The Grumpy Old Copywriter: Let’s Cut Back on All This ‘Curated’ Nonsense

Thaddeus Van HaltrenBack in the day — dare I say, the good old days — only two things were curated: museum exhibits and ham. Oh, how times have changed.

One of my fondest childhood memories is sitting with my family around the dinner table, as Dad carved away and placed a generous serving of curated ham on each of our plates. How our mouths would water in anticipation of that first bite of salty goodness.

Alas, you can’t swing a curated ham these days without hitting something curated or someone who curates. (One can also be a “curate,” a clergy person in charge of a parish, but that’s a different situation. I have no problem with 95% of curates.)

I’m far from the only one who’s noticed this trend. “Curate/Curated” made Lake Superior State University’s 2015 Annual List of Banished Words. The New York Times chimed in, too: “The word ‘curate,’ lofty and once rarely spoken outside exhibition corridors or British parishes, has become a fashionable code word among the aesthetically minded, who seem to paste it onto any activity that involves culling and selecting.”

Food Stand

In our book, food stands are not curated (credit: Joe Mabel).

Therein lies the problem. These days, food stands are curated. Conscious closets (whatever that means) are curated. Netherlands-based hardcore punk music festivals featuring bands like Death Alley and Dead to a Dying World are curated. Lists of crap you want to buy first thing on Black Friday can be curated. And of course, content is being curated all over the place.

You get the idea.

If I could fulfill a life-long dream of mine and be named World Grammar Czar, I’d decree that all my subjects raise the bar when it comes to describing things as “curated.” The latest exhibit at the Guggenheim? Yes. A delectable ham dish? Absolutely. “A curated selection of high quality treats and/or toys and accessories” for your dog? Most definitely not!

Thaddeus Van Haltren founded The Hired Pens in 1931 and now serves as our senior copywriter emeritus. His current accounts include Moxie soda and Heinz Mince Meat.


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