Ah, I do love me some good satire. Using the red (spelling) and green (grammar) underlining in Microsoft Word as the basis of the joke, The Onion have come up with a new way the popular word processor can help you reach your audience: “Microsoft Word now includes squiggly blue line to alert writer when word is too advanced for mainstream audience”.
Sadly, as with all good satire, there is a firm basis in truth to this gag. In order to pander to as wide an audience as possible, all formats of media often reduce themselves to the lowest common denominator. Reality TV is a great example of this, with shows like Jersey Shore, where you effectively have to shut down all brain activity in order to enjoy it.
Novels like Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight saga – and I hope I won’t be burned at the stake for saying this, I am certainly not the first to point it out – are, despite their critical acclaim, exceptionally poorly written. True, it’s literature aimed primarily at children, but works like J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy have proven that books need not be reduced to pithy sentences from a vocabulary pool of 100 words in order to be popular with younger readers.
For anybody who is curious, the word underlined in The Onion’s accompanying image, Sisyphean, refers to the ancient myth of Sisyphus, who was given an eternal punishment in the Underworld for deceiving the Gods. His famous punishment was to roll a huge boulder up a hill, but just before he could reach the summit the rock would always become too heavy, and would roll back to the bottom. This gave rise to the English phrase Sisyphean task, which describes a task that is inherently pointless or without end.
For anybody who is even more curious, I explored several similar mythological eponymous words in a previous post.