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Media’s Titles Are Often Just Insignificant Semantics

Earlier this week, I read a very insightful blog by Darrah MacLean, a copywriter at Smith-Harmon, a digital marketing services agency and a unit of Responsys, about how the media — and the general public — have adopted “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” as shopping “holidays.” His overall take on both is that they’re both pretty weak monikers, mostly negative and even a little lame (particularly the outdated-sounding “Cyber Monday”).

I’d agree with Darrah to an extent. Especially the negativity that comes from the first term, which he pointed out was originally coined after the stock market crash of 1987. Except when applied to African-Americans, the word “black” is usually negative, so there’s really little positive to be found in the expression, “Black Friday.” I also agree with Darrah that “cyber” anything is old and outdated. I vividly recall about 13 years ago somebody telling me in what was then a new tool called email that I should loosen up and “get cyber!” Old stuff now.

But here’s where I disagree: Darrah and some of the people who wrote replies to his blog suggest that “Black Friday” should just be referred to as the “day after Thanksgiving sale” or something more positive or better descriptive. To that I ask, What’s in a title? Do consumers really care?

Darrah said in his blog that when he entered a J. Crew store that day, a clerk said “welcome to Black Friday.” Would that have led Darrah or the average consumer to panic and scream “Yikes! I’m gettin’ outta here!” and to bolt? No. All consumers want are the bargains. What do they care about media-induced semantics? If I knew that all the stores in the local mall were offering all their merchandise at, say, 75% off with no exceptions (which would be about the only way to get me to shop on Black Friday), I really wouldn’t care if they called it “F**k-Off Friday.” A bargain’s a bargain.

If my memory’s correct, I believe the first football championship game to be called the “Super Bowl” was the third one when the Jets stunned the Colts. Does that mean that the Packers, who won the first two championships between the NFL and the old AFL, never won a Super Bowl? Of course not. Just semantics spread by the media.

Is Anything Really ‘Interesting?’

I tend to be a very no-nonsense kind of editor. As I just mentioned to someone this morning, with rare exception, I’ll always delete the word “interesting” from any article, because it’s a way for the writer or person being quoted to say something about some-thing or somebody when they really have nothing noteworthy to say. If you read that something’s interesting, does that really mean anything to you? Neither does Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Just insignificant semantics.

Labels and titles can be nice (“Super Bowl” makes the winning team feel truly “super”); they can be quite revealing (“Mother’s Day,” “Father’s Day”). But with the two recent shopping “holidays,” I believe they can be mostly inconsequential.

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