This Blog Entry is Urgent!!!
SourceGear's mail room is where we keep the photocopier, fax
machine and postage meter. It's also a storage place for office supplies,
Kleenex, and the primary cause of most traffic into that room, candy.
A few minutes ago I walked over to the mail room to get a Kit Kat. On the fax machine I
saw that we had received a page with the words "URGENT MEMO" in large letters
across the top. Instantly I knew that it was a junk fax.
The word "urgent" isn't really all that useful anymore,
because everybody who uses it is lying. In theory, the word "urgent" means
"compelling immediate action or attention". Much to the dismay of my high
school English teacher, most dictionaries today are regularly updated to be
consistent with how words are typically used. How long before the dictionaries
update the definition of "urgent" to reflect the most prevalent usage? If they
did, one of the definitions of "urgent" would be "trivial, utterly useless, a
complete waste of time".
As a writer, I find this terribly sad, but I see it so often
that I'm numb. Every evening I go home and sort the junk mail that showed up
in our mailbox that day. Although I do lament the way our language is being eroded
away, I have to appreciate the steps they've taken to make my sorting job
- When I see an envelope that says, "Do not discard this
envelope", I know immediately that it will be safe for me to throw it away
- When I see an envelope that says "Special Offer", I know with
certainty that the offer contained therein is not special, and was
in fact distributed to everybody with a pulse.
- When I see an envelope telling me that I've won, I see a
completely unambiguous message. There could be no clearer way to
communicate to me that I have in fact not won anything at all.
The shocking part of this story is that the people who send
junk mail can't figure all this out. Take the word "urgent" off the outside of
the envelope and I am far more likely to be deceived into thinking that it is
Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised. After all, anybody who
tries to make their living using a fax machine to sell trips to Cancún is
probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
Still, don't these people get junk mail everyday like the
rest of us? Don't they get junk faxes and email spam? You'd think they would
eventually realize that the importance of any piece of information is inversely
correlated to how important that piece of information is claiming to be.
Take this blog entry, for example. Here you are, over 400
words into it. Why did you come this far? You knew when you saw the title
that I have absolutely nothing useful to say.