Saturday, December 18, 2010

In Defense of the Term "Overrated"

Mention that something or someone your conversation partner likes is overrated and invariably you’ll get a stern lecture about how it isn’t true and ‘how dare you’ mention that the thing or person you brought up is ‘overrated’. He/it is good, very good, your sparring partner says, and it is a crime, nay, a sin to even think that person/thing is overrated.

Well, I am here to say that it is a bunch of hooey, malarkey, BS, crap, doo-doo, and so forth.

The term ‘overrated’ is applicable to many aspects of our society – persons, places, or things. It is simply defined as being something/someone who is given more praise/adulation that he/it deserves. Where people screw up is when they use the term as a synonym for ‘bad’ or ‘awful’ – as in ‘the quarterback threw four interceptions in yesterday's game. He is overrated.’ This is an incorrect usage because it has no context whatsoever. It has to be known prior to the game that the quarterback was being hyped and failed to live up to expectations.  It is a similar mistake as when people think 'mediocre' means bad, when it really means 'average'.

In fact, just because something is overrated doesn’t mean it is bad. Sometimes, it can be a good thing. The best example is the movie Forrest Gump. It is a very good film – well made, shot, etc. It just isn’t a masterpiece or as great as people make it out to be. I always considered Michael Vick (pre-Leavenworth) to be an overrated football player. He is good, but he isn’t God, and a lot of people were willing to overlook his previously-less than stellar passing skills and hype him highly on the basis of his Houdini-like escapes from opposition pass rushes.  Now, it's easier to actually think of him in underrated terms. 

I write this because it is important that we have an honest discussion on what ‘overrated’ means. Too often, people use terms that they don’t define correctly and as a result, the conversation get skewed from the start – all on the basis of unknown terminology. The Lincoln Memorial in DC is a tad overrated, as are most of the monuments in the city. They are nice to visit – once. Chain restaurants are overrated. The Toyota Prius is overrated, just like a good number of SUV’s are as well. None of these things or places are as good as the hype. You might even think my writing is overrated.

And you might be right...or...you might be overrating your intelligence.  Who knows?

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