Saturday, November 14, 2009

Elated - or not

On a site advertising Miami Beach hotels there is a tiny survey which asks: does this offer elate you? According to the online free dictionary, elate means to fill with high spirits, exhilaration, pride or optimism.

Which rather makes me think that the use of elate in this context is just a little over the top. Okay, the offer is 55% off the normal price. That's pretty good - but 'pretty good' isn't 'elated'. We already have enough words being drained of their full value (awesome is just one prime example) so for me 'elate' is definitely out of place in this example.

Some copywriter has decided that he or she had better come up with a snappy little word that's full of zest and excitement to fit in the very small box in which this survey question would be asked. But he/she has grabbed hold of the wrong word. Elate has a long history, as the quotation from George Bernard Shaw below shows, but it's always a word that needs careful treatment (in fact, Shaw seems to give it rather peculiar grammatical treatment).

He, standing a little way within the field, was remonstrating angrily with a man of his own class, who stood with his back to the breach and his hands in the pockets of his snuff-colored clothes, contemplating the procession with elate satisfaction.

from An Unsocial Socialist by George Bernard Shaw

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