Henry Alpert of Action Copy emailed to alert me about a mini-trend in commercial calls to action: Discover your X, in which X is some non-noun pressed into nounish service.
Henry’s first example:
“Discover your Interesting.”
Zite is an app that “delivers your personal slice of the Zeitgeist.” (Yes, Zite comes from Zeitgeist.) It’s hard to tell whether interesting is capitalized because it’s meant to be a proper noun or because the proofreading was haphazard.
Henry’s second example:
“Discover your Why.”
The slogan appears on an online-education site whose name may be Start with Why (the URL), Inspire Action (the home-page headline), Why University (one of the things being sold) or Simon Sinek (the name of the developer). Honestly, the site makes it really challenging to find your What.
Elsewhere on the site we see “Learn your Why.”
And also “Share the Why,” “Clarify your Why,” and “Articulate your Hows.”
Unlike interesting, why is legitimately a noun from time to time (“the hows and whys of logo design”), as well as an adverb, a conjunction, and an interjection.
A third example of the trend appeared in my in-box earlier this week: “Find your inner fabulous!”
HerRoom turns underwear into a verb (I think) and fabulous into a noun.
Besides the discover/find trope and the anthimeria—the use of a word outside its customary part of speech—the theme here is personalization: it’s your why, your interesting, your inner fabulous. This is a trend of its own, one I first wrote about in 2009 (“But Enough About Me”). In 2010 I devoted a Visual Thesaurus column to the subject (“The You Decade”). Back in 2007, the late Christopher Hitchens wrote much more elegantly about it for Slate; his essay is also titled “The You Decade.” Hitchens wrote:
Perhaps global-scale problems and mass-society populism somehow necessitate this unctuous appeal to the utter specialness of the supposed individual. What you can do to stop planetary warming. How the maximum leader is on your side. The ways in which the corporation has your needs in mind as it makes its dispositions. The candidate who wants to hear your views.
Almost six years later, the political is, if anything, even more personal. You may not have much influence on climate change or gun violence, but hey—you can own “interesting.” If you can find it, that is.