Tuesday, April 21, 2009


As my friends and regular readers know, I'm a huge fan of violinist Joshua Bell. After years of following his career, I've read just about every superlative a reviewer could possibly come up with: "world-class", "wunderkind", "superstar", and so on. Recently I saw a new descriptor, courtesy of the Seattle Times, referring to him as a "supernova violinist". This was disturbing to me. Call me excessively literal, but a supernova is the DEATH---albeit spectacular---of a star!

I actually wasn't even sure whether the author was referring to Bell's playing or his professional success. Joshua Bell can certainly execute fiery performances (watch him play the third movement of the Bruch violin concerto if you ever get a chance...wow!), but he's more often described as saccharine or "pretty". I Googled the expression "go supernova" and found references to Depeche Mode, Nokia fashion phones, and microblogging, from which I conclude that it's intended to mean something like "wild, unpredicted success." Bell's career has certainly been amazing, so I guess it's an apt description. I just can't shake the image of a "supernova violinist" as someone who explodes into pieces all over the stage.


lu said...

it always warms my heart to find someone else with a similarly keen sense of language usage and its misuse!

this is quite hilarious and i would have thought that audi would have had someone proofreading their english materials a little more carefully!

Language Lover said...

Hi lu, thanks for the comment! I think you meant to write this on my "Cultural sensitivity" post, but I still say that "supernova violinist" counts as language misuse. :)

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