There’s a radio commercial being played for a car company that starts out with a clever Oscar Wilde quote and then ends with the most insanely stupid adage I’ve ever heard. Apparently it’s a famous quote that’s been ascribed to many sports figures from Mohammad Ali to Babe Ruth to Dizzy Dean. Although most of the websites I looked up just called it an old Texas adage.
It goes like this… “It ain’t bragging, if you can do it.”
Uh… I may be pointing out the obvious here, but if you CAN DO IT, it’s STILL bragging. In fact to brag about something you pretty much have to be able to do it.
The Oxford American Dictionary defines it this way:
Brag: to talk boastfully : to boast about
And if we look up boast here’s what we find:
Boast: to declare one’s achievements, possessions, or abilities with indulgent pride and satisfaction.
There you see; to brag about something is to talk in a self-indulgent way about what you CAN do. A more linguistically accurate statement might be “it ain’t exaggerating, if you can do it.” Or better yet, “it ain’t bluffing, if you can do it.”
This bugs me because, there are kids out there listening to this dumbass commercial who are going to think that bragging is the same as bluffing. They are not going to pull out a dictionary and check. Trust me. I know. I tutored high school kids on the SAT verbal for years. Kids are lazy. They won’t look it up.
A perfect example is the word “candid.” It’s on every SAT. EVERY YEAR!!! And tons of kids get it wrong. Why? Because they immediately think of Candid Camera. They assume that because the “camera” was hidden that the word “candid” means hidden or secret. It happened with every single kid I ever tutored. And that’s exactly why the geniuses that write the SAT’s put it on the test – to trip up the kids who were too lazy to look it up.
When I tell them that “candid” means honest or truthful, they are totally shocked. I try to explain that the show was called “Candid Camera” because it was able to capture people’s honest reactions to bizarre situations when they think no one is looking. Now I don’t blame Candid Camera for this mass confusion amongst our nation’s youth. After all, the name DOES make sense, as long as you know what the word really means.
But that inane “bragging” adage just isn’t logical. It’s stupid. It redefines a word to practically mean the opposite of what its actual definition is.
Well, that’s what I get for being a writer. I’m way too sensitive about the abuse of words. (Unless I’m the one abusing them. In that case it’s art.)