Must-see. There, I’ve used the phrase for the first and last time in my life. I have never heard it spoken, but I often see it written, as recently as in today’s newspaper. It is popular in the travel section where everyplace in the world has a “must-see” attraction. The phrase is also popular in the entertainment section where almost every half-way decent movie or TV show is a “must-see.” Just recently, I saw a poster in our local Chinese restaurant advertising a Chinese ballet performance in Philadelphia as a “must-see.”
I do not use the phrase, and neither does anyone I know, for a good reason: We all understand there is no such thing, and anyone who claims otherwise is either mendacious or stupid, or maybe both. Or maybe a lazy advertising writer who will bore you with still more cliches. (This applies to any variation of “must-,” such as “must-taste,” and “must-try.”)
In fact, anything claimed as a “must-see” is a sure sign I can skip it—even the Second Coming. It would take a slow night on TV for me to step outside, as shown here, let alone put on a suit and tie, let alone point it out to my wife. But my old, ratty bathrobe might fit right in.
Not even Longwood Gardens is a “must-see.” It is very nice, certainly a “should-see,” but if you pass by without seeing it, you will survive. Worse things could happen.
An interesting hobby would be to keep a list of all the “must-see” places, movies, and TV shows that we have missed, yet here we are, still alive, still healthy and happy.
If there really was a “must-see,” it would be something much more personal, such as seeing a new baby or a loved one before they die. Never a place. Never an event. Never a movie or a TV show.
If you insist you know of a “must-see,” just tell me about it. I have a good imagination. But be warned: A “must-see” for you may not be a “must-see” for me.