Writers are among those weird groups of people who actually care about words. We’re a long way from the only ones, of course: Language professors, lawyers, English/French/Spanish/etc majors…the point being that there are people who actually believe that words matter. How they’re used and misused, what power they have. So when I say, as I have before, that there are certain words I absolutely despise, understand it comes from a place of caring. You have to care about something in order to despise it properly. Works for hating something, too. As in the old illustrative exchange:
“He hates me!”
“He doesn’t hate you. He doesn’t care enough about you to hate you.”
I’ve already talked about “impacted” vs “affected.” Today I’m going to mention another one.
I really hate that word. Or rather, I hate the usage it’s been put to by every shill marketer in the whole damn world. Whenever some Conglomerate goes on the tv and pitches “Products for the discriminating consumer” I don’t picture a discriminating anything. I picture this mindless maw gobbling down every piece of crap thrown at it.
Do writers look at readers that way? I doubt it. While “consuming” might be a useful metaphor for a certain type of reader at a certain stage of their awakening(me included), it is literally not true. You read a book, anyone’s book or story, and the book/story is still there. Anyone could still read it. You can pass it on to another (and we love you if you do) saying, “You gotta read this.” Maybe that next person would become our customer/reader too. Readers have tastes. They either like your stuff or they don’t, given the chance to try it, but there’s nothing mindless about their reactions.
I’ll give farmers a pass because we really do consume their products, and bless them for their service. But then, except for the occasional farmer’s market, we rarely do this directly where I live. It usually goes through distribution and into a grocery store. Whose customers we are, not consumers.
I understand why “consumer” is a useful term for the average marketer. I know that’s how they want us to think of ourselves, which is why they say “consumer” rather than “customer.” I know that’s exactly how their customers are viewed. It’s easier to think of a mindless, indiscriminate consuming maw rather than people, who have quirks and want something better than is usually on offer. Sorry, but I am your customer, not your bloody consumer. Though if you keep pitching crap at me I won’t even be that. Fire is a mindless consumer. I’m not, and neither are the rest of us.
Forget that at your peril.