The Amelioration formula

A recent instance, from Baltimore Sun copyeditor John McIntyre on Facebook today:

At the desk. Converting defective prose into the merely mediocre since 1980.

An earlier parallel, from Sigmund Freud’s Studies on Hysteria (1895) (co-written with Josef Breuer), as translated by Nicola Luckhurst (2004):

But you will see for yourself that much has been gained if we succeed in turning your hysterical misery into common unhappiness.

A snowclonic figure of speech, Amelioration of Awful to Ordinary (Amelioration, for short), of the form:

Transformation-Verb Awful (in)to Ordinary

(with transformation verb transform, turn, change, convert, make, rework, etc.)

Ordinary is presented as an admirable goal: Amelioration conveys ‘it is worthy to transform Awful into Ordinary’.

Roughly this content can also be conveyed with a replacement or substitution verb:

transform Awful (in)to Ordinary, replace Awful by/with Ordinary, substitute Ordinary for Awful

And the awfulness of the NP Awful and the ordinariness of the NP Ordinary can be expressed by a wide range of lexical means. Ordinariness, in particular, by modifiers like ordinary, common, everyday, mediocre, garden-variety, customary, standard, normal, routine, unremarkable, commonplace, unexceptional, etc.


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