The Rip Post                                Riposte Archive


riposte2.jpg (10253 bytes)

          The Lingo Czar has been so transfixed by the Phil Spector Trial that he has been neglecting his duties. I mean, in all the times through the decades that Phil waved guns at people, or put them to their heads, or fired them into studio ceilings, not once did he actually shoot anybody! Not once! He was a poster boy for gun safety. So why now, all of a sudden, hmm? Doesn’t that seem a bit suspicious? Uh. . .anyhow, back to work.
          Citizens are advised to avoid the following buzz-words, buzz-phrases, and general idiotspeak currently passing for language in this, the tragic early years of the 21st century. They are rated T (trite), A (asinine), P (pretentious), W (whoops), and CP (criminally prosecutable, with a recommended sentence of one day of imposed silence.)

BALLS/BALLSY/BALLS-OUT---One of the saddest articles of slang to cross into regular usage since “suck.” How did it become acceptable to refer to testicles---flapping, hairy reproductive organs---as a symbol of courage, derring-do, fortitude? Yet in record and film reviews, in interviews, movies, people are forever complimenting one another for having “balls,” or being “ballsy,” or having a “balls-out” attitude (quite a picture!) I first noticed it when the actress, Catherine Hicks, in “Star Trek IV" told Kirk he had “huge ones---huge!” Do women imagine this is a compliment? That men are proud of their testicularity? “Balls-out” is used chronically in reference to performances of pop music, figuratively, thank goodness (Jim Morrison excepted.) Then you have otherwise reasonably articulate people speaking of this-or-that politician/celebrity/estranged spouse not having “the balls” to do such-and-such. Again, The Czar wonders: do people really consider this preposterous looking organ---essentially a radiator for sperm---a symbol of prowess, nerve, threat? If anything, these absurd, dangling, veined spheres housed in a hirsute, wrinkled, flesh bag call to mind the similarity between men and dogs, and while most men are not diminished by this comparison, one aspires to some dignity in this life, doesn’t one? Isn’t that one of the reasons for wearing pants? What is The Czar supposed to do if someone compliments him for being “ballsy?” Say thank you? Grab them and grunt? And what of “balls-out?” Is this an image that really connotes bravery? Have you ever seen soldiers go into battle with their gonads flapping in the breeze? One of the hallmarks of civilized behavior is to minimize reference to the less picturesque portions and functions of the anatomy, or at least to employ euphemisms instead. But of course, adhering to civilized etiquette in this world takes a lot of. . .guts. A, CP.

FREAKIN'---The Czar enjoyed and employed the word, “freak,” in the late ‘60’s, when it was a relatively new slang for denoting enthusiasm and specialization in anything, from surfing to Bogart movies. And His Wordliness has long been an ardent fan of Todd Browning’s highly moral film, “Freaks.” But the newest variation of the word has no meaning at all, you see. It is merely a substitute for the adverbial form of that most beloved word in all English, the four-letter, guttural, consonant-framed outburst signifying “intromission.” People who wish to come across with less indelicacy merely employ “freak.” What, as if the listener will not know what it means? The actor/singer/politician/pundit/TeeVee Newsmannequin says “freakin’,” but in your head, you hear. . .the other word. The Czar suggests that these people just have the b--- er, nerve---to say what they mean, and just leave poor “freak” alone. Oh, I suppose there are academic types who might assert that “freakin’” derives from the hip-hop patois use of “freak,” but that also denotes the old rumpypumpy, so the point is moot. This word is just freakin’ stupid. A, CP.


, WELL, ---This is not the worst writing offense since, well, starting sentences with “Too,” but it’s, well, close. It’s a common device invoked to excuse saying something, well, obvious---to, in other words, let the reader know that you, the writer, are much too witty to ever knowingly employ a cliché, unsurprising metaphor, or something, well, trite. So you slip in “well,” and the reader is clued in that you are deliberately being predictable because you have carefully weighed all options, and you have decided that, well, predictable is the very best way to go. “Well,” is also utilized to acknowledge a pun or flippancy. Heaven forbid that you create a pun or flip remark without realizing it, thus betraying a lack of, well, sophistication. Pavarotti’s singing is, well, heavyweight. Allow me to amend the foregoing. It is not so much readers who are being signaled with the face-saving “well,” but other writers. Can’t have your peers think you are, well, freakin’ stupid. And by the way, well is fast reaching epidemic proportion among TeeVee Newsmannequins, who apparently think it makes them sound erudite. Not much chance of that. T, P.

GRIDLOCK---Yes, it’s an apt description for L.A. traffic.Yes, it is onomonapaeic, its very sound suggesting something caught, stuck, irrevocably jammed. Yes, it is a convenient way to describe traffic thick to the point of insanity---and also the thought processes of every L.A. government official to vote against light-rail in the last 40 years. Yes, it has become hackneyed to the point where it has lost all meaning. People yap, “Stuck in gridlock,” casually into their cell phones as they sit, having their lives robbed from them on the 405/710/10/101/134/etc. Perversely, it has become almost a badge of living in L.A.. Yes, you’re a bonafide “Angeleno” now that you can complain first-hand of gridlock! Not since the nuclear understatement, “tough drive,” has the Czar been so tired of a traffic-related term. Inside His Royal Lingo brain, gridlock has reached, well, gridlock. What to say instead? “Hideous, stupid theft of life” is too cumbersome, though accurate. How about “car-freaked,” except just use the other word instead of “freak.” T.

ALGORITHM---Math is beautiful. Math is everywhere. Math is everything. But not everyone understands math, especially those of us who are more adept at what Captain Beefheart termed “ink mathematics.” The Czar never studied trigonometry or calculus, sad to say, like his old pal, Dr. Neil Cuadra, who might as well have invented them, such is his mathematical nature. It probably never bothered Dr. Cuadra when buffoons began referring to “the missing piece of the equation” in reference to setting up, oh, dinner or a tooth extraction. But it did bother your guardian of sane speech. Why be so pretentious? The Czar first encountered this when Manservant to the Stars Elliot Mintz, in arranging an interview with Don Johnson, enigmatically referred to “the missing piece of the equation.” It is fairly reliable to assume that interviewing Don Johnson had little to do with algebra, but Mintz liked the expression so much that he used it repeatedly. And now we’ll lay good money that he is using algorithm. All the best parrots are---and yes, they are doing it in reference to things that have nothing to do with math. Like. . .pedicures. Okay, okay, ignorance showing here. For all I know, the rampant employment of algorithm in daily conversation is perfectly, mathematically appropriate. Although, as near as I can tell, it simply means "instructions." Which is to say, the x-factor is pretense. A, P.

GENRE TREE---I think I shall never see/ a poem as lovely as a genre tree. . .Maple, oak, elm, sycamore, pine, Christmas, shoe, family---all fine, durable, beautiful, useful trees. Who would ever have imagined that anything as beautiful as a tree could be perverted into a chilling, empty, mercenary marketing term? (Well, considering what’s happening to the rainforests, maybe it’s not surprising.) Demographics people have rendered all life as nothing but an exploitation game, and they have appropriated and rendered tree as nothing but a term of this game. Here is a direct quote from the owner of a big on-line CD outfit, when he was asked to add a new music category to his stock: “Every change in our genre-tree has to be communicated to and accepted by over 150 partner companies around the world, since it means they will have to update their genre tree, too.” Oh, my! They would have to update their genre-trees! Not that! What mysterious processes would be involved? Genre-tree grafts? Am I hallucinating? Wasn’t “genre” hifalutin’ enough? I mean, what about “category?” But no, “category” is far too ordinary. Anyone knows what that means. Corporate marketing experts must speak in their own artificial, grand-sounding language in order to justify their artificial, grand-sounding professions. Genre-tree. Grown from genre-seeds, grown with genre-fertilizer. Which I am smelling right about now. A, P, CP.

VISCERAL---Every second critic is speaking of a “visceral experience” these days, as if this is the apex of worth to be derived from a piece of art/music/literature/film. L.A.(me) Times music critic Mark Swed seems to particularly covet a visceral experience in listening to the L.A. Philharmonic (Google "Mark Swed + visceral.") By this, he seems to want the music to impact his viscera. Now, the unseemly implications of this aside, Swed seems to mean that he wants to feel the music physically, in his gut, in his bones, in his nerves, and that when he does, the performance has really succeeded. Call The Czar pedantic, but it seems as if the impact of music is broader than that, and usually begins in the tangled convolutions not of the intestines, but the brain. Now, the brain can be as full of crap as the intestines, and in the case of critics, it often is, but that’s beside the point. The impact might, to continue the anatomical metaphor, extend southward to the heart, and even to the overall being---which is what Swed and others probably mean by “visceral.” But to hold up “visceral response” as the be-all, end-all listening experience is limiting, inelegant, and, really, banal. (It is accomplished, by the way, usually as a result of sheer volume, nothing more.) In reference to symphonic music, “visceral response” is also part of a never-ending effort to “demystify” and liken orchestral works to rock music. Hell, the Czar likes things mysterious, especially music. Hey, if you want a visceral experience when you listen to Beethoven or Stravinsky, try a bowl of menudo before you go to the concert. Then sit next to Swed. P, CP.

LURKER---You! Yeah, you, reading this column. You’re not sending any e-mail. You’re not “interacting” with The Rip Post. You’re just (gasp) reading it, and then moving on! You’re a lurker. Did you know that? This is the snide, vaguely criminal term some cyber-jackass dreamed up for those who surf the web without leaving a calling card everywhere they go. If humans were as good at politics as they are at making up derisive terms, we’d have peace on earth, a whopping economy, and health care for freakin’ everybody. A, CP.

The Czar wishes you a lovely, well, day.

                                             BACK TO PAGE ONE

© 2007 Rip Rense. All rights reserved.