Living the dream

She may be a VIP, but he knows it's still a ridiculous hat

One more thing for Londoners to be proud of: we have Europe’s largest urban shopping centre! In his review of Westfield Stratford City Jonathan Glancey points out the over-use of “VIP” as a way of describing what’s inside – and, when VIP isn’t enough, Vue Cinemas reaches for “luxury VIP” to describe its facility.

There was a time when VIP had meaning – today’s picture is from the 1963 melodrama “the VIPs”, which was an peek into the privileged lifestyle of the rich and famous. In the film the VIPs are stuck in their special bit of London Airport. There’s fog. They argue. No one visits a Vue cinema. I don’t recommend it, but it’s fun to spot Orson Welles and David Frost in the cast.

VIP-creep is classic word hysteria: once your competitor claims VIP facilities, you counter-claim with your own VIP thingy. In nightclubs it often means a bit that’s up a step. In the area around Stratford City (I speak as a former resident), it generally means “not broken yet”.

In press releases, it’s about three times as common as it was a decade ago. It usually refers to something more expensive than other things. Economics dictates that the gap between VIP and non-VIP will eventually cease to exist: someone with a service that’s marginally better than basic – but worse than the worst thing described as VIP – can choose to use VIP to describe their product. They grab some of the tiny amount of residual glamour. This becomes the worst thing described as VIP, and so on.

The growth of “luxury VIP” is an idiotic attempt to reinvigorate the idea of commercial privilege. Between 2000 and 2009 it appeared four times a year in press releases. In 2010, it showed up 42 times. So far this year, 34 times.

Based on the things described on the internet as “Luxury VIP”, I’m looking forward to the remake of the 1963 film: the Luxury VIPs would star Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton and feature a cameo from Peaches Geldof. They are stuck at Heathrow, so they visit the multiplex, use a portable toilet, and hire a minibus. This is living the dream.

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4 Responses to “Living the dream”


  1. 1 Matthew Stibbe October 10, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    VIP is destined to join a long list of unnecessary superlatives like ‘urgent priorities’ and ‘key findings’. Victor Borge had it right when he talked about inflationary language: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YY6kElOYcd8

  2. 2 chris west October 11, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    ha ha ha. In a nice way.

  3. 3 chris west October 12, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    hello Tim
    Congrats on enjoyable blog post (sorry, i’m not a ‘bot, i actually do write like this when i’m tired) – it inspired me to reference you in my own blog (which i hope i didn’t write when i was so tired)
    it’s here at http://www.verbalidentity.co.uk
    Chris


  1. 1 How to cut the cost of inflationary language - Bad Language Trackback on October 10, 2011 at 2:32 pm

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