In the Chicago Tribune, Mary Schmich writes, “A few months ago, before Barack Obama became the linguist-in-chief, I made a note to myself to write a column about the need to exterminate a pest.”
And that pest’s name? Enormity:
The problem wasn’t new, but it seemed to be multiplying like mice. Suddenly, all sorts of people, pundits especially, were tossing “enormity” around with abandon. The enormity of the economic crisis. The enormity of the housing crisis, the layoff crisis, the banking crisis, various foreign relations imbroglios and Donald Trump’s ego.
Every time another pundit said the word, I winced, not out of fear for my 401(k) but because I saw a battalion of newspaper editors and college professors, led by my 6th-grade teacher, Miss Birch, rapping on the pundits’ enormous brains and shouting, “Enormity does not mean it’s big!”
Because I was browbeaten in my formative years by such language warriors, I felt called to crusade to restore “enormity” to its proper meaning: “monstrous wickedness.”
But I didn’t get around to the crusade before Obama was elected, and now the truth is too huge to avoid: The battle is lost.
“I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead,” Obama told the Grant Park crowd at his November acceptance speech.
Last Sunday, he violated Miss Birch’s rule again, in a speech at the Lincoln Memorial. “Despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead,” he said, “I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure.”
When the president of the United States–Harvard lawyer, deft writer, one of the most powerful people in the world–tells Miss Birch it’s time to change, well, she might.
“But not without grumbling”, Schmich writes. Read the rest–her concluding sentence encapsulates postmodern feelgood hopeychangeyness and the Bobos In Paradise market segment it directly appeals to perfectly.