CABLE NETWORK TLC APPEALS TO OXFORD, WEBSTER’S TO REDEFINE “LEARNING”
By: Ross Kelly
The almost-40-year-old cable network, now known as TLC, is attempting to make some changes to the English language. The network’s basic claim is that as culture evolves, so does language. And, our resource materials need to reflect that.
TLC began in 1972 as the Appalachian Community Service Network, which it was known as until November 1980, when it took on its current moniker. In its early days, “The channel mostly featured documentary content pertaining to nature, science, history, current events, medicine, technology, cooking, home improvement and other information-based topics.”
And then came A Wedding Story. With the turn of the century, came a downward turn of attention span. Suddenly, The Learning Channel was telling viewers that it was okay to care about what happens when the Lutz family redecorates the Kortworth family’s living room because its learning. After all, it is on The Learning Channel.
Joe Abruzzese, President of Advertising Sales, had this to say:
“If we thought people would be interested in information regarding [the giant squid], that’s what we would program. But learning is changing. Or, rather, what people are willing to accept as learning is changing. As the definition stands, it reads ‘The action of receiving instruction or acquiring knowledge.’ We don’t think that is wrong, but we think it is incomplete. Take our show Toddlers and Tiaras. I didn’t know how to cope with throwing up in my own mouth while having my thumb firmly planted on my remote, yet completely paralyzed, unable to change the channel, before watching that show. But I learned. Take our show Say Yes to the Dress, which I bet is about learning how to give affirmative answers to various women’s garments. And what about its two spinoffs, Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, which takes what you’ve learned about saying yes to dresses and then teaches you that being in Atlanta can really turn everything on its ear. And Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss, which actually taught us something. We learned that fat women watch TV, too.
These shows educate people about wedding dresses in a decision-making context. They are ‘doca-mennaries’. Look, we know this is not traditional ‘learning’. But it is on a network called The Learning channel.”
TLC has reached out to the Oxford University Press, which publishes the Oxford English Dictionary, and has been diligently praying at the grave site of Noah Webster. The Oxford University Press has yet to respond to The Learning Channel’s requests to amend the definition. But, according to Abruzzese, the ghost of Noah Webster is, “Into the idea.”
The new definition would read:
learn·ing Noun /ˈlərniNG/
1. The acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, practice, or study, or by being taught.
2. Anything that is featured on a medium which contains “Learning” in its title. (e.g. Toddlers and Tiaras is on The Learning Channel tonight. Let’s watch it and learn about it.)
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