Reach Out and Gift Someone

OK this is a text test:  How many of you are old enough to remember the jingle, “Reach Out and Touch Someone?”

Don’t everybody jump up at once, now!!!

It was the telephone company, AT&T, fondly known as Ma Bell, before the telephone conglomerate was broken up, and waaaay before cell phones were imagined, except for James Bond’s rad Wrist Communicator, which Apple has now made available for gifting.

What?

I said “gifting.”

Since I don’t watch TV or pay attention to anything modern that doesn’t have wheels, these things come as a shock.

The first time some unsolicited caller announced that she was “reaching out to me” for a donation to my Alma Mater, I thought she was joking.  She wasn’t old enough to remember Ma Bell.  Hell, she probably didn’t even know who James Bond was!

Then I got into a fight with Duke University over some very shoddy treatment I received in their hospital’s ER, and someone from there “reached out” to me, and for all the good that did they could have reached up their own ass, because I am still getting bills from them, in spite of having paid already.  I think the time has come (the Walrus said) to “Reach Out” to a lawyer.

I suppose that if language did not change to keep up with the times, we’d all be speaking Old English.

My linguistics professor hammered it into our brains that “Language IS culture.”

Language both defines and expresses cultural norms and attitudes.  Language expresses the character of culture.

If you’ve learned a foreign language or two or ten, you have experienced an eye-opening phenomenon: language encodes culture, and other cultures don’t think like we do.

We’ve all heard about how the Eskimo people (Inuit) have hundreds of words for “snow,” each describing subtle nuances and characteristics of different kinds of snow.  English has a few, especially if you’re a skier, but not more than twenty.

I was amazed to find, when I learned Hebrew, that there are at least 15 words for different kinds of love, at least that many for beauty, but only one for death and one for hate.  And if you want to say you don’t like something, you say, “it’s not nice, for me.”  Or, “That doesn’t find grace in my eyes.”

Getting back to reaching out and gifting something to someone–it bothers me.

It bothers me because what we might gain in new and kind of pretty language, we lose in directness. 

Don’t tell me you’re reaching out to me to collect money.  Tell me you’re calling me.  I’m calling to tell you that your bill is so overdue, we’re going to gift you by reaching out to your credit report. 

What is this “gifting” shit, anyway?  Who started it? 

You want to give somebody something?  Just haul off and give it to them.  Don’t get all hoity-toity.  Just go ahead, wrap the damn box, put their name on it, and give it to them!  Are they going to stick their nose up in the air, hand the damn toaster back, and say “Noooo, uh, I only accept things that are GIFTED, not GIVEN.

Fine.  Give me that box.  I’m gonna haul off and RE-GIFT it to someone who actually wants a toaster.

Leave a comment

17 Comments

  1. Laura, I needed a laugh this morning! 😃I’m reaching out to say, it’s a great thought-provoking post. Gifting you with a compliment! I could use a new toaster! Have a super day! 🎉 Chryssa

    Reply
  2. Such a good read! Oh, and just so you know, I already have two toasters (one gluten free) and a toaster oven so I am good! 😉 Lydia!

    Reply
  3. Haha! Sorry, I read that as “Reach out and touch me!” Awesome post Laura

    Reply
  4. The peculiarities of the things we say don’t stand out until someone writes a post like this one.

    I remember that advertising campaign. I’m guilty of ‘reaching out’ to people, but *gifting* is new to me. I hope it’s not a practice that finds its way here :/

    Reply
    • Where is “here”? I haven’t been there yet. To your blog, that is, to see where here is. Regardless, I fervently hope it doesn’t crop up where you are. I had seen the term used in contexts where I thought it’s pretentiousness might be at least explained away, such as being able to “gift” airline miles. OK, I can avert my eyes to that one. Then I spent an hour waiting in a line to mail a letter, and was gifted with the opportunity to read all the post office’s gifting suggestions. Quite an education.

      Reply
      • I meant I haven’t seen it where I live in Toronto … or I’ve turned a blind eye to it.

        Since you’ve mentioned it though, I have heard ads about gifting air miles to charities.

        Reply
  5. I clearly remember ditty. 😉
    The professor it right on the $ with how language works. I’m kinda literal, and use my words directly.
    I have never ‘reached out’ to someone unless I was in front of them, about to hug them. I don’t like baseball, thus I never ‘touch base’ with them either. I lastly don’t ‘catch up’ with folks either, as I’m too old to run. ..

    Reply
  6. This is rilly, rilly, fresh. It rilly impacted me.

    P.S.

    It’s good to be back. I’ve missed reading your posts…:)

    Reply
  7. sandracharrondotcom

     /  December 8, 2015

    This is funny…and sad…I remember AT&Ts Reach Out campaign…sigh…and I miss corded telephones…hold up! I have no idea where that comment even came from. Clearly I’m vaguely reminiscent. You have such a great way with words. I especially loved “they could have reached up their own ass.” For sure that’s a culturally sensitive phrase. I agree with your husband though, if the hospital it still up your ass for payment, go on I’m trying to call you
    and reach out to a lawyer.

    Reply
  8. Never heard of the jingle but have heard of Ma Bell at least.

    I can’t stand all this touchy-feely customer care jargon either. The best service comes from being polite, from doing whatever is possible and saying up front if something isn’t possible.

    I think it all comes down to one basic fact.

    People are jerks.

    Reply
    • Yeah, Bell Telephone was a good idea that outlived its usefulness. Anything in particular got you feeling that people are jerks? You can email me if you would rather. Love 💖💖💖

      Reply

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