I would like to take issue with the irritating misuse of the term content.
Understand, I’m not talking about content as in “She was not at all content to be married to her great uncle.”
Rather, the kind of content which can be contained. As in “The content of the alligator’s stomach included bits and pieces of her great aunt.”
And, by taking issue, I mean screaming, shrieking, stomping my feet, throwing myself on the floor, kicking, pounding my fists, punching walls — essentially everything one does when overdosing on horse tranquilizers, and then going to the ER and waiting six hours for the wall punching specialist to come in from the golf course with a bucket of spackle.
In medical parlance this is what they mean when they say somebody is beside themselves. If you are unfamiliar with the term — perhaps because you’ve been living under an unlicensed rock these past few years — then you’re obviously dead. Go away.
But in case you’re just a little bit alive, perhaps sitting slumped over in an uncomfortable plastic chair in a crowded emergency room, bleeding and broken, maybe an eye poked out, a leg missing, an arm hanging by a thread, you might consider the aptness of the metaphor “beside yourself.”
The dictionary describes it as “a state of extreme agitation or excitement, as in “She was beside herself when she found she’d accidentally married her great uncle.” This phrase first appears in the Newer Testament (Acts I, just before intermission): where some busy-body pharisee says “Paul, thou art besideth thyself; getteth it together Dude-ith, lest someone tell Judith.”
Think about it. Have you ever been so upset, so flailing and hopping mad, such a blur of motion as to almost appear to be beside yourself?
Have you ever been beside someone else who was beside himself? Did it make you beside yourself? And was there still room on the sidewalk?
As illuminating as this discussion may be, without doubt you are wondering “What does this have to do with this guy’s burning agitation over the misuse of the term content?”
Think of it this way. Would you ever say to Shakespeare “I just read the Merchant of Venice. Nice piece of content. Do you do ransom notes?”
Yes, yes, Shakespeare is dead and you’ve never read or seen The Merchant of Venice. Nor have you kidnapped anyone lately and felt the need to communicate.
The point is, on the internet you will find line after line of what used to be called words. A collection of words used to be called a story, an essay, a play, a speech, a poem, a screed, an arrest warrant, a driver’s manual. And so on.
Anymore, in an Orwellian overthrow of norms not covered by the lying press, these lines are now called text.
That’s not the worst of it. If you collect several examples of text, you have actually produced content. And if you do, you are not called a writer. You are known by the exalted title of “content provider.”
And, instead of saying “French literature” you now say “French content.” (French kissing is now called tonsil editing.)
Some things, for the moment, are still the same. On a bag of potato chips or box of Rice Krispies you will still find “The contents within may have settled.”
Yes, but settled for what? For less?
Depends on the lawyer