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This is your LAST CHANCE!
How often have you heard those words? Seriously. How often? And of all the times you’ve heard “last chance,” was it ever really a last chance?
I hear “last chance” all the time at the mall. Moms and dads say it to misbehaving kids over and over again, leading anyone listening to believe that what it really means is, “This is your hundredth chance and you have five hundred more chances before I make good on my threat to drag your sorry little behind home.” C’mon. Admit it. You’ve heard it. Maybe you’re even one of the parents who has said it. (It’s okay. You’re in good company.)
Car ads are another example. “This is your LAST CHANCE to buy the Super Deluxe Hondota Sedan at these end-of-year prices!” Only it isn’t really the last chance, is it? They’ll have another comparable sale in a month or so. They’ll call it the beginning-of-the-year sale.
My thinking on this topic began with mail order catalogs. There is one in particular that stalks me. I ordered two things eight years ago and now they won’t leave me alone. The catalog arrives twice a month like clockwork. Lately, though, the cover is emblazoned with huge letters that spell out “LAST CHANCE to receive our catalog!”
They’ve been sending me catalogs with the LAST CHANCE warning for months now. I still haven’t ordered anything. I must be a terrible disappointment to the people at the catalog company. My picture is on a milk carton in their break room.
So under what circumstances should the “last chance” threat be taken seriously?
The IRS. They probably mean it when they say “last chance.” Police officers mean it. Teachers mean it, and—God bless them—they have to make good on any threat they make to their students or the little boogers will just walk all over them (see paragraph 2 above). But really, who else? Aside from the federal government, teachers and grandparents, who else really, truly means “last chance” when they say it?
I think most of the time “last chance” is only a suggestion. But the phrase, “We SUGGEST you buy something from our catalog” just doesn’t have the same critical ring to it. LAST CHANCE carries the implication of immediacy and necessity.
And don’t you just love examples of how the language is wrapped around myriad thought processes? How words are woven to convey ideas is such a marvel. When Maya Angelou does that it’s “poetry.” When a politician’s press secretary does it, it’s called “spin.” Worlds apart, but the process is the same.
What other words or phrases are used for effect rather than literal meaning? There must be ooh-gobs of them out there. If you think of any, please leave a comment. But don’t wait! This is your LAST CHANCE!
See you next for Book Blurb Friday!