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(Aug. 15, 2007)

        The Lingo Czar has been busy in the garden, which bloomed vastly and sumptuously this summer---only to prompt an attack from a young female neighbor who objects to plants that are not carefully controlled at all times. The Czar decided to channel his disgust into this, his first column in months.
        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.)

THE FOUR QUADRANTS---Some things are so beautiful, so exquisite, that the senses are unable to take them in, leaving one to gawk dumbly. Such is the case with “the four quadrants.” This term is so perfectly infused with everything phoney, avaricious, amoral, oblivious, stupid, and pretentious in what shall here be termed Hollybabble, that it is just sheer art. Now, “The Four Quadrants” is originally something so arcane and cerebral that it usurps every point of The Czar’s I.Q. to take in, yet remains unknowable. It involves psychology, and philosophy, and a guy named Ken Wilber. But Wilber’s quads are not the quads of this rant. This lofty term has been shanghaied by Hollywood, hollowed out and gaudily tarted up by agents/producers/ directors/PR people, and other oddly evolved life forms. It is now used as patois among those who speak of “back story” and “chick flick.” The Czar heard one such creature, a female film executive, tell KPPC’s Larry Mantle about such-and-such film being a “four quadrant picture.” Eh? Why, the Czarmobile almost veered off the newly widened 405. What was she talking about? Well, even Larry was a little stumped, I guess, because Executive later explained somewhere in a light-speed torrent of Hollybabble, that a “four-quadrant” picture is one that appeals to: young, old, male, female. Wow! Imagine such a thing! A movie that anyone can enjoy! You know, the way movies used to be before they were turned into movie-product by demographic-enslaved jerks like this Executive. Anyone who now spouts the cliché, “full circle,” will be forgiven by The Czar. A, P, CP.

RENOWN---Repeat with me, children, “renown” is a noun, “renown” is a noun. And. . . “renowned” is an adjective, “renowned” is an adjective. . .Very good. The renown noun error is one of some renown. Which is to say, contemporary manglers of English are renowned for saying “renown” when they mean “renowned.” Renown is renowned, you might say, for not being “renowned.” In advertisements, articles, greeting cards, corporate memos, college-eradicated people are writing such things as “He will present his renown stories. . .Mabel will bake her renown cookies. . .” and so on. It is renowned, folks. Renowned stories, renowned cookies. These are things of renown (noun), you see, so they are. . .renowned (adjective.) Here’s a little poem to help you remember:
When I say you are renown
I become a grammatical clown
But if I say you are renowned
I own the whole grammar town.

Remember, it wasn’t Les Brown and his Band of Renowned. A, W, CP.

TRICKED OUT---This is a pet descriptive device of critics, who love to pepper arcane vocabulary with bits of perky slang; Y’know, to show they’re just regular folk. Here is the example, from a recent restaurant review (by a Pulitzer Prize-winner, no less): “a genuinely old dining room tricked out to look like the old-timey backroom at Applebee’s, a place to sluice down crab cakes and flabby shrimp cocktails. . .” (Really, have you ever “sluiced down” food?) Everything is tricked out nowadays: cars, concert halls, shoes, films, bicycles, symphonies, donuts, and restaurant reviews. Tricked out was a good little trick at first, but it is out of tricks. Sluice it down with some other flabby clichés. T, A.

OLD-TIMEY---Almost as dopey as “back in the day” (which day---June 4, 1958?), “old-timey” was sort of okay when it was used by musicians to generally refer to early American folk music. After all, musicians have carte blanche to use any and all slang, given that they speak a higher and holier sort of language. But now old-timey has spread, as the previously cited restaurant review demonstrates. Old-timey? Which time? How old? One man’s old-timey is another man’s past. What's wrong with "old time?" Old-timey is vague, and sickeningly cutesy, you know, like Dr. Wayne Dyer. T, A.

GIVE THE GIFT OF---This seemed an innocuous enough little commercial slogan---something that blended into the banal billboard background---until The Czar saw this sign in the window of a restaurant: “Give The Gift of Beef.” Honest! Yessir, just what I would like for my birthday, or Christmas---a nice, beautifully wrapped package of. . .cow. Does anything say “I love you” like a side of ribs? Give the gift of Porterhouse! Ribeye! Brisquet! Soon it will be Give The Gift of Tuna! Give the Gift of Tongue! Give the Gift of Macaroni! Please give the gift of refraining from saying give the gift of. A.

NO WORRIES---This is a true story. The Czar recently purchased a few items from a grocery store, said “Thank you” as the eternal bag was handed over to him, and the clerk responded, “No worries.” Really. No worries. The Czar almost stopped to say, “I didn’t ask you if you were worried.” Or, “Really? No more worries? How wonderful! Thank you so much! I didn't know you were in charge!” Now, no worries sprang from a good enough impulse as an alternate means of saying “fine,” “don’t worry about it,” “it’s okay,” and other such pleasing phrases. As in: you tell someone you’re sorry you parked a little too close to their car, and they say, “No worries.” (Fat chance!) It was an annoying little reflex, but not terribly objectionable, as its heart was in the right place. But “no worries” is now supplanting the woefully missing “you’re welcome” from automated courteous ritual speech. “Thank you/ No worries” conveys that the recipient of “Thank you” believes that you are worried---possibly about discharging your courteous duty by communicating gratitude. He/she/it is telling you that you needn’t worry about being grateful, which translates, really to “you needn’t say ‘thank you.’” This is the sort of worrisome madness that goes on in the Czar’s poor head when someone says “no worries” after he thanks them. A, CP.

THE KNUCKLE---This is language of the hand, a gesture that has become hackneyed in politician after politician---probably most popularized by Bill “The Knuckle” Clinton. Somewhere along the line, an image advisor counseled that it is not polite to point. That the public does not like to see politicians sticking their fingers in their faces as they make speeches (or at any other time.) That it smacks of accusation, and appears impolite, even self-righteous. As we know, image is the sole basis on which Amerryguns make up their voting minds. Hence. . .The Knuckle. Please report to The Czar the next time you see Billary, or Barack, or Biden the Blowhard, or Rudy the Creep, or Mitt The Mormon, or any of the mountebanks seeking to rule the world. . .point. They won’t. You’ll get the curled up fingers, and The Knuckle (until they are elected, then the index digit is unrestrained.) The Czar just might vote for the next candidate who points. A, P.

FOOFY---Now, this “word” might not be a word---The Czar refuses to check---and it might not be a cliche, or even popular. But it brings up a type of device that bears mentioning. You see, most journalists think they are great writers, not merely reporters. They have convinced themselves of this by using all sorts of language that Hemingway or Chandler never would have used, but that looks mighty impressive in a newspaper or magazine---and also by occasionally just making up their own words. This shows high style, you see, panache, individuality. And thus did an obit writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer refer to the late Tom Snyder’s hair recently as “foofy.” The Czar is not acquainted with any males who would have done such a thing, so it will be assumed here that the reporter was female, or female-ish, or feeling pretty (the obit bore both male and female bylines.)Message to obit writers: it’s probably a good idea to keep the tone of your pieces somewhat dignified, seeing as the person is um, dead. But this little obit scribe, as is the case with so many, many “journalists,” is trying to stand out from the crowd, make a little name, etc.. While this is something that Tom Snyder certainly would have understood, it is indecent to verbally strut about in an obituary. It’s practically foofy. A, P, CP.

BONDED---Has even the lovely and spontaneous and suprising act of making friends been reduced to machine-like meaninglessness by psychobabblers? Does Karl Rove look like the Pillsbury Doughboy? Does Oprah preen? “Bonding” was originally a clinical term, if not a psychology textbook one, and it should have stayed that way. I recall an acquaintance describing how he led a group of people on a tour of Japan: “After the first few days, we bonded, and. . .” Gasp. No no no---you’d didn’t bond. You. . .found common interests. . .enjoyed one another’s company. . .were united by being strangers in a strange land. . .and became friends! Bonded makes it all sound like so mechanical, artificial, expedient. . .hollow. Yet it is the norm nowadays. We bonded is heard constantly. It so cheapens human interaction, which is plenty cheap enough, isn’t it? We both had teency dogs, we both had ingrate kids, we both drove gratuitously expensive cars, we bonded. The Czar believes in friendships developing subtly, mysteriously over time, and that they are made of a little more than whether you both carry Paris Hilton chihuahuas in your purse. A, CP.

NAUSEOUS---No one in the world, in all of human history, has ever been nauseous. They have been. . .nauseated. Nauseated. Nauseated. The ubiquitousness of nauseous is enough to make you sick. W, CP.

ADJUNCTS---Another instance of brutally forcing a noun to mutate into a verb, which is quite a habit in bureaucracy today, especially in academia. This actual sentence appears in a genuine curriculum vitae: “Currently he adjuncts at Temple University.” Currently he. . .does what? He. . .adjuncts? What, does he stand next to one of the Temple U. buildings and pretend to be another wing? Adjuncts adds junk. A, CP.

REHOMING---Not since “pre-owned” has The Czar found a term so amusing. As with the Spanish, “rebozo,” which means “to become a clown again,” so “rehome” means “to become a home again.” Well, it might as well. But this beastly bit of verbiage is used by animal rescue folk (mostly) to refer to placing some poor creature in a new home. Let’s rehome him. Right. And then let’s refeed him, and rewalk him, and get him to rebark. Save us from stray lingo creatures, wandering the streets of communication. Please do not rehome them. A, CP.

FAN FICTION---Another spiritual cousin of “pre-owned,” this refers to writing that cannot, has not, and probably should not be published. It is fiction written by fans---generally science fiction and fantasy fans. So now all the junk and adolescent idiocy that is typed by fans deluded into thinking they are writers has its own category! It’s a genre! Celebrate! You’re no longer just a fan. Write a few pages, and you are a fan fiction author! The only thing possibly more unsettling is the knowledge that, yes, there is an audience for fan fiction. Think of it: fan fiction fans. The snake eats itself! The only fiction here is in the heads of the fans who think they are writers. A.

TWEE---A vewwy cute widdle word that means, essentially, vewwy cute. Precious. Almost sickeningly sweet. It could be in the running for the top ten most onomatapaeic words in all of English. The problem with twee is that it is so overused by critics who are vocabularily outgunning one another (mine's bigger than yours) that twee has become. . .twee. T, P, CP.

PERSONAL WORK---Michael Richards said he did some "personal work" after going bonkers over some jackass audience members. Everyone in rehab is doing "personal work." Half of Hollywood is doing "personal work." The Czar does personal work every morning in the bathroom, which is where "personal work" belongs. A, P, CP.

The Czar wishes you a nauseous and foofy lingo day.

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