Taking a bathos

A New York Times review of last Friday's Hope for Haiti telethon focused on how little the star power at the event was played up. Except:

The most showbiz-y of all was the CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who chimed in live from Haiti, describing the misery there framed by images of desperation, sometimes with a little too much bathos for a newsman.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines bathos as:

  • 1a. An abrupt, unintended transition in style from the exalted to the commonplace, producing a ludicrous effect.
  • 1b. An anticlimax.
  • 2a. Insincere or grossly sentimental pathos
  • 2b. Banality; triteness.

Of those, I think 2a best fits what the reviewer was saying.

Pathos means:

  • 1. A quality, as of an experience or a work of art, that arouses feelings of pity, sympathy, tenderness, or sorrow.
  • 2. The feeling, as of sympathy or pity, so aroused.

This isn't really a revelation though. Whether or not it is sincere, isn't that kind of display of emotion Anderson Cooper's coin in trade? It's what he built his career on after Katrina.

Bathos is "Greek, meaning depth, from bathus, meaing deep." Pathos is also Greek, meaning suffering.