BRAINFOOD: Words-worth - Extreme

In these difficult times, we must all be on the lookout for extremism.

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Starting with the marketing department. There, 'extreme' has become a term of approval, used to apply a little spray-on excitement to otherwise mundane products. Your razor, you may have noticed, now offers you 'extreme comfort'; you can splash on Paul Smith Extreme, a scent; you can wear Extreme Socks; if you're stressed, you can take up Extreme Arranging - formerly known as Flower Arranging. Most of these things are about as radical as the Townswomen's Guild, but they all want to borrow the glamour of 'extreme sports'. Unfortunately, 'extreme' is not a synonym for 'mildly interesting': it means 'excessive' or 'intolerable'. It's a bad thing, which makes 'extreme comfort' very silly indeed. 'Extreme sports' imply discomfort, danger and death. None of these things comes close - although flower arranging has been known to turn quite nasty.

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