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 (Jan. 24, 2007)      

          Yes, it's a new lingo year, so fill your lingo lungs with lots of fresh vocabul-air, and breathe new life into the dying semblance of clear and dignified communication that we call English. Ready? Inhale now. Ssssssssssssst! Okay, citizens are hereby advised to refrain from the following worn-out phrases, buffoonish slang, buzzwords and airy mispronunciations infecting and muddling lingo in this, the alleged 21st century. They are rated: T (trite), A (asinine), P (pretentious), W (whoops), and CP (criminally prosecutable, or damn well should be.)

SNAPPISH---This is the new trendoid way to say “irritable,” “bothered,” “touchy,” “grouchy,” or possibly even “bitchy.” What’s wrong with snappish, you snappishly wonder? Here’s what: this is a lesser-used descriptor that some blogger/columnist/critic dragged out of a Thesaurus or their own bloated vocabulary (or took from another blogger/columnist/critic who dragged it out, etc.), and it has been discovered. Just as sure as Joanna Newsom is about to be, “snappish” is suddenly a star. Keep your eyes and ears peeled. Soon the ‘net will be blogged down with “snappish,” newspapers papered with it, and TeeVee Newsmannequins snappy with it. It will be the staple way of conveying the idea of irritability. Many writers mistake creativity and cleverness for using less obvious words. There is even competition among them; they try to out-obscure one another with lingo. Thus did “hardscrabble” become cliché. So it is with “snappish,” whose popularity will be fueled by the fact that it renders as cute rather unpleasant behavior. You know, I kicked a dog today and elbowed an old lady in the produce section---guess I was a little snappish. This kind of lingo chicanery makes the Czar. . .irritable. A, P.

CHUMP CHANGE---Meant to denote an amount of money too trivial to bother with, this expression carries a despicable callousness. Anyone interested in smaller amounts of money---say, anyone working for minimum wage---is considered a “chump.” The words crop up endlessly in movies glorifying crime and mayhem---which is to say, movies---with the archetypal hip, ruthless male or female cop/drug dealer/hit man eschewing a fee as “chump change.” Only fools, in other words, settle for slight sums. At a time when a decent living wage is growing tragically scarce, and corporate merger specialists get $150 million bonuses, employers of “chump change” reveal a degree of condescension and contempt that, as far as the Czar is concerned, changes them into chumps. A.

VETTED---When The Czar first heard this employed by editors referring to confirming the facts of a story, he wondered why veterinarians were moonlighting as fact-checkers. Yes, journalism is experiencing much difficulty of late, but on what basis are animal doctors qualified to supervise reporters? (Don’t answer that.) “Vetted” is an odd term, and an old term, and a perfectly good term---except for one thing: it always sounds peculiar. You only hear it when some article or report is called into question, and an editor or producer is quoted in defense. It sticks out like Michael Jackson at a kiddie slumber party (so to speak.) What, you wonder, is wrong with “confirmed,” or the more common “backed up,” “pinned down?” Er, uh. . .we should have vetted the story. . .We vetted the facts and stand by the story. . .Almost makes you think there is some mysterious journalistic skill at issue here; that “vetting” is a very specific craft you only learn in Vet school. Well, it turns out that it actually is a very specific skill---learned in veterinary school, after all, or at least horse racing. To "vet" a horse means to have a veterinarian check the animal before a race to confirm that it is fit to run. From there it trotted into general usage, but ran out of gas in the vicinity of journalism. Perhaps veterinarians need to check the editors of today's daily newspapers before allowing them into the office again. Please unconfirm “vet.” P.

COMPLETIST---This is one of the most hilarious labels ever to dignify a mental disorder. Yet “completist” has won a place of legitimacy among critics and collectors, as if it indicates a tried-and-true, dignified, hoary old bit of archival practice. And yes, you’re right, it does---among tried-and-true, dignified archivists preserving something of probable historical value. But. . .Betty Boop? The entire recorded works of Nancy Sinatra? Mexican wrestling movies? Every single ever released by Englebert Humperdinck? The Czar reads reviews of obscure bootleg albums documenting, it seems, every time Paul McCartney sang a note in public---frequently ending with the phrase, “for completists only.” Translation: this is so astonishingly insignificant that only those of you with a pathological compulsion to collect this junk should invest in it. There must be hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of technically adult humans who have compulsively squirreled away in their homes minor museums of records/posters/movies/ autographs of. . .The Monkees. . .Madonna. . .Menudo. . .Folks, “completism” essentially means obsessive-compulsive disorder. Completists are not completely nuts, and perhaps we should all be thankful that they have “completism” to keep their insanity incomplete. A.

CHICK-LIT---This revolting term embodies so much that is objectionable to the Czar, he is almost at a---perish the thought---loss for words. To refer to a woman as a “chick” is, of course, somewhat degrading, but that doesn’t stop women from joining men in doing it. Far, far worse is the fact that there is literature written, designed, reserved exclusively for women. Er. . .what of writing for. . .people? In a time when equal rights for women remains a crucial issue, this sort of segregationist mentality---however playful---has big ramifications. Kids growing up will accept this as “cool." While His Wordliness is the first to recognize and celebrate the differences between men and women, psychological and otherwise, to deliberately contrive literature for one gender is reductive, if not trivializing. Imagine our lingo horror at coming across a recent “how-to write chick-lit” article. The authoress had broken down various components of plot, characterization, etc.---into a specific formula for creating “literature” for females. Well, call The Czar a wimp, but he enjoyed “Little Women” and Emily Dickinson and Jane Austen, masculinity intact. But this is the era of demographics, when everything is a product designed for a specific age/race/economic bracket. You can’t just write a book anymore---it must have a target audience. So we have “reading product” instead of books, and “music product” instead of songs, and so on. And “chick-lit.” (Supported, by the way, by an industry rife with chick-agents and chick-publishers.) The Czar will stick with writing that is rewarding to all of the three or four genders of our day. T, A, P, CP.

REVERT BACK---Hey, it’s 10 a.m. in the morning! Isn’t that a tiny little house? This spray kills bugs dead. What a very unique watch! Oops, I’m reverting back to lingo childhood. When you revert, you change back to some former condition. When you change back, you revert. But you do not change back change back, or revert revert. A, W.

THE DONALD---This brings up more bile than any one Czar should contain at a given moment. Forget about the fact the Donald Trump is one of the most remarkable amalgamations of nothingness ever to become famous. That’s a given. What bothers me---er, makes me snappish---is the diseased parade of chattering TeeVee Gossipbimbos that feeds on celebrity like worms on roadkill. This means you, Pat O’Brien, and you, Dorothy Lucey. You take these nobodynothingnegatives, these camera-leeches, and make them into figures of greater significance than most human beings in all history. You are doing incalculable harm to the world, assassinating perspective and values by pumping into heads the idea that these people are important---and in so doing, making them important. And you haven’t the slightest clue of the poison you are spreading, as is evidenced by your incessant recitation of cutesy-pie nicknames like “The” Donald. The only Donald who deserves a “the” in front is Duck. Who is a far more significant, influential, and substantial American than Trump. A, CP.

SURGE---Need anything really be said here? Nobody is better at rendering horror and death as something clinical, if not benign, than the good folks at the federal government. This federal government, in particular. From the makers of Collateral Damage and Enormous Progress and Increased Casualties and Move Forward, here’s new Surge! These terms are dreamed up and used by people so detached from pain and suffering and amputation and blindness and burned flesh and brain injuries and paralysis as to be laughable---if it weren’t so outrageous. The sheer vainglory of the proposed Iraq surge aside, this is a PR term meant to slide easily down the gullet of the American psyche. Hey, it’s just a little surge, a bump, a spike, that’s all. Yes, but it is made of arms and legs and eyeballs and hearts and aspiration and curiosity. It is made of humans who would be better off teaching school or filling potholes. Or voting out of office the cynical fiends who dream up terms like “surge.” A, CP.

THANKS FOR THAT---TeeVee Newsmannequins all get together in secret inside of a mountain in Montana once a year, or maybe once a month, and agree on exactly how to nod their heads up and down, shake them from side to side, open their eyes wide for emphasis, and look at their partner Newsmannequin when he/she is speaking, and to say “thanks for that” to the Newsbimbo who has just babbled bad syntax, wrong grammar, and a mispronunciation or two while “reporting live from” the fire/gang shooting/light plane crash/high-speed chase. Thanks for that---it sounds so commanding, yet casual. Dare His Wordliness point out that “for that” is um, unnecessary? The viewer knows what Newsbimbo is being thanked for. She is not being thanked for her outfit, or the secret assignation with Anchormannequin in the TeeVee Newsvan at lunch. Which brings up the real question: why is Anchormannequin thanking Newsbimbo in the first place? After all, Newsbimbo is not paid by Anchormannequin. Bimbo is not doing Mannequin a service or favor. When you watch the BBC, there is none of that crap---none of that pompous, self-important, nearly interminable “reporting live from Bell Gardens, this is Nancy Newsbimbo, now back to you at the studio, Dick and Jane,” signoff. And there is certainly none of the drool-level happy-smiley fluffy idiotspeak that goes on between the Weathermannequin or the Sportsmannequin and the Anchormannequin. Guess what: this makes more time for news reporting! What in the unholy hell has happened to televised news reporting in this country? In a word: demographers run the show, and a show it is. Thanks for that. T, A, CP. 

HOOK UP/HOOKING UP---Call The Czar old and out of touch. You’re old and out of touch! Okay, that’s better. Now we proceed with “hooking up,” which has in recent years become the chief euphemism for sexual relations among younger folk. Where it once simply referred to meeting or rendezvousing, it now refers to Tab A in Slot B. This would be sufficiently objectionable to merit a lingo entry here, considering the almost obscenely clinical description of this expression. But that’s not the crux of the verbal horror. “Hooking up” sounds casual because it is casual. Young people refer to hooking up with other kids as if there is no implication of relationship, feeling, or (gasp) obligation---because there isn’t! Hooking up is something done with these cool toys that come built right into the body! Hey, wanna feel good? Let’s hook up! This is even less investment of feeling here than there was in the “free love” madness of the sixties---and, judging by what The Czar hears, considerably more promiscuity. Try hooking down. T, A, CP.

INTENSE---The new cop-out euphemism of all those afraid of making actual statements. No, we must never speak our true minds, or give voice to real opinions---assuming we have any in the first place. So just rely on intense---as a local Fox Newsmannequin did after showing a clip of Sean Penn denouncing Bush in no uncertain terms. Well, said Foxboy, that was a little intense. . .Right. Don't evaluate, assess, or comment---way too dangerous. Just sweep it under the intense rug. Of course, when people actually do speak their minds, you tend to wish that they hadn't. This means you, Hannity. A.

BENCHMARK---Hey, benchmarks will save the world! What else can one conclude, listening to BushCheneyRice and other three-headed monsters roaming about, roaring imbecilities? The Iraq government is going to fix everything with benchmarks! Suddenly, Corporatemannequins everywhere are writing memos full of benchmarks, editors are speaking of benchmarks to save their dying newspapers, and even teachers are telling students to achieve academic benchmarks. Where, oh where, are all these benches, and how is making a mark on them going to accomplish anything? Better to go back to good old Bushspeak, like "set the pie higher." T, A, P, CP.
          For more rulings by the Lingo Czar, watch this space. And have an intense day.

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