Some buzzwords never go away, even after it would seem their time had come and gone. One perennial nuisance is ‘extreme,’ which continues to be used with none of the context necessary to give it meaning.
Throughout the 1980s, ‘extreme sports’ became a popular catchall term to describe trendy outdoor activities with a high perceived level of danger, such as bungee jumping. Soon, the term was influencing other elements of pop culture. Rapper Vanilla Ice’s 1989 debut album Hooked, for example, was reissued the following year by a major label as To The Extreme, going on to great financial success. A rock band named Extreme was also doing well at this time.
In 1997, the first Extreme Pita fast-food location opened in Waterloo, Ont. More locations soon opened across Canada, along with some in the U.S., though their Lebanese-inspired healthy fare is not particularly extreme in any of its attributes.
While Sharon Osbourne’s 2005 autobiography was titled Extreme, there has in general been noticeably less use of the term in mainstream branding in recent years. It is likely no longer seen as providing advantageous ‘edge’ over the competition; once everyone is at the extreme, it loses its relative meaning.
Perhaps proving this point, on April 24, 2008, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced it had approved an application for a new TV channel—expected to air “programming from around the world devoted to entertainment, humour, travel, games, science and technology and targeted toward children aged 6 to 17 years and their families”—that will, if launched, be called Family Extreme.
It’s about time for some extreme skepticism.