In 500 years time I predict some futuristic historian, possibly working at the Port Hedland campus of Rinehart University, will undertake a study of 21st Century English and come to some surprising conclusions.
He or she will find evidence of “medal” used a a verb and “shortage” as the collective noun for a a group of skilled workers. But the biggest discovery will be the conclusion that the word “big” meant “evil” or “tyranically powerful”.
This may seem strange to us, but it only take a quick Google search to find numerous public figures warning us against the Big Bads of modern living.
Last week’s court decision on plain cigarette packaging was universally reported as a loss for “big tobacco”, which makes it sound like one of the campier villains from the 1960s Batman TV show. You can imagine Commissioner Gordon proclaiming “Gotham is once again safe and it’s all thanks to Rangawoman and her sidekick Roxon”.
Like all good multinationals, Big Business has various wholly-owned subsidiaries. As well as Big Tobacco there are the Big Polluters targeted by the carbon tax and Big Pharma, which is not a dyslexic agriculture lobby but rather the multinational drug corporations that sell Viagra and Prozac.
But before you think only the political use big in the negative sense, remember conservatives from Andrew Bolt to Mitt Romney are all wary of Big Government who, along with its governess Nanny State, wants to ruin our personal freedoms.
Confusingly while Australians like their organisations small, we prefer our tourist attractions comically huge. Maybe our 26th Century historian will argue the monuments like the Big Banana and Big Prawn are memorials to mutated monstrosities that once terrorised the the landscape.
So why has “big” become the perjorative of choice? I believe it is because we all secretly see ourselves as lone non-conformists standing up to a brutish society.
The irony is we can hold this notion while simultaneously insisting on more government services and more high tech gadgets to amuse us. The only way to achieve these outcomes are bigger bureaucracies and bigger businesses. If you want it all, unfortunately you must think big.