In defense of being cheesy

My old ad agency boss despised all things cheesy. 

Any time our team sat down for a copy review, he would red line all of the messaging that was too cute, too clever, too corny or rhymed. 

Sadly, this pretty much eliminated all of my writing. Couldn’t help myself. That style of creativity is my lifeblood. You don’t wear a nametag every day for twenty years if you’re not at least a little cheesy. Hell, I was born on valentine’s day and I host a fake gameshow. Cheesy is my birthright. 

But somewhere along the line, we decided as a society that cheesy wasn’t a compliment. 

The original definition of the word cheesy means overdramatic, clichéd, inauthentic. It comes from the root word which signals something that’s cheap or inferior. In fact, the earliest use of the word in a negative way is from a novel in the mid eighteen hundreds, where the slang word was described as a vague term of depreciation, something hackneyed and lacking subtlety. 

In that respect, being cheesy isn’t advisable. 

However, the evolution of our culture’s distaste for this word is something different. 

There is now an entire generation of people who now use the word cheesy as a blanket description for anything that is earnest, sincere, joyful, romantic, sweet, loving, generous or optimistic. 

Like giving your coworker positive feedback. Or telling people you love them. Or crying while giving a speech. That’s so cheesy. 

Or making puns. And singing pop songs out loud. Saying hello to coworkers when you arrive at the office. Also cheesy. 

But to me, anytime someone scoffs at things or behavior that they consider cheesy, what they’re really announcing to the world is:

I’m disconnected from my feelings. I’m so out of touch with joy, and so uncomfortable and suspicious of anyone who openly loves themselves and others, that I have to spew my sarcastic bile all over it to alert everyone in spitting distance just how cool I am. 

After two decades of wearing a nametag for no reason other than to connect with new people, the most common criticism people give me is, wow, that’s so cheesy. 

And my reply is always, of course it’s cheesy. That’s the whole point. Congratulations on being observant. 

My mentor wrote about this topic his bestselling book about positive attitude. Jeffrey opens with this disclaimer:

Throughout this book, I am going to share with you the quotes of other masters of attitude that have influenced me. And if you think they are cheesy, now would be a good time to give this book to somebody else. But keep tabs on who you give the book to. They’ll be the ones who become successful later in life while you’re still grumbling. 

Cheesy is valid. Cheesy means easy to read and easy to understand. 

Bottom line, if you think cheesy people aren’t gouda or even grate, then cow dairy you. 


Which aspect of your personality makes people uncomfortable?

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Scott Ginsberg

That Guy with the Nametag

Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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