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Ken Murphy, flickr Creative Commons

The word “meh” may be the perfect combination of resignation and ennui.

Only a culture so utterly saturated in mediocrity could come up with a term that, in one syllable, expresses both the feeling of being confronted with that mediocrity and the fatigue of having to put up with it.

I guess we wouldn’t even need “meh” if our opinions about stupid, formulaic movies; mind-numbing occupations; and indifferent products and services weren’t so frequently polled.

Market research is revealing: online feedback experiences are incentivized through opportunities to receive for free the very “meh” we’re not sure is worth paying for. Hey, corporate America! If you have to give it away to get an opinion on it, maybe that’s all the indication you need that it isn’t actually very good and that you can dispense with all the costly metrics.

And then there’s the social function of “meh,” and my favorite hobby: deflating hype.

When your family or friends ask if a film or a game or a TV show is really worth the time, a simple “meh” expresses both overt indifference and an implied, “Thanks, but I’m tired that you asked.”

Buried deep behind “meh” are two phenomena.

First is that products and services don’t need to be great, or even good, to be successful. They just need to be good enough.

The second derives directly from the first: as consumers who are faced with a world full of good enough, we’re still somehow supposed to care.

“Meh,” then, is both honest and slightly subversive; it’s a way to make indifference matter. Barring the time or the energy to make real change, “meh” may be all we can expect.

Lael Ewy is a co-founder and editor of EastWesterly Review, a journal of literary satire at www.postmodernvillage.com, and a writer whose work has appeared in such venues as Denver Quarterly and New Orleans Review and has been anthologized in Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh.