I had always thought that it was just my pre-teen daughter who needed to be told every time,usually when I drove the car and she sat at the back, to not to use ‘this’ and ‘that’ while starting a conversation. A pronoun is, after all, a noun replacer and one needs to know the noun in the first instance. It is yum. It is tangy. It is soft. Yes, but what is “it’? It is a case of sheer laziness more than a weak vocabulary in her case. But what about so many online news headlines these days?
As you scroll down the news feed I invariably come across a headline or two and sometimes even more that reads something like: ‘this is how the mother of 3 fought the tiger’, ‘this powerful herb cures depression’, ‘this is why the actor walked off the stage’ etc. What in the correct, traditional way should really have been written as a) Brave mother of 3 fights a tiger, b) XYZ cures depression and 3) Actor in anger walks off stage. Simple. This is how it is usually. Why would you add ‘this’ and ‘that’ and their plurals. Is it not obvious that the body of the article will explain the headlines and in a good journalistic fashion report the whys, whats, wheres, ifs and hows. And if the subject is of reader’s interest he/she would anyway click on the headlines to read further on.
I figured out the reason and maybe I am the last one to do so! It all comes down to making the readers curious and encouraging them to click on the headlines so that it takes them to their website. Clicking on the link gets them the numbers after all and in the end it is all about numbers. So if it was something like : Green Tea Cures Depression you might move on to the next news and not bother to click the headline to read the details- who said it, why, where etc. However, if it was “this” cures you of depression, this this (yes 2 ‘this’) will make you click on the headline to at least grab the name of “this”. Clever. Though many times this ‘this’ makes you feel cheated. You have after all taken the bait! How predictable of you?! And if ‘this’ turns out to be nothing as spectacular as it was made to sound in the headlines (which happens most of the time) it is very annoying.
I choose not to read such articles at all now. It is more like a revolt. Revolt against being fooled. Revolt against being sold something by playing on a human weakness called curiosity. I might be missing out on some useful information but a gimmick like this is better suited for selling new products. Selling news? No way.
(image courtesy: http://www.monkimia.de/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Moebeltattoo_this_and_that.jpg)