Monday, August 25, 2008

Now More Than Ever

I thought this ugly concatenation had gone by the wayside, but yesterday a Chevy commerical made it apparent that this tenacious turn of phrase is not going to die quietly.

"Now More Than Ever!" began the announcer, and I hid my face because I knew spinning cars and fast cutting were on their way. (I can't stand spinning things in commercials.)



Now more than ever, Chevy can eat it.


History of "Now More Than Ever"

"Now more than ever..." has always been around as a (not perfectly) good way to start a sentence. It's a modifier that places something in time like "Once upon a time..." or "In today's economy..."

However, I am fairly certain the slogan version of this phrase ("Now More Than Ever!") is a product of the post-9/11 victim mentality. We were hurting, and the fallout from the tragedy caused us to pull together (for a little while). Everything, according to politicians and advertisers, had become more intense and poignant and imporatant than it had ever been in the history of our nation. And so, "Now More Than Ever" was born.

After the patriotism of post-9/11 died down, the politicians and advertisers were left with a catchy phrase. Yet there was no specific tragedy to which it could be applied after it had held such a noble office as the number one official post-9/11 slogan (followed close behind by "These Colors Don't Run.") They had to cheapen it somehow, make it more applicable to daily life. So they started by taking it down a notch, and applying it only to the things Americans take as almost seriously as patriotism and revenge -- their cars and their oil.

Today's Usage of "Now More Than Ever"

I first started seeing the less serious definition of "Now More Than Ever" in American car commercials, and more recently in commercials for gas stations (oil companies I guess).

I can't figure out what the meaning is -- we need cars now more than ever? We should buy American now more than ever? We need to spend money now more than ever? And the gas -- we should buy more, now more than ever, because we're fighting so hard for it?

How about, "Now More Than Ever..." and then "whatever we want you to believe or buy." And if you aren't convinced by "Now More Than Ever" the terrorists are going to find you.

I can't remember specific products because the "Now More Than Evers" have been pretty sparse lately, so if you remember any funny ones please feel free to add a comment and I'll post them.

I know I have seen it in commercials for household products (aimed at the housewife, i.e. "Now more than ever, you need more time...") I know there are a few albums by that title (can it be used as a title?). One of them is electronic music, so that title may be apt. I'm fairly certain it's been used to advertise weight loss products, and of course, in 2008 political speeches.

Taking Back a Useful Phrase

If used properly, in moderation, and without the intention of manipulating the public, "now more than ever" is an okay way to say just that: "Now more than ever..."

The first rule is, you have to say something AFTER you say "now more than ever." For years now we have accepted this sentence fragment as an embodiment of a whole idea, of an era, of our own struggle toward making things better. But that's all it is, a fragment. Now WHAT more than ever? And why now? It should be explained.

I found it doing noble work as a modifer (its proper job title) at a poverty-fighting organization: “Now more than ever, poor countries need a fair trade deal. Rising food and fuel prices are hitting the poorest hardest and undoing progress on poverty reduction.” They gave it a job, and they gave it an explanation. Bravo, Oxfam.

But I've also found charities abusing it in the manner of politicians. One charity put out a pamphlet about human rights entitled "Now More Than Ever." It explained it with a subtitle, but they are still guilty of using this sentence fragment in bold red letters to get the reader's (confused) attention.

I know my approval of that particular Oxfam quote may denude my political sentiments (as if you hadn't already guessed what they look like). Maybe you think the slogan was perfect for 9/11, that it said everything we had to say in four words. Maybe you think it's appropriate wartime propaganda. Even if that were true, no sane person could argue that using such a loaded phrase to manipulate someone into buying a car is ethical.

Word Logic

There is still a problem, even though our phrase is certainly being put to good use by some responisble parties, with the logic of someone saying "Now more than ever." It is not a perfect phrase.
The whole thing is an assumption, almost a lie. How does anyone who says, "Now more than ever" know it's true? Have they lived forever? Did they do hours of research before making the statement? People use it in impromptu speeches all the time. They just pull it out of their hats and put it on like a "stars and stripes" necktie at which no one can laugh; like it is a phrase that cannot be doubted.

The extemporaneous speakers of "Now more than ever" are counting on the general sentiment still being that you are anti-American if you doubt the phrase "now more than ever." Remember when Jesus used to say it, when it was capitalized, and when we all nodded our heads and said, "Mmm hmm," or, "Gosh yeah!" under our breath at each utterance? "Now More Than Ever..." It must be Truth!






from http://carapace.weblogs.us/

5 comments:

  1. What a coincidence. I can't stand choppy shoddy editing as is frequently found in commercials.

    So "Now more than ever" is a post- 9/11 thing? It seems like it has been around for so much longer. Perhaps that's just because we're so inundated with ads in daily life. It seems as though our country can take nothing as seriously as it does patriotism and oil.

    I never thought of the phrase before today, but now I'm trying to figure it out and coming up empty. I wish I could remember where I'd heard that phrase before, but the only one I can remember is the Chevy truck commercial. A quick search on Yahoo revealed a number of CDs, comparative prices websites, and a study abroad program. Perhaps Google would yield different results.

    Robyn lays down the new rules concerning a certain overused phrase. I love it. And what great rules they are.

    There you go. It's frequently used for charity work. Come to think of it, I think the World Wildlife Federation has used it in a few ads. Possibly even for Earth Hour.

    We seem to have the nasty habit of saying things that are deemed unassailable. You can't criticize such-and-such otherwise you're (insert nasty label here). It really irks me when people fall back on this ridiculous logic.

    By the way, I simply adored that last sentence (and the picture was the pièce de résistance) ;-p

    Excellent blog, as always

    Lauren

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  2. Thanks Lauren! It's good to have a responsive reader. Your comments made me go back and edit some things to be more clear (in this and in previous posts). I know that if I've confused you (an avid reader) I must be confusing everyone!

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  3. Not only have I already guessed what they look like, but I have been fantasizing about them for the duration of this post..

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  5. Haha! Sometimes I can't write more than a few paragraphs before some kind of risque turn of phrase comes out of me. (Whether it's actually risque or not is besides the point. It's the thought that counts.)

    I always hope someone will notice. So thank you.

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I publish all the comments, the good, the bad and the ugly. Unless I have no idea what you're saying. If you want to email me (with only good I hope), I'm at rbyrd [at] niu [dot] edu.