Wog. Spastic. Queer. Nigger. Dwarf. Cripple. Fatty. Gimp. Paki. Mick. Mong. Poof. Coon. Gyppo. You can’t really use these words any more and yet, strangely, it is perfectly acceptable for those in the travel and hotel industries to pepper their conversation with the word “beverage”.
There are several twee and unnecessary words in the English language. Tasty. Meal. Cuisine. Nourishing. And the biblically awful “gift”. I also have a biological aversion to the use of “home” instead of “house”. So if you were to ask me round to “your home for a nourishing bowl of pasta” I would almost certainly be sick on you.
But the worst word. The worst noise. The screech of Flo-Jo’s fingernails down the biggest blackboard in the world, the squeak of polystyrene on polystyrene, the cry of a baby when you’re hungover, is “beverage”.
I have only one quibble: the worst word in the English language is not “beverage” but “executive”. If any product or service comes prefixed by the word “Executive” I will not pay for it on principle. Not only is it calculated to appeal to a sort of sad 80s “aspirationalism”—“the board’s with me; the bank’s with me; I’m going it alone”—the word is a self-embedded lie. Today an “executive” is someone who does not execute. By the time you have been promoted to such a level, you no longer do anything. Worse, only in football are the people who do do something (because they are talented enough to do it) paid more than the executives who tell them to do it (because they can no longer do it themselves).
David Hepworth has a telling piece in today’s Guardian that describes some related workplace phenomena:
For the benefit of readers not working in the magazine industry, the masthead is the page which carries the names of a title’s staff and their job titles, although it means something different in newspapers. This advertisement of prestige is not provided in other media and in recent years it has grown in direct proportion to the ego involved. In old-school titles the masthead was often hidden away somewhere near the crossword.
In modern fashion magazines, on the other hand, it can occupy more than a page, an indication of how important it is to the staff. It’s unique for being: a) written by the editor; b) examined closely and regularly by the mothers of staff; c) a telling indicator of a magazine’s life stage.
It starts with the editor, which is fair enough. They probably wrote it. The habit of putting the editor’s PA next is an importation from the status-obsessed world of women’s magazines and sends out the message that the second most important person around here is the one who answers my phone.
Clustering around the top will be managing editors and executive editors. How they got there we never know but the thing they have in common is that they used to be editors and can read a budget. There are deputy editors, only distinguished from assistant editors by the fact that they arrived first.
There are creative directors, too important to be mere art directors who are too important to be mere design editors, who lord it over one young man with a Hoxton fin and a hangover who does most of the actual layout.