wicked, insane, crazy

From Damien Hall, a pointer to this Questionable Content cartoon (by Jeph Jacques):

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Wicked here doesn’t attribute literal wickedness; instead, it serves as a highly positive intensifier, roughly a New England counterpart to Northern California hella.

About the strip, from the website:

What is this “Questionable Content” thing about, anyway? 
Questionable Content (or “QC,” as it is frequently abbreviated) is an online comic strip that is ostensibly about romance, indie rock, little robots, and the problems people have. For a more detailed explanation (including spoilers, beware) why not check out the WikiPedia page?

In any case, the use of wicked above is one sort of development of non-literal intensifiers. Another route develops such intensifiers from modifiers originally denoting insanity but now connoting extreme, unbelievable degree. As in this use of insane itself in a commercial for RockinBody.com’s dance workout,’ offering “insane weight loss”:

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That brings me to crazy used this way. Many examples, for instance “Crazy Cool”, the second single from Paula Abdul’s 1995 album Head over Heels. And, more recently, Vonage’s “Crazy Generous” campaign; still photo here:

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(You can also find YouTube videos.)

The actor is disheveled, with wild hair. This has suggested to many viewers that he is in fact a homeless and (literally) crazy person. Against this is the fact that he is engaging and well-spoken, indeed impressively multilingual (at least for brief formulaic expressions).

Some have taken the “Crazy Generous” slogan literally and were offended by it. Here’s the beginning of a Change.org petition by Cindy Olejar of Seattle, “Stop Vonage’s Highly Offensive “Crazy Generous” Ad Campaign!”:

Vonage, a VoIP service provider, has a new advertising campaign. The Campaign’s slogan is “Crazy Generous.” The Campaign’s new spokesman, known as the “Chief Generosity Officer,” is a mentally ill homeless man who yells at strangers on the street about generosity. Vonage’s campaign is highly offensive to individuals afflicted with mental illness. This campaign perpetuates negative mental illness stereotypes, exploits the mentally ill, and makes light of the suffering that individuals afflicted with mental illness experience.

I see the ads as weird but entertaining, but not to be taken literally. Clearly, there’s room for different interpretations.

 

2 Responses to “wicked, insane, crazy”

  1. Walt Says:

    In Maine things are routinely “wicked good”. but you knew that.

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