Indicting The Most Dangerous Little Word In Our Large Lexicon: "Could"

“Could” is just another of those little everyday words in our everyday language. By definition it is used to indicate possibility. Aye, but there’s the rub! Notice lately how this little word is kidnapped by people who want to create a big impression. Watch how the writer or speaker dangles “could” in order to imply conclusions that have little basis in fact.

Am I being paranoid? Well, if I am that would put me in the mainstream of today’s 24/7 conspiracy theories. And yet, there is something devious about how this simple verb is used to wildly stir the imagination without quite being guilty of libel:

* History Channels ~ Almost every night you can find some cable channel waxing eloquent about the mysteries of the Bible, the secrets of the pyramids, ancient visitations by aliens, and tales of assorted seers like the Delphic Oracle, Nostradamus and the Knights Templar. Fascinating stuff that teases the imagination; only teasing is a far cry from proving. And so the off-cemera baritone voice will always set up these fantastic tales with the same rhetorical question: “Could it be?” Could it be that Mary Magdalene was the wife of Jesus…? Could it be that the dimensions of the pyramids were a code from space aliens…? Could it be that Al Pacino is actually descended from an ancient Mediterranean god…?

* Sports ~ Sports writers have to come up with more than just yesterday’s scores. So notice how they try to create some news of their own. Could it be that his bad day on the links was due to his latest lover…? Could the coach be distracted by secret negotiations with another team…? Could the Chicago Cubs at last win a pennant, because the stars over Wrigley are in the right alignment…?

* Celebrities ~ There are now more celebrity [aka, junk] publications than news magazines. Why? Their reporters are gifted in concocting impossible tales which they make sound almost possible. The gift is really in the way they can leap-without-libel from the headline to the story. The headlines are what grabs the readers by their malicious little necks. Could Stallone be Travolta’s secret husband…? Could Jodi Foster actually be a figmentation of Scientology…? Could Nicole Kidman be ready to dump Keith Urban to open a kangaroo zoo in her native Australia…?

Could you be reading this and laughing…? I hope so, because the best way to rid ourselves of the wily could-be-journalists is to laugh at them.

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