“It was the greatest week ever,” writes Shane Hegarty, reflecting a week full of extraordinary sporting feats, from the America’s Cup comeback to a new record in the marathon, to an Irish sporting classic: “the greatest hurling final ever.” Not to mention “the greatest television finale ever – Breaking Bad’s – which was considered a fitting climax to the greatest television series ever.”
The Irish Times columnist continues: “Yes, it was the greatest week ever. Just like the week before. And the weeks before that. Because we live in the greatest age for the superlative, with a constant need to rate, to ratify, to list, to define, to greet highs as if they are peaks.”
Why all the great-inflation? “Exaltation seems a particular symptom of modern culture, a symptom of a world in which everything must be approved, rated and, occasionally, held up for ridicule or glorification. Which is why, when avoiding the absolutes, journalists instead reach for glorification. Instead of the greatest or the best, matches become ‘epic’ and people ‘legendary’,” Hegarty writes.
One slippery, lazy slice of hyperbole enrages Hegarty particularly.
There is one adjective many consider to be the most overused in modern journalism, a word attached to sporting results that are even mildly out of the ordinary – to any achievement that is kind of noteworthy enough.
It is the term “historic”. That truly is the worst word. Ever.
See also: 20 cliches of journalism.