The Seven Slick Secrets to Content Marketing Supremacy: Part 4

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Alex Sudheim

13 Jun 2022 Clock 3 min

The Word is the Bird

So, whilst this chapter’s predecessor attempted to render the elusively simple concept of reading as snackable as possible without disappearing down the deconstructivist rabbithole in which the notion of what even constitutes ‘text’ – and thus the act of reading itself – plunges into the multiverse of madness, this illustrious entry into the journal is about that thing that constitutes the large majority of what we, in the traditional sense, read: the word. Speaking of snackable, I figure that Frankensentence above ought to give the SEO plugins something to gnaw upon. Taunting the AI bots: writing’s new frontier.

A Thorny Question

‘What’s in a word?’ asked Shakespeare. ‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,’ he answered himself with horticultural hubris. ‘Not if it was called a poopnastyscumdrop,’ contradicted Homer Simpson several centuries later. The possibility that we’ve probably reached some kind of cultural event horizon when Homer starts back-chatting The Bard notwithstanding, he makes a pretty good point. Think of the lasting impression you’d make on the first date when, to prove your undying love to the fair maiden of your dreams, you give her a dozen red poopnastyscumdrops. Ew.

Synaptic Syntax

Which brings us to the crux of the matter: if you’re in the business of creating quality written content, hire a quality writer. A serious word-nerd. One whose day is ruined when a clickbait listicle talks about colours that ‘compliment’ each other or a review of a horror movie refers to werewolves as ‘canine’ instead of ‘lupine’. One who is overjoyed that neuroscientists with too much time on their hands and too much grant money to spare are sticking electrodes on the temples of subjects and reading them the dictionary while poring over brain-mapping data to determine what might be scientifically ascertained to be the most beautiful word in the English language.   

Would You Like Some Consonants with Your Coffee?

These aren’t fanciful indulgences but fundamental cognitive concerns. If the Earl of Sandwich and Lord Cardigan had traded places, we’d make cardigans when we’re hungry and put on sandwiches when we’re cold. While the experiments of the mad scientists may seem frivolous, the marketing potential of their discoveries is immense. We’re already seeing it in action: the ‘pumpkin spice’ craze made Starbucks a bazillion dollars simply because people love saying the word ‘pumpkin’. It has a lovely mouth-feel and thus releases dopamine when we say it. The spice itself has absolutely nothing to do with pumpkins. No pumpkin was ever harmed in the making of pumpkin spice and there was certainly no harm done to the Starbucks bottom line.

The Name Game

You might be astonished that what may appear as whimsical wordplay is in fact a serious science. It’s called onomastics and, like many a noun ending in ‘ics’ (physics; mathematics; economics) it is the name of a legitimate scholarly discipline. Onomastics is the study of the etymology, history, and use of proper names. And proper names very quickly become controversial, as any South African bird-lover who refuses to call a loerie a turaco will tell you. Onomastics is sometimes referred to as ‘the micro-physics of language’ and, given the rapidly increasing politicisation of words we can and can’t use, thus plays an increasingly important role in communications. Carefully pre-digesting one’s utterances has become more imperative than ever, as anyone who has fallen victim to ‘cancel culture’ will tell you.   

Choose Your Words Wisely

As society becomes increasingly fractured along the fault lines of micro-cultures and niche pursuits, the concept of universal meaning is, for better or worse, becoming ever more eroded. When a simple monosyllable such as ‘lit’ can have a dozen different meanings in a dozen different contexts, everything is a shibboleth. When the information assault reduces our attention spans to mere seconds and multinational brands use onomatopoeia as payoff lines (‘Zoom-Zoom’),  words have become supermassive black holes – minute things with the power to devour galaxies. Ok, that’s a bit dramatic, but never miss an opportunity to remember the lessons from Fun With Physics! is what I always say. So anyway, if but a single word can be such an unstable IED, we should all become more like writers. 

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