An "Emotional" Subject
(But You'll Have to Guess Which One)
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by Robert Winter

Last night on TV another reporter described a moment as "emotional," without making any effort to identify which particular emotion might be involved.

Is there a more useless description than this?  Someone who is "emotional" might be ecstatic;    they might just as well be despondent.  They could also be enraged, terrified, jealous, grateful, amused, wistful, or horny.  In this increasingly popular usage, further clarification is not attempted.  To seek to understand anything more seems to be regarded as a quest for a Great Unknowable, like the meaning of life or the first name of Yahweh.

If all we can say is that a person is feeling something, why say anything at all?  Or why not just say that he's not comatose?

In its lameness, "emotional" reminds me of downtown Los Angeles' Flower Street.

Looking past the street's somewhat namby-pamby connotations (it's probably not the kind of address you'd want for a Marine Corps recruiting station or a monster truck dealership), Flower Street is almost surreally bland and lazy.  I'd have no objection to, say, Chrysanthemum Way or Bougainvillea Drive.  Those names are specific enough to evoke some sort of imagery, some sense of character--or at least to indicate that somebody had devoted more time to thinking them up than it took to swallow a bite of doughnut.   Flower Street?  They might as well have named it Tree Street.

Non-value added use of the term "emotional" is a phenomenon I first began noticing in sports broadcasting, where it may have been adopted specifically for its euphemistic value.   Sensing that it might be considered unseemly on family television to describe a middle linebacker as having lathered himself into a snarling, limb-dislocating, helmet-chomping homicidal rage,  the play-by-play guys seem to have opted for the term "emotional" precisely because it could as easily mean the player was overcome with warm nostalgia for his Sunday school teacher or his first puppy.