Semantic Hostage Drama: Let’s Rescue “Average” from Meh

By Beth Gerber

April 26, 2011

Sure it’s mayo. But damn it tastes good.

So the other night we’re squeezing through the crush at the bar, wondering why is it that every bartender who utters the word “Sidecar” suddenly starts talking like the ghost of Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

But what really gets our attention is a language kidnapping, a semantic hostage situation.

That’s right, people: a perfectly good word has been relegated to the central holding cell of an insult, a smear. We’re talking about “average.”

Used to be it was acceptable to be average. For instance, not so long ago a reasonable academic achievement was a C. The solid C. Nowadays, they throw you out of some ivory towers if you pull less than a B.

On management consulting scorecards, “Average” is not a happy place. No, it’s flirting with “Poor” or “Needs Work.” Even though the “average” class of employees is by far the largest category, typically comprising at least 60% of the workforce. So how did the word come to carry the stench of failed aspirations?

After all, by its very definition, most of us fit within the tall arch of the bell curve. Most of us are going to earn about the same salary, live about as long, visit the usual places, and share common interests.

And what’s wrong with that?

These standard ranges are well documented by everyone from the IRS to insurance companies to the local Chamber of Commerce. Simply imagine the lowered stress, dread and anxiety of simply accepting the basic truth of your commonality. It’s not conceding and it’s not settling. It’s recognizing.

So come on people, embrace and celebrate your average. There’s nothing meh about it.

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