The Rip Post                                                                                              


riposte2.jpg (10253 bytes)

July 24, 2008

          The Lingo Czar has been in China, helping to affix fake Chinese facades to office buildings and storefronts and paint them red---to give the place the veneer of traditional Chinese culture for the Olympic Games. He gave up when he realized that no one could see any of the storefronts because the air has more particulate matter in it than the Venice Beach.
          So he has returned to an equally absurd and vain exercise: chipping away at the Great Wall of insipid American slang, buzz-words, e-mail patois, virulent clichés, and peer-enforced coolspeak inculcating media-softened brains. 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.)

CORE VALUES---No one has values anymore. They have core values. And they have core thoughts, core goals, core plans, core practices, core beliefs, core priorities, core underwear. Core has caught on like one of those incurable staph infections. No amount of reasoning or thinking has the slightest core impact. Educators, psychologists, politicians, chicken-sexers---all are on a core rampage. At the core of this core addiction is some sort of phenemonon that George Corelin could have described well. I mean Carlin, Carlin. There are just certain words that make everything they modify sound grander, more important, more crucial, more essential, more more---though they mean nothing at all. They are known to all salesman, hucksters, hustlers, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Oprah. A few years back, it was “world class.” You wanted something to sound spiffy, you used “world class.” Now core has corrupted the core of all discourse. Core, blimey! T, A, P.

INTERPERSONAL EXCHANGE---I don’t know about you, but if someone says they had an “interpersonal exchange” with you, I’d consider hiring a lawyer and filing charges. I mean, if this doesn’t sound like it involves mutual glandular secretion, then Desi Arnaz is a Hindu god waiting to welcome me to Nirvana. (That doesn’t sound too bad, really.) Yet “interpersonal exchange” is a bulwark of memospeak. Here, for instance, is a sentence passed along by a teacher, taken straight from a memo she received from her principal: “Parents and other educators will learn to identify ways of thinking and speaking that dramatically increase the probability of success in any interpersonal exchange.” Yowzah. Now, “interpersonal exchange,” in this case, could refer to quite a variety of events, don’t you think? A handshake, a fist fight, a pair of longing erotic glances, placing a bet with a bookie, buying a fish, playing a game of Pachisi, making a lighthearted joke, intromission with a goat. While it is unlikely that the sentence in question refers to any of these experiences, one can only wonder to what it does refer. I mean, just fall about and babble in tongues over the sheer vague beauty of it! You haven’t any idea what the sentence means, do you? Nope. Somebody had to get a couple of degrees in “human resources,” probably, and then practice a whole lot inside of sterile cubicles (pictures of Jason and Josh and Tiffany on the desk) to be able to write with such pulsing, golden emptiness. It’s poetry, really. Poetry of non-speak about a non-subject for non-thinkers. It takes generality and gilds it with absolutely gorgeous anti-specifics. Okay, I’m raving here. I need to have an interpersonal exchange with someone in order to find my bearings again. Preferably a bartender. T, A, P, CP.

MULTI-HYPHENATE---Wasn’t “multi-tasker” just nuclear-obnoxious enough? The Czar has trouble hiding his amusement when he is occasionally presented with business cards that read (really): “actor/director/writer/comedian.” (Well, maybe the comedian part works.) Or “actress/beauty consultant/counselor/palm reader/Reiki specialist.” And similarly impressive 21st century combinations. (True, they usually employ slashes instead of hyphens, but the impact is the same.) Why is this amusing? Well, for one thing, these people who seem to be challenging Leonardo for diversity and accomplishment are. . .people you have never heard of, and likely never will. They are, as The Czar is fond of saying, legends in their own hinds. Give them credit: they know how to make nice business cards, but pretty much every time you find someone listing more than one occupation, this is a clue that this person spends a lot of time at home with "The View." But back to the core point: these complex, busy people are now referred to as multi-hyphenates, which sounds like clusters of mutant invaders in a 1950’s movie. “No sir, there seem to be more than one of ‘em. Multi-hyphenates. Do we use the flame-throwers?” Yes. A, P.

POSTER CHILD---Sean Hannity and Chris Mathews and well, all the finest TV Punditmannequins rely almost exclusively on a lexicon of smelly, moldering clichés. It’s impressive, really, how they string sentences (well, phrases) together without ever attempting to say something in novel fashion. This is understandable to an extent, as this is TeeVee, which is not usually watched by people seeking original syntax, let alone original thinking. And whose attention spans are every bit as long as Amy Winehouse’s after a crack pipe. But hardly a crazed TeeVee yackfest goes by without some “analyst” or guest yacker intoning “poster child.” Essentially meaning “primary symbol” (Larry King is the poster child for elderly priapism.) This unfortunate expression began, of course, with disabled children appearing on real posters to raise money for various diseases. Isn’t it just slightly jarring how there is no compunction on the part of Punditmannequins to routinely employ this dumb term, given its utterly tragic origin? Yet another tiny indicator of the mindlessness, callousness of these astronomically wealthy, healthy media kings and queens. Hannity, who is now making $100 Million to yack---$100 Million to wear a suit and sit in front of a camera!---joins Oprah as the poster children for modern venality. T, A.

INTERDIETARY---Really. Honest. Unlike most of Al-Qaeda, this actually exists. No, it is not about to sweep Lingoland the way “core” did. In fact, it is entirely likely that you, the lucky reader, will never see this word outside of this column. But His Verbalacious Majesticus Erectus could not let this one wriggle free and into lingo trivia oblivion. Granted, it is possible that those who major in “nutrition” and related health studies will not bat an eyelash at this word, but the problem, you see, is that it has escaped these confines and blundered into the light of everyday usage! Here is the example, from what will charitably be called a “newspaper feature article:” Sharing meals has always been an important courtship ritual and a metaphor for love. But in an age when many people define themselves by what they will eat and what they won’t, dietary differences can put a strain on a romantic relationship. The culinary camps have become so balkanized that some factions consider interdietary dating taboo. Wow. Imagine that: defining yourself by what you eat! And here old Czarboy thought you defined yourself by what you do, what you contribute, what you create and construct. How arcane! Anyhow, the insipid content of the article aside, note the ostentatious, practically regal presence of the word, “interdietary.” Zowie! Six syllables! This is what happens, you see, when you hire writers who are---oh, let’s give ‘em a break and not call them “pretentious.” How about “insane?” I mean, this person is writing about people define themselves by whether they eat a Fatburger or lionfish sushi, and how this gets in the way of their rutting preferences! This leaves “decadent” at the starting gate, let alone conscience, morality, and civility. But in terms of lingo priorities, it’s a sublime case of how nothing at all can be dressed up as a something. Or worse, how topics that are well beneath contempt and reason can be justified by demographics (“our audiences have sophisticated tastes and needs”) and gussied up with six-syllable words from college textbooks. It’s enough to leave one balkanized. A, P.

BALKANIZED---Nothing is divided, torn, split, separated, acrimonious, fractured, alienated anymore. Everything is Balkanized. The poor Balkan states, sites of immeasurable suffering, murder, rape, torture, ethnic slaughter, have been cutesified by American Newsmannequins. Of course, they are so good at taking the sting out of horror, aren't they? The Czar supposes that this started with one or more literate commentators devising a novel way to communicate any of the aforementioned conditions, and that was fine. But enough's enough. This has long since become the prevailing word for describing hopelessly divided entities. You hear it on the tube more than "poster child," generally employed by TeeVee Punditmannequins who have abandoned conventional language in favor of buzzwords that jazz the American public like cattle prods. It is a poor man's way of sounding au courant and sophisticated. Poor Man. T, A, P, CP.

IZZIS A GREAT COUNTRY OR WHAT?---This is the sort of high-fiving, fist-bumping, crotch adjusting, jackass-braying exaltation largely common to young white males roughly the size of fire trucks. You know, some femalis horribilus bounces her various anatomical lures in their direction, along comes a gust of wind, and up flips her skirt, revealing the requisite thong underpants stuffed between buttocks flub-a-dubbing like two watermelons in a gunny sack, and. . . “Izzis a great country or what!” Or it is to be found in similarly inspiring circumstances, generally having to do with the acquisition of stupendous amounts of wealth with no particular effort, skill or merit. Imagine how many times a day this phrase is spoken by Washington D.C. lobbyists alone. Aside from the crassness, amorality and cynicism of the exclamation, it is the “or what” part that irks His Wordliness. Countries populated by such fine young examples of altruism, restraint, and delicacy are definitely “what.” T, A, CP.

THRILL RIDE---Actually an extremely useful expression when used in its most common context: describing a movie. That is to say, any time you see or hear anyone label any movie as a “thrill ride,” you know automatically that the film has: no story, no character development, no suspense---but plenty of digital effects and artificial sounds to help you toward a cochlear implant. Oh, and that it is at least two-and-a-half-hours long. The drop-quote critics love “thrill ride,” and why shouldn’t they? It gets them drop-quotes. The drop-quote public looks for “thrill ride” in the ads, then tells other members of the drop-quote public, with the air of the jaded, “It’s a good thrill-ride.” The Czar finds cinematic thrills in stories that convince and engage, amuse and enthrall. The Czar has a lot of trouble going to the movies. T, A.

BRO---There are far worse things to call another human being. At least “bro” suggests fraternity. Note that I do not say “sorority.” This is because I have heard young women refer to one another as “bro,” as well as young men. Of course, I’ve also heard young women call one another “dude.” Heterosexual young women. Evidently, they are not subscribers to Ms. (Does it even exist anymore?) Then we have the corruption of the term into "bra." Yes, it's a sort of slanging of the slang, pronunciation-wise, and the fact that people are heard addressing one another as brassieres apparently is no hindrance or stigma. Anyhow, “bro” would not be quite so annoying were it not so ubiquitous.  I’ve been called “bro” by people for whom I strongly desire no association, let alone one built of blood. Yet I come back to the fraternal implication of this diminutive of “brother,” and I figure that Beethoven wouldn’t have objected too much to this phenomenon. Alle Menschen werden Bro. . . Overuse has pretty well leeched the term of any impact, of course, and yes, The Czar has heard it employed with a kind of implicit threat. Two fine young Collegiate-Americans arguing are apt to escalate the “bros” in semi-sarcastic, incipiently belligerent fashion. Ultimately though, this is just a case of irritation. Too many brozos out there, in other words. And really, when you think about it, using a term that suggests relationship by blood is not exactly a compliment, considering the acrimony among families and actual brothers. T, A.

DISEASE TO PLEASE---One of many New Agey psychological disorders of the ilk that Dr. Phil and Oprah have exploited for fortunes most men’s eyes have never seen. This one supposedly extends from lack of self-esteem generally ascribed to having had alcoholic parents/no parents/tyrannical parents/parents with dog heads/etc. It predisposes one toward seeking approval from others by adjusting behavior to something that will be deemed pleasing. Not to be confused with courtesy or kindness, apparently. But therein lies the problem. Some people are simply nice. Not many, granted, and fewer by the hour, but they are still around, these freaks. To live in a time when a form of niceness---never mind the psychological motivation---is considered a disease is, well, not pleasing. But the thing that is really not nice about all this is that the likes of Dr. Phil have turned little psychobabble clichés like this one into multi-million-dollar industries. Phil and Oprah and all the media shrinks have the disease to please. . .themselves. T, A.

          Have yourselves a fine lingo day, or what.

                                             BACK TO PAGE ONE

                                          copyright Rip Rense, 2005-08


© 2002 Rip Rense. All rights reserved.