Patrick Leigh-Pemberton: On exclusivity

Pat Pat schools us all on exclusivity.

The word exclusive is an interesting one. Time was, many years ago, before anyone had even thought of holding a fashion show in St. Andrews, it was a word that meant something that was restricted. Closed Off. Select. And other things that I can’t really be bothered to write out, but you get the idea. I quite like it as a word; in fact, I am quite fond of most words that form themselves from a supine that involves the transformation of a d to an s, but that really is by the by. The meaning of this word, however, is not one that I have often thought of as a meaning that could transform. But, the genii behind corporate and student marketing have achieved it.

Nowadays, the word exclusive means “restricted to anyone that has a computer” or, and this is where you will see the really select few “anyone that has facebook”. I accept that these two categories do not represent the total population of the human race, and in this way, the use is strictly accurate, but I do feel that the spirit of the word is being lost. When FS had an “behind the scenes photo-shoot”, the word was being maltreated. This sort of arrogant abrogation of the English language is not restricted (the irony of this word does not escape me) to student advertisers. No, you will see them all at it. There is even a Facebook app called “Exclusive” that has, apparently, 50,000+ users. This is quite a lot. This is not a grouping that any social climber of the 60s worth their salt would recognise as exclusive. And this bugs me a little. But really, it is just a little.

The thing that really bugs me, is the reason for this overuse and misunderstanding of such a nice looking word.  People still haven’t got rid of the idea of exclusivity being a good thing. People will accept blatant lies to their faces in order to feel like they are part of something exclusive. You can see it in nightclubs, where you can pay more, to get less space, in which you can pay double the usual bar price just to feel separated from the rest of humanity (as if this is a worthy cause). I don’t understand it. What is so special about an extra degree of separation. What is so wrong with the rest of our race that we feel that a little red rope or a man with an earplug is worth paying for? It is an urge I do not think is healthy, but the whole situation is one which merely seeks to exacerbate this problem. The fashion shows, which are often described as some of the best nights out in St. Andrews (I know that you, intelligent reader, and I, shall not be fooled by this advertising, but I need it to make the following point), have latched on to this need for exclusivity, and seeing that it is a word that people associate with the sort of glamour that they pretend to promote, have decided to falsely claim some of it for themselves. So, I do not mind that they sought to change the meaning of the English language, but I do mind the dishonesty with which they made the attempt, and the fact that it has been made in order to appeal to one of our bases desires.