that the overuse of superlatives has created a situation in which using appropriate adjectives seems mundane. I really like when you point out that people can’t qualify why they make such declarations of supremacy. While I can’t say it is the sole contributor (obviously hyper-capitalist marketing plays a huge role), I think our era of neoliberalism, which has sacrificed critical thinking on the altar of standardized tests, has helped this trend. Now lacking the ability to state a qualitative analysis of their experiences, people are now only able to express a perceived quantitative value.

    • Kip Tobin says:

      Excellent technical analysis, Robert.

      Your “using appropriate adjectives seems mundane” as a result of overusing superlatives, well, that’s spot on (if that is indeed the cause). Personally, I love adjectives and trying to find the precise one, well, I don’t find it mundane but rather an attempt at trying to convey human emotion, which is for some reason really difficult in spite of the fact that I’m armed with Shorter Oxford Dictionaries, all the information at my fingertips, etc.

      There seems to be an inherent impasse when it comes to language, one that always attempts at getting at true meaning of human experience and, at least in most of my experiences as a human being, always falls short. Sometimes I think touch is more honest.

      “Now lacking the ability to state a qualitative analysis of their experiences, people are now only able to express a perceived quantitative value.”

      Too true, sadly.

  3. Mark Eccles says:

    Hey Kip, firstly, thanks for the wonderful music you have been posting, my wife now thinks I have some taste!

    I think you’re finding in the word Best that which is rife throughout language itself…..that it is disappearing. Soon the words on the page will all be meaningless and we can all get on with being far more direct in our communication…osmosis is the new written word. Today I thought about a woman in my class, “you are a facist hag” and the next minute she started talking about Hitler, it was amazing! It won’t be long, we are the first generation for this, maybe 200 years more and there will be no more “best” nor indeed language!

    Good luck with your studies

    Mark

    • Megan says:

      The Tip mixes are my main source of non-illegal music. Aren’t they amazing?

      • Tip Robin says:

        non-illegal?

        is it in fact non-illegal? i have often wondered about that. my internal logic says that it is not because i am not charging anyone for it, but my intuition says that giving away music for free is illegal, so i’m a bit dichotomous regarding the whole thing.

    • Kip Tobin says:

      Thanks Mark! I’m glad to know your wife thinks you’re rocking the good stuff. Ole’ Tip loves spreading good music, so I’m happy to hear about it.

      I can’t wait until we no longer need language at all. Oh wait, my bones will be long rotted and have turned to dust. Well, I am happy to contribute to the killing of all language.

  4. Wes says:

    Way to put me on the spot, Kip. That’s what I get for a seemingly short and to-the-point comment in your hood, I guess.

    I’ve always thought Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space was widely considered the “worst” movie of all time but now I see it just won the Golden Turkey. Coincidentally, one of my best friends shares the lead character’s full name.

    Ok, well, I went to the theater in Madrid to see it because I was a big Charlie Kaufman fan. I sat through it, enjoying it until maybe the 40% mark, at which point I realized I was watching an entirely self-indulgent piece of crap, so well-demonstrated by the last 10 minutes or so of the film. No longer was Mr. Kauffman introducing weird or quirky happenings, a la Realismo Magico for the sake of plot, but seemingly just to throw them out there. At the end, I felt I’d been gypped and so had the studio.

    Now, I didn’t get the back story behind his intentions that you explained above. No one handed out artist statements before the film. Why? Well, because like I say with other media, good art shouldn’t require an artist statement for you to enjoy / understand it. Listening to interviews or reading more about intent should be a way for fans to dig deeper and not be required for the piece to survive.

    That, of course is my opinion and hardcore conceptualists would vehemently disagree, but just like “best” or “worst” it’s a subjective opinion and the world is full of them, my friend.

    The key is to figure out who’s “bests” and “worsts” you lend more credence to in a world where everyone is trying to sell you their crap.

    I’ll close with an excerpt from one of the reviews of the film on Netflix:

    “…the writer has been very ambitious in his effort to make something that is beyond film but in doing so the very essence of why a film is made is lost. If this movie is genius I am glad to be a person of modest intelligence.”

  5. Kip Tobin says:

    Wes,

    I certainly had no intention of turning this into a Synechdoche, NY defense commentary, but I believe the film deserves being talked about. I have no intention of battling out why I think the ending works very well for the film, why it was in no way representative of Magical Realism, why the fact that I researched it only enhanced my understanding of the film and why researching a film can be a good thing. In some ways, it was like Lynch’s Mullholland Drive, another film that requires several viewings and some conversation in order to get your head around it. I’ve heard this “you shouldn’t have to do research after seeing a film” argument before. All I can say is, anything that inspires one to contemplate it more and from different angles, well, now that’s not just a film but an existential experience.

    I think this boils down to why a moviegoer, personally, goes to see a film. I like most any kind of film that makes me think, that prods me on to consider my own life from a different perspective, that challenges to not take things at face value, that puts something in front of me that says, “I’m a puzzle, put me together.” I understand that many people don’t want such a challenge, largely because most people pay to see a film because they want to forget about life, not have to consider it.

    Any auteur has always either pushed the boundaries of what film means or recreated the form altogether. Kaufman has done both, quite simply, accomplishing what no one else ever has in American film. And that has to be worth some sort of superlative, such as, I dunno, “most profound and ambitious American film I’ve ever seen”.

    Having said all this, I can very much understand someone’s reaction that would reject it altogether, experimental forms always cause this rift. So I certainly don’t fault anyone for not exulting as I do.

  6. Megan says:

    You mega-analyze the oddest things. Or should I say best. Your mulling ability never disappoints.

    “Meaningless yet powerful” is a superb way to describe current usage of the word ‘best’.

    My sister recently showed me her new British Columbia driver’s license and in the top left corner it says “The Best Place on Earth”. Which I found shocking a) because humility is a national cultural value in Canada and b) this is not possible. There is no best place on earth. Not possible. Outlandish to even claim such thing. Insulting to neighboring provinces. Rude

    Synechdoche was one of the most difficult movies I’ve ever tried – all the way through – to process.
    Maybe when we say ‘best’ these days, we are implicitly implying a degree of difficulty/complexity overcome on the path to extreme enjoyment. This difficulty could manifest as cost, comprehension, access, etc.

    As a marketing term, it only implies corporate confidence in the quality of the product. “We think it’s the best, and we deign to say so since we have to go the trouble of x,y,z”

    You think?

  7. Tip Robin says:

    Thanks (I think) for the props. I think that I try really hard to find something that has not been covered, and then go with it. It doesn’t always work, and lord knows that in trying to amass examples I end up spending enough time investing in it. Maybe this is the researcher in me? Hopefully this will pan out as I research Cortazar and other LatAm lit.

    I agree that marketing loves this terms, although I will say that I found that all of the aforementioned coffee shops and restaurants did not actually state their coffee was the best. It was only the shitty, vending machine coffee that said so.

    This, along with the fact that 4 out of 5 of the “Best” businesses described above had American flags somewhere in their logo, leads me to believe that the emotive power of the US flag combined with the word “best” create a powerful and mesmerizing patriotic button-pushing extravaganza, virtually entrancing users into thinking that the the US is the best. (Of course there are many reasons why enough people think so, but this could seemingly contribute.)

    I feel like it really dumbs down the product. As i was trying to say in paragraph two, other, arguably smarter or more seasoned marketers, tend to write up flashy prose, avoiding blanket superlative labels. And how does it (not mentioning Best or any other superlative -est) come off? Pretty snazzy, sophisticated, smart.

    The other stuff is bush league marketing, but of course it works.

    • Megan says:

      Agreed – ‘best’ as a marketing term is just lazy. Anyone can claim that. Yawn.

      I saw like an oatbran cereal commercial this morning and the tagline was “You won’t like it.” I respond more to that. Like those Buckley’s ads: “Tastes bad. And it works.” That gets my attention.

      This is definitely the researcher in you. You were made for getting down on the carpet and examining the fibers with a magnifying glass.

      Get your doctorate on.

  8. Lenore says:

    so many words that used to have meaning have been hijacked. i’ve been quite bothered by people throwing around the word “epic” lately. that word used to mean something, damnit. nice to see you back, kip.

    • Kip Tobin says:

      Dear Lenore:

      Oh how I have missed our digital dispatches.

      And oh oh how I will miss them once again — I will be back but only for two more posts that will be put forth in the next three weeks

      when school will finally be back in full force and I will be mired in reading, teaching and reading. Hopefully I’ll get some exercise, rest and coitus in the time inbetween.

      Epic is horrendous, unless it’s used in its context and sparingly. I had a British friend who, whenever something was negative, he went straight to “horrendous”. I once busted out hellacious in pseudo mockery/homage to his horrendous, and he said, “What was that?” Had never heard hellacious. Apparently it’s underused in Britian.

      Hellaciously horrendous.

      Here’s something I wonder if you’ve noticed:

      In a conversation with anyone with a collegial educational background you serve up a word that is not very used, such as, let’s say, impermanent, integral, inarguable (instead of unarguable) primogenitor or loquacious. Of course this can be any slightly neglected word but these are just some examples I am thinking about that pertain to conversations I’ve had. In the course of that conversation, shortly after having used said word, the person I’m talking to will repeat it in their own conversation!

      I love it. What this tells me is we tend to fixate on words and that subconsciously we are very affected by how others speak.

      Hope all is hale with you, and your August has been august.

      k*

      • Lenore says:

        i have noticed that. humans like to relate to each other so we mirror the people we interact with, even in speech. it’s a thing.

        and what a tease, to come back only momentarily. though, i understand. i’ve been drowning in my postdoc and studying for my boards and all that shit. plus, the self-pity takes up at least a few hours every day. anyway, i hope you get some of that coitus before you have to read more.

  9. Zara Potts says:

    I always enjoy your posts, Kip.

    I’m with you on the ridiculous use of hyperbole. In my country, we have an advertising campaign which, while not claiming to be the best, does state that New Zealand is ‘100% clean and 100% green.” This is just bullshit. It may be true in some places but 100% would suggest everywhere, right?

    Which brings me to my next hated phrase. When someone says ‘I gave it 120 percent.” Isn’t this actually impossible? Isn’t 100 percent the most you can give? I don’t know, maybe I’m being pedantic.

    And finally -trademarking. Ugh. Our national phone company once tried to trademark the colour yellow. And Cadbury (the chocolate maker) has, in fact, trademarked the colour purple. Absurd.

    • Dana says:

      You are 100% correct Zara. Of course you can earn 110% on an investment (HA!) but you can never give more than all. It seems like athletes in particular suffer from over 100% syndrome.

      Math is hard.

    • dwoz says:

      Relativism is the new Real.

      Deal.

      Embrace it.

    • Kip Tobin says:

      Post-relativism will be the next Relativism.

    • Kip Tobin says:

      Thanks Zara!

      That’s incredible, that New Zealand tourist slogan. The more I really think about it, the more I think that no one really takes marketing seriously. I mean, how can they? They are paid to embellish the real, the shine the tarnished, to make everything seem absolutely perfect. This is probably why when Megan mentioned below that the Taylor ad says: “Tastes bad. And it works.” or the other one about “You probably won’t like it.” I feel that here wherever we are in postmodernism (or post-postmodernism) we are simply becoming so desensitized tom commercials and advertising that they need to be ironic to get our attention. We are almost jaded to the point where all our language needs to be inverted so that they’ll get our attention. Spooky but probably true.

      I can’t say I’ve heard 120%, though I was inundated with it when I participated in sports in high school. Sports are brimming with inspirational cliches such as these. I had no idea it upped itself a whole 10% since the late 80s. Damn. Why not just say a “gazuberjillion percent”? It would be fun, at least a couple of time, to use that word, maybe it would turn into a neologism.

      • Zara Potts says:

        I am going to take gazuberjillion and run with it. I’m going to give it 120%.

        • Kip Tobin says:

          “Gazuberjillion” might just catch on.

          You’re 120% reminds me of an inspirational “poem” that I used to recite when I wrestled in high school and needed some inspiration that rhymed. It’s really bad, but I feel compelled to include it here, especially if you’re actually making the verbal commitment to give 120% effort. You will invariably have moments where you you want to give less, but I would urge to not do that. Read this poem. Memorize it. Become it. And then keep on full tilt at your 120%. Anything less would be utter failure, like giving in to the terrorists’ demands.

          Don’t Quit

          When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
          When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
          When funds are low and the debts are high,
          And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
          When care is pressing you down a bit,
          Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.

          Life is queer with its twists and turns,
          As every one of us sometimes learns,
          And many a failure turns about,
          When he might have won if he’d stuck it out.
          Don’t give up, though the pace seems slow –
          You may succeed with another blow.

          Often the goal is nearer than
          It seems to a faint and faltering man;
          Often the struggler has given up
          When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
          And he learned too late, when the night slipped down,
          How close he was to the golden crown.

          Success is failure turned inside out –
          The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
          And you never can tell how close you are –
          It may be near when it seems afar;
          So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit –
          It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Thanks a gazurbajillion Kip… I’m going to memorise that poem and you can be certain that when I quote it I will give it 150%.

  10. dwoz says:

    Penultimate is the new Best.

    • Kip Tobin says:

      Good to know. I learned that word about five years ago when I first moved to Spain and someone told me, “Dile al conductor que te bajes en la penultima parada”. I then knew penultimate, and upon returning would bust out penultimate, usually to an expectant look of “what does that mean?”

      Words are trendy. Very much so.

      I remember watching Inside the Actor’s Studio with Clint Eastwood. He was asked, “What’s your least favorite word?” He said, “ubiquitous” presumably because it was a very flashy word at the time.

      Pedestrian is another penultimate if you ask me. I’ve heard it quite frequently since I’ve been back in the states.

  11. Dana says:

    Nicely done Kip. Overuse of the word best has rendered it meaningless. Someone I know well suffers from bestitis. It drives me absolutely nuts. He states his best with such authority (and rarely expands on why he feels that way about this gadget or that restaurant) and of course a week later it’s been replaced by the new best thing. Ridiculous!

    That said, Best in Show is the best. movie. ever.

  12. Dana says:

    crap. I screwed up my boldy text. Solly!

  13. Kip Tobin says:

    I am very happy you have a friend that has bestitis, as it sort or corroborates myth theory I tried to put forth here.

    When I lived in Spain I always thought Spaniards had superitis, constantly using the prefix super-. Superguay, supermercado, superlargo, etc. A friend and I once changed through in uber, which of course went over well with the expats, and then, of course, I start hearing that a lot. I used to want to try and speaking originally but have since given up on that. No matter you say or do that seems original to you, well, someone else will already have done it before you or it will be imitated. The bastards.

    Here in postmodernism we are doomed or damned to repeat what’s been done for the rest of our lives. Shakespeare created all the original plots; Ulysses maxed out stream of consciousness and all we have left in the mainstream is NCISI (and other poorly made variants) that all seem alike, the obligatory hospital show, the sitcom, the familiar novel, sampled music, guitar rock with three power chords, static house music and pop divas that model their careers on out-Madonna-ing Madonna.

    I’m not cynical, as you might think, but rather accepting of it. There are those who push the envelope, the current forms, and bring us closer to something new or at least expanded.

  14. Gloria says:

    Oregon+Best didn’t return anything oustanding. I could find all the Best Westerns in the state on the first page of results, but the very first result returned was for Oregon BEST, a sustainable energy development company. And BEST is an acronym. I’m kind of proud of that.

    Of course, we do have 900,000 Seattle’s Best coffee shops here, so there’s that.

    • Kip Tobin says:

      One potential reason: The Northwest is much more sophisticated/cosmopolitan (Seattle) and progressive (Portland) with their vernacular, and I doubt they will ever stoop to such LCD levels as just throwing it in there without much thought.

      The fact that they use BEST as an acronym for an sustainable energy company speaks volumes of their inside knowledge of the power of the word while at the same time the need to keep it on the down low in terms of self-asserting some sort of sentimental and unsubstantiated “We are best” tripe.

      Excuse my ignorance, but Seattle’s Best has more coffee shops than Starbucks? Or maybe just their presence is larger in the greater metropolitan area.

      • Gloria says:

        Seattle’s Best is a subsidiary of Starbuck’s they are The Borg.

        • Gloria says:

          Starbucks, those fuckers, actually surreptitiously buy up all of the local chains that aren’t publicly traded – and even some that are. So that there are a handful of established “local” brands around these parts that are actually owned by the juggernaut Starbucks. Peet’s coffee, which is actually the best coffee, is an exception. Starbucks probably could make them an offer the couldn’t refuse, but for whatever reason, that hasn’t happened. If I’m going to go into a coffee shop, I prefer to pick one that there is only one of, a little guy (and in these parts there are fifty thousand million of those.) (I like to use hyperbole much more than I like superlatives.)

          We’re very serious about our coffee in the Northwest.

  15. Richard Cox says:

    Man, I am so with you on this. It’s why I hate almost all marketing. I hate overused superlatives. And I also hate ridiculous claims, things that defy logic, like “Extra strength Tylenol is stronger than regular strength Bayer aspirin.”

    Oh, really? Well, apples are fruitier than oranges, fuckface!

    That being said, I’m guilty of using certain superlatives in a (supposedly) ironic way. I’m one of Lenore’s hated “epic” overusers. I started doing it because it felt different, and now everyone is using it and it’s become trite.

    In the same vein, I am terribly sick of the Hipstamatic photo effect. It was cool the first time I saw it. But look, asshole, I know your picture was taken yesterday with your Sony point and click, so what’s the point of making it look so low-fi? Especially when everyone is doing it?

    Can I categorize this comment as a “rant” the way you can with a regular post? Because that’s what this is.

    Thanks for getting me all riled up, Kip. This was the best.post.ever.

    • Zara Potts says:

      I have stolen ‘absurd’ from you. I’ll pay you a royalty every time I use it.

    • Tip Robin says:

      Cox-

      I had short paragraph that explained that in Philosophy 101 in my college, a class called Critical Thinking, was exactly what you mention with regards to one thing being better than another. Slippery slopes, red herrings, induction analogies, authoritative arguments, celebrity endorsements – all techniques used by marketing in order to move product. All of them and many more are deceptively persuasive, especially if you don’t think about it. As you also said, “25% more!” always presupposes “…than what? – the former version of this same product, the other, competetive product? What?” They never say, yet the consumer is led to believe that they’re getting a good deal.

      “I started doing it because it felt different, and now everyone is using it and it’s become trite.” Definitely the time to change the word. I’ve always been prefential to gargantuan, elephantine or behemoth in terms of very large, and colossal in terms of huge more in the sense of sprawling, extensive, impacting. As I mentioned to Lenore, I find that when I use them, I hear them repeated to me almost immediately. They catch on. I hope that in one year you come back and say, “Everyone’s using colossal epically.”

      I’ve recently heard and read “pedestrian” (adj) and “to ape” (v) with a lot of frequency. I would guess there’s some sort of Lexus Nexus query we could do to find out the frequency of these occurrences and with other words in media. Would be very telling.

  16. Simon Smithson says:

    This is the best thing I have ever read.

    I think I stopped paying attention to marketing (consciously) when I started thinking about a commercial I’d seen for some headache medicine. Big red lines were rampaging through someone’s head, and the pill they took was a blue lake that flooded over the red lines and simply soothed them out of existence.

    And I thought Hey… Hey wait a second! There are no red lines in my head! These fuckers are trying to put one over on me!

    Then again, I hate it when I see a sign for a hot dog and think Man… I want that fuckin’ hot dog.

    Assholes.

    Have you read/learned/heard much about Bernays?

  17. Tip Robin says:

    Bernays from Wiki: “He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the ‘herd instinct’ that Trotter had described.”

    I need read no more to know what he did. Uber Motherscratchin’ A-hole. Though, if he hadn’t, someone else would have, for sure.

    I think that about 80% of all marketing is either a lie, a falsification, an exaggeration, a misinformation, a deception or, as this Bernays intended, a manipulation. Hell, all of it is in some way manipulating and much of it is egregiously so. The other 20% is just trying to sell a product, like a sale events and Buy One Get 1/2 of Another Free kind of deal.

    Feckin’ heck, Smithson, now I want a hotdog.

    You really got me now.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Bernays was Freud’s nephew, or something along those lines (I forget exactly what, and am too lazy to check the entry). But yeah. What a manipulative asshole.

      I hope it’s the best hotdog eve-

      DAMN IT!

  18. JG says:

    There’s a restaurant in Westerville named The Best. I’ve been there. I think it should be called The Meh.

  19. Erika Rae says:

    I love ridiculous things like coffee from a vending machine that makes such grandiose claims. Had I been the recipient, I would have been giggling about it all day and telling every single person I came across. Probably would have kept that cup for a week or so before I found it, inadvertently mashed on the floor of my car. Why? Exactly for the reasons you expounded on.

    Remember: When you’re down and out, you’re the best.

    Love it.

  20. benita canova says:

    Best. Blog. Ever.

  21. Your blogs normally have got alot of really up to date info. Where do you come up with this? Just saying you are very innovative. Thanks again

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