Overuse can turn a perfectly good word into a perfectly horrible one. One word that's currently on the road to linguistic lame-itude is journey.
Have you noticed that suddenly, everyone in America is on a journey?
Just glance at any "People" magazine cover or watch any celebrity interview, and chances are you'll learn about someone who has just completed, is still on, or is embarking on some kind of journey.
You can’t turn on the tv these days without hearing about these dramatic, personal journeys. Piers Morgan asks virtually every guest, “Tell us…what kind of journey has this been for you?” “It’s been a journey” is now the stock answer to describe everything from Kirstie Alley's weight loss battles to Brook Shield's triumph over post-partum depression. The subject matter doesn’t really matter— as long as one has been on a journey, it suggests some sort of profound transformation or magical passage to a more enlightened state of mind. It's definitely not about the destination, it's all about the journey.
Merely using the word “journey” adds import to anything — no matter how trivial. So it’s no surprise that Reality TV is rife with journeys. No episode of "Dancing with the Stars” is complete without swimsuit model Co-Host, Brooke Burke, injecting the "journey" question into her backstage, post-performance celebrity interviews. "So...the judges just awarded you 10's for your Paso Doble", she'll gush...before switching to her Really Serious Voice to ask, "We know you've worked so hard for these past 8 weeks...can you tell us...what has this JOURNEY been like for you?" (The answer to that last question inevitably contains the two words most often associated with these sorts of profoundly life-changing journeys: "so" and "amazing", as in, "Oh, it's just been SO amazing!").
“The Biggest Loser” is also big on journeys (so I hear, I don’t watch it). Every contestant is on his or her own journey (“Follow Courtney’s journey”... “Biggest Loser winner Olivia Ward opted for a tummy tuck to remove excess skin after shedding 116 pounds. See her journey and dramatic transformation.” Viewers are also invited to “Watch the final four journeys, or go online to find recipes, advice and support for your own journey.”
(Geesh, I’m so worn out just hearing about all this, I think I’ll journey to the fridge and inhale a quart of Rocky Road).
Of course, these profound, personal journeys are even more ubiquitous in print. No celebrity or politician memoir is complete without adding the requisite “My journey to…” after the title. Today, all you need is a colon and a personal journey to make it to the best seller list. A quick perusal on Amazon reveals literally hundreds of such subtitles, including:
Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far (Bristol Palin)
Louder Than Words: A Mother’s Journey in Healing Autism (Jenny McCarthy)
This is Herman Cain: My Journey to the White House (Herman Cain)
Invincible: My Journey From Fan to NFL Team Captain (Vince Papale)
Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist (Mike Farrel)
Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Journey to Change the World…One Child at a Time (Greg Mortenson)
Pink Boots and a Machete: My Journey from NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer (Mireya Mayor)
Then there are the overcoming illness/adversity/addiction journeys…
It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life (Lance Armstrong)
Save Karyn: One Shopaholic’s Journey to Debt and Back (Karyn Bosnak)
How to Overcome Bulimia: My Journey from Hell to Happiness (Shaye)
Livin La Vida Low-Carb: My Journey from Flabby Fat to Sensationally Skinny in One Year (Jimmy Moore)
And my personal favorite:
A Raw Life: My Journey from Cooked to Raw Foods (Nubia I)
Where will it end? I'd say Journey to the Centre of the Earth qualified as a journey. And Eugene O’Neill surely earned the right to the title, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. But My Journey from Cooked to Raw Foods? Seriously??
Not surprisingly, corporations are jumping on the journey bandwagon, too. Not to miss out (after all, corporations are people, too), companies are quickly co-opting this term for their own purposes. And why not? By simply adding “journey” to your company’s website copy, or generously sprinkling the word “journey” throughout your corporate mission statement, whatever actual work you are doing is suddenly imbued with an altruistic, almost religious quality.
This air of sanctity matters even more today, when many companies are striving to look environmentally responsible. So we get Rubbermaid’s CEO talking about “Making a Difference: Our Journey of Transformation” and Colgate Palmolive inviting us to “...follow our journey from a single store front to global front runner.”
Tech companies, in particular, are all over the journey thing. For an industry that prizes innovation and originality, their website copy all sounds surprisingly similar...
The destination of our journey is to build a real-time enterprise and we’re focused on business processes and the end-user to complete this journey.
EMC has traveled a long way on its journey to cloud computing.
The Value of Customer Journey Maps: a UX Designer’s Personal Journey
The founders of Edge Case, a startup, take the journey metaphor to new heights, as witnessed by this inspiring home page copy:
Over five years ago we started on a journey to create a company -- the company we always wanted to work for. Recently, some friends of ours offered to help us continue on that journey and we accepted. We have not yet arrived at our final destination. We continue to hike along. The opportunity to reach our original destination and then continue on to new sites and explore new territory was too much to pass up. Today we are announcing that Digital Garage has acquired Edge Case. Together we are forming New Context, a company dedicated to bridging the divide between design and technology while helping build new companies and improve the software side of existing ones.
Phew. Sounds like these kids got some much-needed venture capital funding in the nick of time — get those hiking boots on, boys, and let the journey continue!
I don’t know about you, but if I hear the word “journey” one more time, I may have to make a quick journey to the bathroom to throw up.
Once upon a time, the word "journey" was reserved for describing actual physical journeys and exotic travel, such as trekking by camel across Outer Mongolia. There were also religious/spiritual journeys. Then came truly life-changing experiences or dramatic life stories; whether it was an individual's battle with serious illness, or some type of truly remarkable achievement. Those qualified as "journeys", too. In those contexts, the word made sense. For a while.
But now, "journey" can be used to describe — and add faux gravitas to — just about anything, no matter how mundane. The more trivial the topic, the more profound the “journey”. Hence this late breaking news flash about Kourtney Kardashian’s pregnancy: “We are sure that Kourtney will share her pregnancy journey with fans via her reality show, Twitter and her mommy blog.” (OMG. I am really looking forward to reading Kourtney's mommy blog! Stay tuned...).
How did we get here? I’m not sure. But as with most loathsome language trends, I suspect Oprah had something to do with it. “What journey are you on?” has been a staple Oprah-ism forever. We've also heard ad nauseam about Oprah's “weight loss journey”, her “spiritual journey”, her "career journey", etc. etc. I’ll bet if Oprah discovered a new shampoo, we'd hear about her "hair care journey".
Whether or not we can blame Oprah for our modern day Journey Syndrome is unclear. All I know is we need to give this word a rest — and soon. Please, people, can we just STOP with the journeys??
So what have I learned while writing this post? (other than the fact that I clearly don’t know when to use quotes versus italics). I’m not sure I’ve discovered any definitive answers. Nor have I found enlightenment. And I certainly haven't lost any weight sitting here in front of the computer.
But at least writing about this topic has been somewhat cathartic. I feel a sense of healing...a surprising, new sense of lightness.
Thanks for being a part of my journey.