Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hey You! Shut up!

Yes, you. 

By Capt. Fogg

It's the time of year at which I start to bitch and moan more than usual about what you have been doing to my language in that pathetically  passionate and Sisyphean pursuit of  being like the cool kids, the hip, with-it, urban, hang around the mall texting, thug pretending Clearasil crowd you wish you were like instead of the afraid-to-grow-up nerd with the 6000 word vocabulary you are.   Don't take comfort in the idea that I'm the only one.  I have allies.

Lake Superior State University may be seeking status by publishing their annual list of banned words.  I admit I would never have heard of them otherwise, but standing up for human dignity, taking a risk or even sticking their necks out (which is a cliche on my own banned list ) is easier for the little guy than for the English Department at Yale or Princeton or Harvard who have so much jargon laden linguistic naughtiness of their own to hide. I mean listen to those people some time.

It's to be noted that the Oxford dictionary folks have given us "selfie" as the word of the year, as though the nickname, the childish contraction, the conveyor of infantile cuteness makes the useless word preferable to 'self portrait' or simply 'picture' and as though we've made a statement  as important, as piquant, as precious as wearing your hat backwards some 40 years after the cuteness and uniqueness turned rancid.  Like most of this pretentious pre-teen babble, it says, "I'm not a stodgy grown up, I'm a kid, a street urchin, a rebel."   The hell you are.

No wonder then that  LSSU puts 'selfie' at the top of the annual banned list and suggests that we all teach by example and not use it no matter how much the idiot press tries to gain favor from the never-grow-ups.  It doesn't make you younger and  more charming than covering your encroaching baldness by wearing a hat in a restaurant or running shoes with a business suit.

Sure, many or maybe most people will giggle at the list and perhaps snicker about the rural pretentiousness  of  some college housed in some igloo somewhere on the frigid shores of Lake Superior and offers majors in  Fisheries and Wildlife Management, but they're heroes to me. Back when I was riding about alone with a lance and tin pot helmet like trying to like get people to like not say like so much it was encouraging to have them out there with me, not that anything ever retards the advance of  acid dripping aliens or drooling Americans yearning to be hip.  But you do what you have to do. You make a point of  ignoring the latest media infatuation, the latest gleeful descent into ever more nearly transcendental  vulgarity like  that culture destroying practice of  waving one's genitals in the public face like a blue-assed baboon in heat or a moose in rut: twerking. It's on their list and mine, targeted for destruction.

It's equally as encouraging to have LSSU riding at my side when approaching that  overripe, fly-blown and stinking cliche that has has anything larger than common as "on steroids."   Perhaps we should start the rumor that saying "on steroids" does the same thing to your genitals as actually being on steroids.  Maybe untrue, but anything for the cause. 

But there's a gorilla in the room, to pick another beaten to death trope, and although this year's list doesn't mention it, it may be the most vile, most overused, most needful of a quick and merciful death and it's "awesome."   There must be some psychological principle involved but most of us don't notice that you can't get through a dozen words without one of them being Awesome.  You can't say it without a certain smile, inflection, gesture or bit of micro-theater -- everything from relieving your bladder to the contemplation of the cosmos is just Awesome!  Didja hear that smile in my voice? Ain't I childlike and cute?  I just hope the next time something seems just 'Ahhhhsome' that you choke on it and don't expect no stinking Heimlich from me or my buddy on the donkey here: LSSU the fighting Lakers.

And then there's "urban."  That accursed term which no longer has much to do with metropolitan life. We have definitions and we have "urban" definitions. We have an "urban" dictionary which serves to give some ersatz dignity to any ignorant patois and attempts to explain those great linguistic questions of the difference between big and big ass and all the strange agglutinative properties of  affixes like ass.   Indeed "urban" stands for a subculture and the language it uses.  I have only one thing to say about it: don't.  By the time it gets into the Urban Dictionary it's too damn late and probably inaccurate at that.  That makes you a follower, a  loser a poseur. 

So look, if you really speak English, if you enjoy novel and creative usage and know something about the history of the words you're building something out of, go ahead.  It's how language progresses, it's where poetry and literature begin, but if you use it to cover up ignorance or even to promote it, if everything is awesome only because it's all you know. you're on the list bud. You're got me and the LSSU Lakers on your trail and they're not just bad-ass, they're awesome and might just do something impactful, if you know what  I mean.

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Blogger Libby Spencer said...

I was wondering when you were going to get to "impactful." Epic rant. Oh wait. Am I allowed to say epic? :~)

2:27:00 PM  
Blogger Capt. Fogg said...

Kind of an annual thing with me. I don't know why, but thanks. It might have become much longer. I refrained from starting in on "crowdfunding" and "the Cloud" both annoying attempts to put new labels on boring old wine, but where would I stop?

Besides,people just don't like to think too much about what they say and get annoyed if I say it's silly. Easier just to "crowdsource" one's language.

My advice is not to bother anyone who wraps herself in trendy language. It's like criticizing her clothes or that three inch thread spool in his ear. Not good and no one will miss you if you leave the party early.

You know and I know that the New York Stock Exchange has long been "crowdfunded" and that a web server owned by Amazon is in some basement and not in the upper troposphere -- that Handel's Christmas oratorio is indeed Awesome but no skateboard ever is, was or will be.

Epic is a bit flattering in this context, but of course, this being su casa we abide by your rules here.

3:14:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

How many times do I have to say, mi casa es su casa? There are no rules here.

3:18:00 PM  

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