Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sometimes bad is bad.

I find the strangest things to get angry about. Maybe it's because there's so much anger waiting for an opening, maybe because I'm a cranky, intolerant language snob -- who knows, but when reading about some scientific dispute over inflation and the early universe in Time ( yes, I know, what did I expect?)  some undoubtedly young know-it-all journalist felt good about defining the word Schmutz as used by a scientist  by going to the Urban Dictionary, instead of a German dictionary. (yes, God forbid an American should speak some other language than "Urban")

So what does it mean when something is "Urban?"  Obviously, and like everything in that publication, it means something other than what it means. It certainly doesn't mean "of or pertaining to cities or the people who live in them," it means slang, it means hipness.  It means dubious etymology and slang is hardly confined to metropolitan areas, now is it?  Urban means, when you're speaking urban:  hip and in America hip means -- well I don't know what it means, but it doesn't mean accurate, not when good means bad and bad means something other than bad-ass but both are good in a sense but only if you're bad -- and the authority for all this blather is unknown or non-existent but urban.  I'm afraid it often means that snarky jargon spoken by journalists who are writing off the tops of their heads about things they don't understand, seeking to add color and flavor to dull words -- and that's the opening from which to exercise my spleen this morning.

Schmutz is a German word and like German nouns in general, it's capitalized.  It means dirt and  whether or not the Urban Dictionary says it's a Yiddish term “used by Jewish mothers to identify that you’ve got some kind of crap on your face” it's still the German word for dirt used by German mothers and fathers.  Yiddish, of course has many German words in it although they often differ in meaning - sometimes dramatically. This one just means dirt in either and has nothing to do with being "Urban"  and everything to do with ethnic. Is this a slur against Princeton University astrophysicist David Spergel? or just an annoying assumption? Either way it's just bad journalism and by bad I mean bad in the non-urban but not suburban or exurban or even country sense.  The German word for that is Schlecht.
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