Everything becomes this year's new black at some point.
Nothing is ever simply itself anymore. That's fine in a postmodern culture of moral relativism that is accepting of a laid back usage of language and grammar. I'm fairly relaxed about that.
But there comes a point when it all gets a bit too weird.
For me I rather like my optimism to be optimistic, my pessimism pessimistic. I'm a bit old fashioned like that.
So a new trend I have spotted in the papers and magazines and on websites is upsetting me a bit.
It seems that "less pessimism" is the new "more optimism".
Not that I believe we should be bathed in pessimism, far from it, but there is a time and a place...
Anyway here is an example of what I mean.
I have chosen it because it will illustrate the point without hopefully embarrassing the journalist who wrote it. That is assuming anyone spots where it comes from. The story is fine as a news story. It is the headline that is of interest and that bothers me.
It bothers me because I am seeing the same "new optimism" slapped in 48pt type time and again. In truth I have seen many far worse examples and been sent plenty by email of late.
It has reached the point where I feel obliged to react.
So the headline reads: "Architects more optimistic over future workloads".
I feel uplifted, things are getting better I think.
Then I read the story. It says: In April 34% of architects expected work to go down compared with 44% in March, while 18% expected work to go up in April against 16% in March. This is taken from a survey released by RIBA.
Hang on a minute, that means for every architect that expects things to get better there's almost two who think things are going to get worse. Now I am not so perky about the future.
In fairness the tone of the story captures fairly that pessimists are in recession with a drop in the number of architects expecting workloads to fall. It does not use the word optimism.
But it takes a lead from the RIBA quote in the release and suggests, however, that this "less pessimistic" view is a positive sign. That is despite the fact that more architects expect a bad situation to get worse than better.
How else could we have presented the "reality" portrayed by the survey?
Well here is one way. Things are crap and they are going to get crapper, but probably not as quickly. And why are they not going to get crapper quite so quickly? Well, one major factor is that the crapper it is the harder it becomes to get any crapper.
It's not that difficult to put some solid mathematics behind that last sentence.
With workload 31% down on a year ago (according to the survey) we should be asking the question: How much lower can it go? Clearly the architects on balance think workload will fall lower as there are more of them expecting falls than rises.
However much less pessimism there is, I just can't see this as reason for more optimism.
And we could go further and be a bit more subtle. Let's say we explore the effects of the predictable and short-term plunge and rebound in workload resulting from "destocking".
This is a point made frequently of late by Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England. And it probably applies quite appropriately to architects.
When the economy slows, stocks build up as production outstrips sales. The immediate response is to slow production. This reduction in production has not just to be cut to the new level of sales but below to reduce the increased stock that has built up. In extremis, this may lead to a total shutdown. Think Honda.
That inevitably means that when stocks are reduced to an acceptable level production is increased to match the new level of sales. Not as high as before. But, bingo we see a rapid acceleration in output and probably in the rate of growth as well. In the short term that is.
So in the world of construction, say, house builders faced with a huge overhang of stock dismissed the services of architects. Work stops. Now they have reduced stocks and will once again need to engage the services of architect. Work starts.
This turnaround in workload can be quite dramatic if it is broadly synchronised across the economy. And it should not be read as a great improvement in the underlying economy or the drivers of growth, in this case, in the house building industry.
I don't want to be a spoil sport. There will be a time to be more optimistic, but it probably isn't just yet.
Now, perhaps, is a time to be at ease with being a little less pessimistic.