“Exploiting” Lady Gaga: Technical Diction Cringe

With Wittgenstein and Corbin, I agree that words are better understood to have variable uses than fixed meanings. But denotations of some words can stir so strongly that context doesn’t neutralize their effect, which can be jarring.

Take the word to exploit (along with exploiting and exploitation). In common talk, this bears a heavy dark meaning of abuse, misuse, ill-use, manipulate. In specialized contexts, it bears the lighter positive meaning of use, develop, utilize.  In more technical contexts, like intellectual property, it means the more optimistic feat of harvesting, producing, reaping, gathering.

Yet when used in technical or specialized senses, diction can ring indelicate. Take examples from the masterly-crafted complaint filed by Robert Meloni  on behalf of music producer Rob Fusari in his lawsuit for breach of contract against his erstwhile protégé, the pop performer known as Lady Gaga (whose real name is Stephani Germanotta).

In discussing Fusari’s original contract with Germanotta and her father, Joe, the complaint explains that the contract was: “for the purpose of exclusively professionally exploiting Germanotta . . . .”

Just below that allegation, the complaint explains Joe’s role in the venture, as co-owner of Mermaid Music LLC, identified as the company that “controlled the rights to exploit Germanotta’s daughter.”

A few lines later, the complaint explains how they settled on the corrporate structure for the pop star’s enterprise: “Joe suggested a compromise whereby Mermaid and Fusari could share control of the exploitation of his daughter . . . .”

I know they’re talking about harvesting, producing, reaping and gathering the fruits of Lady Gaga’s considerable musical and performance talent.  Yet I can’t shake the impression that something more sinister and distasteful is going on.  Not that Meloni needs advice from me, but I’d shy away from that usage in future litigation papers and, especially, before a Manhattan jury.

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