by RIP RENSE
LINGO CZAR, PERSONALLY
The Lingo Czar has dragged his battered and bruised carcass away from all
radio and TeeVee news, away from all abusive e-mail from alleged friends and
neighbors, and has heroically propped himself up before his computer in yet
another valiant, if doomed effort to instill Lingo sense into alleged
speakers of English, far and wide.
Accordingly, noble citizens are
hereby 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 alleged 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).
HANG: This was encountered in a restaurant review, in
reference to (you guessed it!) a restaurant. No longer are there
“hangouts,” apparently, just “hangs.” The Czar has long reviled the
infantile slang use of “hang,” as in “You wanna come over and hang?” It
connotes sloth, indolence, and other popular American pastimes. To now
extend application of this word to nouns is additional dopey reduction of
language by those whose adjective files consist entirely of “hot” and
“cool.” Why not just go back to the original meaning of hang, and
just hang everything else. Perhaps including the people who use it. A.
UP OR DOWN VOTE: Suddenly, throughout the hollow---er,
hallowed---halls of government, everyone is calling for an “up or down
vote.” Well, not everyone---for some reason, most users of this term seem to
be impatient Repugnicans. Sen. Orrin "Booby" Hatch especially favors it.
Here is an example: “I would like nothing better than to see a restoration
of the Senate tradition of allowing up-or-down votes” on judicial nominees,
Hatch said recently. This "up or down vote" madness is a response to threats
of filibustering---which is now known in Congress as “the nuclear
option”---of judicial nominees. Well, let’s do a little translating. “Up or
down vote” means “confirm or deny vote,” right? Well correct the Czar if he
has gone Lingo nuts here, but if you are not “up,” you are automatically
“down,” right? You are not “sideways” or “mid-air” or “suspended,” are you?
“Up or down” as a modifier for “vote” is the most useless addition since
Michael Jackson’s chin. Of course, the real reason for this asinine
expression is the implication that any discussion is obstructionist,
unnecessary, and probably un-American. August senators and representatives
love to puff up and knit their brows and spew forth with all manner of
clichés that make them sound officious. But “up or down” makes them sound
directionless. Just say “vote,” boys. A.
THE NUCLEAR OPTION: What a lovely world it is when the highest
elected representatives in the land render cute something as horrific as
nuclear annihilation. Yet this is just what your little boys in the
Congressional playpen have done, voters. They think it is cutesy-pie and
good fun to refer to the filibuster---the time-honored practice of hogging
the congressional floor in order to delay or prevent a vote---as the
“nuclear option.” Ho, ho! Aren’t they fun? Why, I’ll bet they could give
football commentators a run for their money! Viral
epidemics must have them on the floor, convulsed with laughter! Of course, when you consider that the commandante-in-chief steadfastly refuses to learn how to pronounce
“nuclear,” this is not too surprising. Give "nuclear option" the nuclear
option. A, CP.
HOLD HANDS AND SING ‘KUMBAYA’: This phrase erupted among
elected officials almost volcanically. It just appeared, suddenly,
violently, tectonically, in the hollow---er, sorry, I keep doing that,
hallowed---halls of government from Sacramento to D.C.. All these
Foghorn Leghorn senators and representatives are getting up on their
hind-legs in front of microphones, and baying, “Well, we aren’t exactly
going to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya.’” Oh, how amusing! Other eruptions
promptly followed among bloggers, columnists, “commentators.” It’s one of
the worst lingo viruses since “hardscrabble” and “I gotta tell ya.” One
wonders if any of these clever souls even know what “kumbaya” means.
Translation: “My tit is caught in a wringer.” Okay, not really! It is from
the Gullah dialect of a small group of African-Americans living on islands
off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. It essentially means “come by
here,” and is an invitation to Gawdallmightee to drop by for victuals. As
in, “God, come on DOWN!” In its original context,
is a rather lovely, even poignant sentiment, but it has long since been
rendered cornball cliché by church campers far and wide. Let's not hold
hands and sing Kumbaya.
VIBE: Pardon the Czar a moment. Blllooooooarrrgggphffffffff!
Ah, that’s better. You know, “vibe” was trite almost from the moment it was
uttered, back in the ‘60s, somewhere in San Francisco (probably.) A
diminuitive of “vibration,” as in Brian Wilson, “vibe” metaphorically
referred to atmosphere/personality of a person/place/thing. Behind the
metaphor were metaphysical implications of auras and magnetic fields, and,
possibly, popcorn. How is it, then, that “vibe” persists as if it is fresh,
hip, au courant, chic, and (gasp) cool? Why, the answer is right in
my copy of the Los Angeles Times---specifically the Jan. 19 headline “If
you get in, the vibe’s just right.” This was an article about a new
lounge at the Roosevelt Hotel that, the headline continued, is “warmly
welcoming” but only if “you’re cool enough to make the cut.” Yes, lingo
fans, you’re way ahead of me---“vibe” has persisted entirely because of
pinhead newspaper editors! Under-qualified, unimaginative, and otherwise
underequipped for their jobs, these (mostly young) people do nothing but
rearrange and perpetuate the most tired of clichés and buzzwords as they
dumb-down readers and pander to demographics. Look, the Czar was embarrassed
to be hired to write a column called “Vibes” for the old Valley News---way
back in 1977! T, A, CP.
I GOTTA TELL YA---TeeVee Newsmannequins everywhere are
beginning their incomprehensible, cliché-ridden babble with “I gotta tell ya.”
As if they are about to get very frank and candid and let us in on something
very special that few human beings in history should even by privy to
hearing! Naturally, “I gotta tell ya” usually comes in front of such
astonishing information as “these Rose Parade floats are just beautiful” and
“the wind is really blowing out here, Harold” and “these people are really
excited.” I gotta tell ya, this is a new nadir in insipid speech. I gotta
tell ya, even The Czar is amazed by this one. I gotta tell ya, people are
such emptyheaded, dull-witted beasts that sometimes I think The Nuclear
Option is a good idea. A, CP.
TRANSPARENT---Evidently, this is a brand-new virtue. The Czar
is told that the Boy Scouts are now reciting “I promise to be loyal,
thrifty, brave, and transparent.” Claude Rains aside, the visibility
question here would seem to refer to ethical conduct. In other words, an
esteemed elected representative of the people might declare that all his/her
records are “transparent”---that is, he/she is hiding nothing. (Interesting
that almost none of the commandante-in-chief’s records are “transparent.”)
Of course, if an esteemed elected representative was transparent, that would
mean you couldn’t see him or her. Your Wordliness often gets very excited
when he hears that someone’s records are transparent, or, even better, when
a Foghorn Leghorn senator declares “I am completely transparent on this
issue.” It is very disappointing to find that these people are actually quite visible. Too visible. T, A, P, CP.
PERSONALLY---Personally, I guess many people personally see
nothing wrong with putting “personally” in front of a sentence, but
personally, the The Czar finds it pompous, redundant, and let’s not forget
utterly without meaning. The worth of this term is debatable, but let’s say
that it does have a valid and minor function in distinguishing a private
opinion from a general one. If you are the representative of a large
organization and you are not speaking on behalf of that organizatiion, you
might be obliged to say you are speaking “personally,” or better, that you
are rendering a personal view that does not reflect the views of your
organization. But personally has infected sentences like Jack Abramoff
infected the U.S. government. It is constantly used at the beginnings of
sentences, setting up a declaration of some sort, as in “Personally, I don’t
care for ‘Fear Factor.’” Anytime The Czar hears this, he wants to inquire,
“Well, how do you feel about it impersonally?” In other words, if you
are the person speaking, why the hell are you announcing this? Do you
imagine that someone with think you are not speaking, but that words coming
from your mouth are being placed there by a ventriloquist?
Personally needs to become transparent. T, A, P, CP.
SLACKER: This is a dumb word. How’s that for an articulate
analysis? It’s just dumb. No one used it until “Back to the Future II” came
along, and the characters went back to the ‘50s where very square high
school administrators used it in reference to lazy students. The word had
been dead since the ‘50s---justifiably buried as cornball "Leave it to
Beaver" patois---until the film
enabled the Lingo Masses to go back in time and retrieve it. Today,
"slacker" is mainstream, which leaves The Czar slack-jawed. It is a slightly
more decorous way of saying “loser,” a term The Czar also abhors, as it is
generally used to label people who do not place the accumulation of wealth
at the top of their priorities. That would make The Czar the Sultan of
Slackers. T, A.
WORKS FOR ME: Hey, wanna get some coffee? Works for me.
Can you call me tonight? Works for me. Can we take the cat up on the roof
and give him a good shave? Works for me. How "works for me" worked its
way into the vernacular is a work of mystery. But the implication is not.
The key passage here is "for me." This is yet another indicator of a society
gone spoiled seflish rotten. The Czar has lived nearly as long as many
desert toirtoises, and he is no naif. He has seen and experienced
churlishness of spirit that would do Scrooge proud, but never, never,
never has he imagined that people would altogether lose a sense of
empathy. That they would actually be raised and cultivated entirely absent
of deference, courtesy, let alone kindness and charity. Yet it has happened.
These things are seen as vestigial, if they are recognized at all, by most
persons under about 40; what's more, they are just so inconvenient, aren't
they? They get in the way, after all, of personal want! Works for me,
rough translation: I have decided that I am willing to fit this into my
life. I am not doing it for you, or for us, or for any other reason than. .
.me. Works for me has a grating pseudo-folksy tone, and a
tendency to lodge in the speech reflex much as "y'know" and "like" do. (I
was, like. . .) Works for me does not work for me, and should not
work for you. A, CP.
STAY THE COURSE: “President” Bush uses this every other hour
to "explain" his rationale for bankrupting the nation, leaving it in debt to
Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, and Korea; for the deaths of up to 100,000
innocent Iraqis in the name of “liberating” them; for the deaths of going on
2500 U.S. Soldiers and the maiming, blinding of about 20,000 more; for
having gone to war on totally false pretenses for the reason of permanently
occupying the Middle East on behalf of oil wealth, and Israel; for inspiring
and uniting countless thousands of new terrorists, etc., etc. “Stay the
course” must be naval terminology, but The Czar is, frankly, too depressed
to look it up. This guy would “stay the course” if he was clinging to the
crow’s nest, and it was the last visible portion of his sinking ship.Which,
come to think of it, is a very apt analogy. P.
OUR HEARTS GO OUT: CunningLeeza Rice says this constantly, in
reference to men and women who have been blown to smithereens while pursuing
the Iraq folly. “Our hearts go out” to all the families of the dead, etc.
You know, you would think---you would really think---that a
government official would try to come up with something other than a
desiccated, flat, lifeless cliché in offering comfort, sympathy, and
gratitude to a family that has just given up one of its members for a war.
Especially a war as controversial as this one. But no. It’s always cliché
after cliché. Our hearts go out. . .we are eternally grateful. . .words
cannot express. . .The Czar thinks the whole problem is that their
hearts went out a long time ago. T, A, P, CP.
Personally, the Lingo
Czar wishes you a safe and sane lingo day.
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