The Rip Post


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Collateral Lingo Damage

         Calling all presidents, senators, generals, and TV newsmannequins. It's too late for a pre-emptive strike, but the Lingo Czar still wants to avoid further collateral damage. Your speech is a weapon of mass lingo destruction.
        You, and all citizens, are therefore advised to avoid using the following worn-out phrases, buffoonish slang, buzzwords, mistakes and mispronunciations infecting and muddling clear and dignified communication in this, the 21st century. They are rated "T" (trite), "A" (asinine), "P" (pretentious), "W" (whoops), and "CP" (criminally prosecutable, with recommended minimum punishment of one day of self-imposed silence).
        NUKE-YOU-LUHR---Mr. President, why, oh why, can you not pronounce "nuclear?" You went to Yale, didn't you? Do you have a speech impediment? If so, The Czar fully understands and excuses you. But if not, this is not a difficult word to pronounce. No more difficult, say, than "country." But then, perhaps it's a Freudian slip. Perhaps you are saying "nuke-you-luhr" because you want to "nuke you." (Accord- ing to your recent reclassification of nuclear weapons, it sure seems you want to nuke somebody.) Here's a mnemonic to help:  think "new" and "clear." If you do, you might never have to pronounce "nuclear" again. W. (Thanks to reader Mary Sparrowdancer.)
        CUNCHRY---Mr. President, why, oh why, can you not pronounce "country?" You went to Yale, didn't you? Do you have a speech impediment? If so, The Czar fully understands and excuses you. But if not, this is not a difficult word to pronounce. No more difficult, say, than "nuclear." W.


      TEARISM---Evidently, to hear the president, most elected officials, and TV newsmannequins speak, we live in fear of being torn. As if great hordes of maniacs are on the loose, looking to tear every piece of paper and fabric in sight. No one is capable of pronouncing all three syllables of "terrorism." (This means you, Tom Brokaw!) A, W.
        LOSS/ LOSS OF LIFE---Scott Simon on National Public Radio, an otherwise fine announcer, relentlessly spoke of the "loss" of the seven astronauts, and how they "lost their lives." The president spoke of how Columbia was "lost." Okay, repeat after the Czar: d-e-a-t-h. . .d-e-a-d. . .k-i-l-l-e-d. . .d-e-s-t-r-o-y-e-d. Please stop soft-peddling horror, will you? "Loss" breaks out every time there is a "national tragedy," from 9/11 to dead soldiers to murdered journalists. They all "lost their lives." Really? Well, then, someone should place an ad under "Lost and Found." Missing: undefinable cosmic stuff that animates bodies. These poor, brave people died. They are not coming home. The Columbia was not lost. It was found all over Texas and Louisiana. Call a spade a spade. T, P.
        BUNKER-BUSTER---Sounds like a new toy from Wham-O, doesn't it? Or a new video game, right? (Hell, it probably is, or soon will be.) This is all part of terrible military-ese that seeks to take the sting out of. . .things that sting. Folks, a "bunker-buster" is a nuclear weapon. An unimaginably violent, poisonous device that your president wants to use, maybe in Iraq. Well, according to Princeton University physicist Robert Nelson, a single "buster" will kill tens of thousands of people if dropped in a populated area. And even if it hits a chemical or biological---or nuclear---cache of weapons, it will not destroy, but scatter the stuff. That's correct, the cute li'l buster will spread naughty thingies all over---along with its own nifty radioactivity! Guaranteed to cause much loss of life---er, that is, death. And an insult to the memory of Keaton and Brown. A, P, CP.
        PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE---This is the president's term for attacking a country that has not attacked the United States, or any other country, but might at some time in the future. The Czar is all for killing hard-core terrorists who are plotting to kill other people. But back in the Cold War, "pre-emptive strike," which the president now defines as including the possiblity of nuclear weapons, was known as "first-strike." This was absolutely unthinkable before the Bush Administration took office. Maybe "unthinkable" is the key word here. Maybe there is too much unthinking. (Funny how these zany, wild, wacky military euphemisms change from administration to administration,  isn't it!) A, P, CP.
        THEY HATE FREEDOM---This is one of President Bush's refrains in explaining why "tearists" attack this "cunchry." They hate freedom, he tells us. The judge who sentenced terrorist Richard Reid, in his melodramatic speech that the media so enjoyed, repeated this charge---that terrorists hate freedom. Dear Lingophiles, do you know of a single human being---or animal, for that matter---who hates freedom? Can you conceive of a living creature that prefers to be caged, boxed up, or denied free will? The Czar can't. What extremist Muslim madmen basically hate---and, for that matter, a whole hell of a lot of other people---is U.S. foreign policy that, among other things, exploits resources in foreign countries, either through supporting dictatorships, or bringing them down, depending on which is more convenient. But then, the point really is that extremist Muslim madmen---like all madmen---simply hate. Period. T, A.
        WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION (WMD)---The Czar is tired of hearing talk of weapons of mass destruction. He would much prefer hearing talk of weapons of limited destruction. Or weapons of not very much destruction. Or even. . .nothing about weapons at all. Celine Deion's voice is about as mass-destructive a weapon as humanity should have to deal with. T. (Thanks to reader Saul Daniels.)
        COLLATERAL DAMAGE---Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld and all the speakers of military-ese relish such crisp little descriptors, don't they? This one is fun to say, isn't it? Fun to crunch those consonants! Especially with a firmly set chin, furrowed brow, and squinty hawk-eyes! Come on, folks, imagine, just for a moment, that you are what the Czar calls a PP (person in power), and that you wield WMDs! Yeah! There you are at a press conference, grimly laying out the details of your very own personal reign of hell against the "rogue nation" of your preference. Ready? Squint, now, and say it: "collateral damage. . .collateral damage. . .collateral damage." Quite a thrill, isn't it? Particularly when you consider the meaning: dead (okay, or badly maimed) husbands, wives, daughters, sons, babies; humans full of aspirations, ambitions; five-year-olds who like Mickey Mouse; twenty-year-olds who want to become doctors and nurses---all dead because you, the PP, have classified them as "collateral damage!" Wow! What a feeling! A, CP.
        MATERIAL BREACH---The Czar just doesn't know what this means, and to quote Al Pacino in "City Hall," "I don' WANNA know!" It's just too ridiculous sounding. What's more, hearing Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Tony Powell say it day-in, day-out has plum worn out the ol' royal lingo curiosity! Material breach sounds like somebody giving birth with their clothes on, or a new detergent. Why don't they just say "he broke the rules." (Answer, if you really want one: "material breach" sounds more important, and will confuse the hell out of the public.) T, A, P, CP.
        PLACE IN HISTORY---Every president, pundits tell you, is concerned with his "place in history." The Czar just read a letter to the editor of the L.A. Times praising President Bush as someone who "knows his place in history." First of all, history is the blind man touching the elephant. There is no consensus on history; it is not objectively quantifiable. Second, when leaders begin to think about "their place in history," or even their country's "place in history," it's time to start treading softly and trying to interest them in collecting butterflies. A leader should really try to concentrate on solving problems, preferably the problems of the moment, rather than imagining how his actions will all play out one day on The History Channel. Hitler's overriding concern was his place in history, I dare say. And Stalin's, Mao's, Pol Pot's. . .Gee, that seems to be a list of fascist tyrant genocidal murderers, doesn't it? Put "place in history" back in its place. T, A, P, CP.
        SHOCK AND AWE---Brand-new military-ese, Pentagon patois, strategy slang, which is to say, deathspeak. "Shock and Awe" is the pretty-sounding label for the current strategy for overwhelming the "enemy." In the case of Iraq, it will reportedly consist of 300-500 missiles per day (more than were launched in the entire Gulf War!) and possibly 250,000 troops deployed in waves. The goal: to attack so forcefully that the opponent just gives up. That the opponent is "shocked and awed" into surrender. Of course, this gives the image of lots of people standing around, looking shocked and awed. You know, scratching their heads and saying "Wow! That U.S. is really awesome!" Uh-uh. Far too many will be a little too. . .dead. . .to express their shock and awe. Hitler used "shock and awe," too, but he called it "blitzkrieg." A
        PATRIOT---This used to be a person who loved his or her country, pure and simple. It  lately seems to have been redefined by the Bush Administration as one who agrees with its policies. Others are suspect. The administration has gone as far as naming its law allowing for fantastic intrusion into privacy after "patriot:" "Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." (Somebody must have really slaved over that one.) Oh, right. The law claims to be designed for fighting terrorism. Well, let's hope so. And let's hope that the newly proposed expansion of the "PATRIOT" Act to include secret arrests and stripping of citizenship for lawful participation in political causes does not pass. Just doesn't sound very patriotic. W. (Thanks to reader Floyd Kucharski.)
        REGIME CHANGE---Now, some real smart enterpeneur or marketingmannequin really should come out with "Regime Brand" underwear. Can't you see the commercials? "Y'know, Don, my Jockeys just aren't cuttin' it anymore---not enough support, know what I mean?" "Yup, sure do, George, what you need is a Regime change!" "Regime change?" "Yup---Regime brand shorts, that is!" Sorry. The Czar gets a little shocked and awed when presented with too much insanity. Okay, "Regime Change" is the military-ese euphemism dandy of them all. Hey, is that military dictatorship bothering you? Not behaving the way you like? Well, get in there and do a Regime Change! It's simple. Just invade, kill, and replace. It's easy as 1-2-3! No muss, no fuss, and there's no chocolate mess! T, A, P, CP.
        The Czar wishes you all a shockingly awesome lingo week.  



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