Privilege Blog

Creative Ad Absurdum, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:24am

It is a morning for pet peeve sharing. Yes it is.

Here’s mine.

I’ve observed a growing use of the word “creative” as a noun. Where people who write or work with images for a living call themselves, “Creatives.” Drives me nuts. I suppose I’m not alone.  The term began in advertising, apparently, but is expanding.

You see, as I pace up and down the cubicle pathways of our offices, or speak to people in conference rooms, I rely on the same mental snatch and grab of disparate elements I know from writing, or playing with photographs. Not to mention that odd Hail Mary to the brain’s nether regions. Perhaps there’s a little more testosterone involved, certainly a lot more talking. But still. It’s not fair for one professional faction to abscond with the good parts of everyone else’s job.

As it happens, I’ve also been reading a young adult series, The Divergent Trilogy, in which the imagined dystopian society has divided itself into castes, predicated on temperament. From the Amazon book description.

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent).

By taking this idea to its extreme, i.e. that any one group can claim and hoard the core attributes of humankind at large, we expose the fallacies. Perhaps we could invent the term dilatio ad absurdum, but I got a C in my 8:30am P/F college Latin class, so probably not. The books, on the other hand are good reads. Highly recommended for entertainment value. Because I’ve got to give you something useful in return for your tolerance of this rant.

In sum, and with all due respect, I want my adjective back. Thank you, and have a lovely, and creative, weekend.

61 Responses

  1. I’m pretty sure I would be in House Candor ;o)

    The word ‘invite’ is starting to annoy me too. I don’t mind seeing it used as a noun in writing, I guess because I shorten words myself, natch. But, I heard someone use it verbally the other day and I actually cringed.

    I guess we all have our words!

  2. I had put Divergent on my Kindle last month and then promptly forgot about it. Thanks for the creative reminder.

    I am going to go out on a limb and suggest a book for you which I am thoroughly enjoying now, Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. Based on your time in India and “knowing” you from Privilege, I really think you will enjoy it, too.

  3. This made me laugh, so: good rant. I was a partial “creative” in Silicon Valley, because I worked on such things as the corporate identity package, page layouts, templates, and cover art. But, I was also a technical, overseeing documentation, training, and technical marketing My fellow directors, all male, referred to my creative tasks as artsy-fartsy. To be a creative would have been a clear step up. When I studied graphic design, I didn’t hear the term creatives much, but recently, in a developmental editing class, one instructor, who’d begun his editing career in advertising, did refer to creatives.

    It never occurred to me that the creatives could hold your creativity hostage—that’s why I love small companies, one gets to do more, disparate things—but I do see what you mean. So here, on this Saturday morning, with no power whatsoever vested in me, is your creativity wrenched back from the creatives. I’ve wrapped it for you in tangerine paper with a golden ribbon bow.

    1. “My fellow directors, all male, referred to my creative tasks as artsy-fartsy. To be a creative would have been a clear step up.”

      Yes, a step up! I’ve spent a lifetime being called “artsy-fartsy” — I loathe the term, how can artistic accomplishments be linked with the noise and smell of excrement? It sends me around the bend…

  4. I think I ” got ” it ; ). Funny thing, we too ( the snobs ) use English words widely.
    Your `creative `would be `kreatiivinen ´here in Finland.
    But surprise – we use it as an adjective ( mostly ).
    Both languages change. And they change quickly.
    When I listen to a ” radio-clip ” say, from the 70´s-80´s, the language used sounds funny. Listening to even older ones, and I don´t whether to laugh or cry.
    What about The Oxford English ??

  5. Thank you. As a lawyer I do work that “creative” types might think is rote. Yet it is the creativity that I bring to my work that has accounted for much of my success. I suspect the same is true in most work.

  6. I have difficulty accepting the word “fun” as an adjective, and that seems to be common usage these days among some people.

    1. “creative as noun is in the OED.”

      Where goeth the linguists [colloquial = accepted form], thus followeth the OED; darn thing may as well be Websters anymore.

    2. Yes, in the dictionary. I was just wondering if the British, the ones who speak true ” true Oxford English ” as their everyday language, have adopted ” creative ” into their spoken language as an adjective ?

    3. Yet another reply, which is not connected to the use of words. I have written about it already thrice, but without any reaction.
      I hate it, when people write blogs or even text messages using only small letters!!!
      Please, someone, enlighten me on this one. Is it, that they wish to ” stand out ” from the rest of us, or is it because they have a low self- esteem, or is it plainly a sign of being lazy???

      1. I think it’s a signal that someone implies a less formal tone. I don’t mind it, myself.

    4. I think it’s being lazy, Mette. I know my fingers AND brain have to work harder when I make proper contractions, use punctuation, capitalize letters, and so forth.

      [To support my narrow frame of reference, I started to say “I don’t text” in the above paragraph, but I realized “text” has been turned into a verb, and now we’re back where we started!]

    5. The all “lower case” seems to have become popular when the poet E.E. Cummings became so well known. It doesn’t bother me in certain types of writing, as I find it “gentle” in the same way writing in all caps, I find “aggressive”.

    6. Our English concise OED clearly states ‘creative’ is an adjective. How can you use it as a noun? Ida

    7. Please forgive me for being such a pain in the neck on this one, but I don´t believe, that laziness is the reason for using only small letters.
      I have read blogs, where all the dots and commas are there, the exclamation marks, the question marks, etc. All the sentences begin though with a small letter and also all the I´s are in small letters. Terribly bothering.
      I agree Kathy, that I have even seen posts where there are a lot of capital letters used at least 50/50. So bothering too.
      I would wish to improve my writing, and seeing all the above, does not help at all, as it irritates me.
      Why don´t we pay attention to our writing, we women of the certain age?
      I am trying to start using less special marks, because using them frequently lessens their value. Nevertheless, I appreciate all the comments I receive just as before.
      Once again echoing Ida on this one.

  7. I read your post on style before I read this post. In my opinion, the nouns that describe a person’s career are selected by the person’s style. How many times have you heard that you need to dress like the person you want to become? If I want to be an academic, do I need to drop the Lilly Pulitzer? Even if I am armed with all the necessary degrees? If you want to be recognized for the creativity you bring to any project, would it be better if you were more edgy? Less sturdy gal (I believe that’s how you described yourself.) and more pencil skirts and heels?

    I could offer example after example but no answers.

    Darwinian in an effort to keep not only our species but caste system in place?

    OK…I only took this off topic a little, right?

    1. Humans have a deep need for other humans to stay in their categories. It’s a little baffling.

  8. Hmmm, not peevish at all IMO. This one makes me crazy(ier) than many others, probably because it was a rather serious noun in my former career, as in “we need to change the creative” on a tv commercial. Or, ” the client isn’t happy with the creative.”

    Now I must go back and ponder the castes, wondering just how I might fit in. And put the book on my list, it does sound appealing.

  9. This makes me wonder how differently people define the word “creative” and creative people. Is it a more narrow definition, and suggestive that creative people “create” or make things? Is it a way of looking at the world, thinking outside the box, approaching things from unusual angles?

    I think perhaps that “creatives” as a noun refers to only the most narrow definitions (as in, people who do the work of creating things in the line of design, or art, or even to some extent programming) whereas many people who don’t consider themselves “creatives” but still thing that they are creative by nature are using a broader definition.

  10. My pet peeve is using the word “grow” as a verb ~ as in “I’m going to grow the economy”. Drives me nuts. Have no idea why it gets under my skin so much, as it doesn’t affect me personally at all.
    As for “creatives” as a noun, also horrible, although this is the first I’ve heard of it. Although I’m a painter, I don’t really think of myself as anymore creative than any other profession. I just tap into (when I’m lucky) a different area of creativity perhaps?
    Thanks for the trilogy recommendation too. It appears “young adult fiction” and “mommy porn” have become my new favorite literary genres.

  11. Well worth a thoughtful rant! Sloppy language is the lesser problem here — what’s really offensive is the claiming or co-opting of Creative-ity. Fight back, girlfriend! Fight back!

  12. I find it funny,interesting, strange that you hate it that the word “creatives” is being used as a noun, but yet you refer to yourself-one must! Your what? 40 something but yet you act,dress,talk like some matronly New England type woman in her 80’s Today’s women want to look great at any age. Wear lots of different colors clothes & jewelry styles.They won’t & don’t want their hair gray til they are elderly. You live in warm sunny California-dress for summer. Not trying to be nasty but get a life!

    1. Not only a nasty comment, but weird, inaccurate, and so off topic. Can’t help but be curious about the psychopathology of someone who would bother to follow a blog and make this kind of remark. Lisa is so kind, wonderful, generous with herself, intelligent, etc. Why would you want to be purposefully hurtful to her, or anyone else? Sad.

    2. I´m on a writing mood today, and agree with Kathy.
      What´s going on with you Mary?
      Would you please come out from your chambers and explain.

    3. I’m 55 – so if I look 40 and sound 80 that’s probably the best of both worlds:). Sorry, I can’t really parse your first sentence. Maybe you could clarify?

    4. “…if I look 40 and sound 80 that’s probably the best of both worlds…”

      I KNEW you wouldn’t disappoint! [you never do]

  13. Hm. Interesting. When I was, a lifetime ago, it seems, a product manager for a publishing house I may have done activities like the ones you describe, find a market, find subjects, find authors, work with and give input for ad and sales department approaches. I used to come up with new book ideas by placing successfully published titles on my desk in heaps and try to imagine new books that would fill the physically empty slots. Nobody understood what I was doing, it was the Eighties and a very male-oriented environment. Despite sales of many millions I never really got the respect I deserved, let alone finding a kindred creator to brainstorm with in my company.

    I finally gave up from burn-out and went into “creative”, writing ad copy, doing museum theatre, learning to sing. It was a personally good and financially insecure time. Today I’m doing a mix and feel good. I don’t think most people understand what creativity is (see the stereotypes on how to dress to be perceived as “creative”). Of course there’s a creative component in your work, it may be – and I love kathy’s post above – a different kind from all-out right-brain activity. I seem to remember there are 5 kinds of creativity,from transfer over recombination to creation. But I have to look that up.

  14. In my previous life, I worked in the advertising industry and had often come across and used the word “creative” to refer to anybody from the Creative Department –from the copywriters to the art directors to the graphic designers. Outside of advertising, though, I have not heard people use it here to refer to, say, artists or dancers… nor would it even cross my mind to use that term in reference to them. Not because I do not think they are “creative,” –they are, –but for me when I hear “creative” used as a noun, images of “casually” dressed persons who might or might not come late to meetings, come to mind.

  15. Like Flo I consider being called a creative a step in the right direction. It may be a misuse of the English language, but at least no one is calling my innate abilities something unpleasant. A small victory, of course, but I’ll happily be referred to as the creative [not artsy-fartsy] in the room.

  16. I loved ‘Divergent’ (thought it was better than the ‘Hunger Games’ series), and can’t wait to read it’s sequel ‘Insurgent’. I myself would probably be divergent, as I feel I fall in both Candor and Erudite.

  17. Use of ‘Key’ as a verb — incorrect grammer ie something is key –what does that mean? No definite or indefinite article,and the object left out!!

    The Westminster politicans have their own’speak’which is a verb which was first used as a noun by George Orwell in his book ‘1984’ which was written in 1949!

    Pet peeve…google underling English words….in this post it has underlined (grammer,politicans,and google ha,ha….and it positively hates colour) Ida

  18. My pet peeve is the misuse of ‘literally’. The blog I was reading before I came to yours had some dog ‘literally blooming’. The convergence of animal and floral boggles the mind. But most people are either sloppy or have no clue what the word means (or used to mean!).

    As to your peeve, in my opinion all humans have some creative gifts, so using ‘creative’ as a slang shortcut for a group of people in advertising doesn’t deny the artistic talents of the rest of us. But then I don’t have to put up with hearing it everyday!

  19. As long as a moratorium on peevishness is being observed, I shall weigh in the use of the term. “gifting” or “gifted” as in the place and stead of “giving” or “gave”.

    Oh bloggers of the world, if you tell me that you “were gifted” with a particular item or that you “gifted” something to someone else”, I will wonder why you chose to use 2 words and a made up word, when one would do.

    Having attended high school, you can trust that I will understand from the context that when you write,”Someone ‘gave’ this to me”, that you mean you received it as a gift, not that they handed it to you in line at the check out counter.

    Also, even if you were to use the awkward passive construct, “It was a gift to me”, it has considerable more grace than, “I was gifted with a free subscription to Hipster Magazine”.

    A cease and desist order of the use of the words “gifting” and “gifted” in this context would be a great gift to me.

  20. Ok. When I use small letters it is purely laziness. Although I do like e.e. cummings. My pet peeve is when people use “invite” as a noun. Grrrrrrr.

  21. Late evening peeves:

    1. Sentences/writers that begin topics with “Ok, so..” [SHOOT ME]

    2. Writers who use “amazing” as his/her only superlative adjective, sometimes stretched out to “amaaaaaaazing” as in: “That jacket is such an amaaaazing color/style/fit.” [SHOOT ME AGAIN]

    3. “Fun” as an adjective modifying furniture or clothing, compounded horribly when used with “piece,” as in: “That sofa/blazer is such a fun piece!!!” [Fun and Piece used together must always be accompanied by multiple exclamation marks]. [Already dead]

    1. Thank you Flo for the reminder.
      I have started sentences with, OK, So, Well and likes..
      I´ll try to keep your comment in my mind from now on.

      I am disturbed by the superlatives: Great, fantastic, amazing, nice, etc.
      I bet there are more words in the vocabulary to express one´s acceptance & approval.

      In general, I hope people would pay more attention into what and how they write – even in a net.

  22. I am obliged to write in “corporatese” to the higher ups on my campus…and I am forever ranting about the need for creativity in all sorts of teaching. I know that it falls on deaf ears…but I enjoy the challenge of communicating that. Several of our “leaders” have never taught a day in their lives. Education is a business, you know.

    1. “Education is a business, you know.”

      The news coming from Charlottesville is affirming this notion, yes.

  23. I agree with Jonathan Rogers in the Capacitron link: English is a living language and people will come up with new ways to use words. It’s to be expected, but that doesn’t make some new uses any less annoying.

    Consider that advertisers came up with this new use of the word “creative.” Let’s remember that advertisers are always trying to sell us stuff; that’s their function. In this case they are selling the idea that they own “creative.” Potential clients must hire them because, of course, they have all the creativity.

    Acknowledging everyone’s innate creativity would make their function a whole lot less useful and profitable.

  24. 1. “Cute” as an adjective for things than can never be “cute”: “Oh, that’s a cute paint colour”.

    2. “Architect” as a verb: “Meet with Joe and see if he can architect that program for the client.”

    3. Inaccurate subject/pronoun agreement: “Everyone should keep their feelings to themself.”

    Yes, the language is living, but “she goes like” instead of “she said” will grate on my ear till my last day.

  25. “I want my adjective back.”

    Lisa, I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve sat at this desk, read your blog posts, and said under my breath that you are the most creative genius I’ve ever encountered. You could write an expressive, scholarly, equally-balanced essay on a clipped fingernail if you wanted to. Seinfeld got famous for copying you. But you do it better.

  26. ok, so, i totally agree with danielle’s amazing comment!

    why can’t we recycle words? the dictionary is literally exploding with unused words! i’m going to up my new meanings quotient and grow my vocabulary.

    so fun!

  27. As a former international student in this country (and now a permanent resident who teaches at a university), I always bristle when I hear the new noun “Internationals.” It makes us seem inhuman (ironically now that “resident alien” has been removed from my (our?) ID cards).

  28. Let the Creatives be, I say. Only because I’m a Live and let Live -er. Besides the proof is in the cognitive soup anyway. Great rant!

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