An Incredible Vogue

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the word in its sloppy, voguish sense. It and similar words (incredibly, unbelievable/bly, and, on Spanish-language TV, incredibly, unbelievable /bly) are widely used nowadays as all-purpose intensifiers and all-purpose labels for extreme conditions, whether excellent or execrable. Such vogue words, like slang, spare the user from figuring out just what he means.

Occasionally, I suspect, the vogue word is more accurate than the user intended. A radio interviewer identified Cornel West as a member of Harvard’s “incredibly praised” African-American studies department. He evidently meant “highly praised,” but a literal interpretation could be that the praise heaped on the department is not worthy of belief. TV pitchmen have urged me to “hurry to take advantage of this incredible offer.” Well, why should one take seriously an offer that is not even believable?

Let us laugh “incredible” and its ilk back into their narrow range of accurate applications.

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