by RIP RENSE
LINGO CZAR WISHES YOU HAPPY HOLIDAYS
(Dec. 6, 2006)
own halls and enjoy your Christmas fa-la-la-la-olly. The Lingo Czar
is hitting the eggnog early. “Holiday joy” is upon us, which of course means
a holiday from sanity, reason, what little clear lingo communication is
left. Revelers are hereby merrily advised to refrain from the following
worn-out phrases, buffoonish slang, buzzwords and holly-jolly
mispronunciations infecting and muddling clear and dignified communication
in this, the 21st century. They are rated: T (trite), A (asinine), P
(pretentious), W (whoops), and CP (criminally prosecutable, or damn well
SEASON’S GREETINGS/HAPPY HOLIDAYS---Let’s take all the
architects and enforcers of political correctness, strip them naked, tie
them to chairs, coat them with salt, and invite Santa’s reindeer in for a
little treat. Yes, we know that humans imprisoned in corporate cubicles and
behind cash registers are admonished against saying “Merry Christmas” in the
workplace until Christmas Eve, and we say shove it up your humbug. Yes, this
is a multi-cultural society, and Chanukah and Kwanzaa are commercial
industries in their own right. But the fact is that most people put up trees
and sing about Rudolf, and Christmas is as ubiquitous as the flu. So to all
dutiful reciters of the punishingly bland “Happy Holidays,” The Czar wishes
you the merriest possible Christmas. T, A, P, CP.
HAVE A GOOD ONE---Have a good what? It’s nice to wish someone
well, yes, but um. . .can you be more specific? Ah, of course, but this is a
useful catch-all! So if you are having, say, chemotherapy, the wisher is
expressing the hope that you have a “good” chemotherapy. A lovely sentiment!
Or if you are having hemorrhoid surgery, the idea is to hope that the
excision of inflamed veins in the rectum is “good.” Mm-mm! Or if you are
homeless and collecting cans, pumping a sewer, engaged in serial killing,
you are being wished well in your endeavors. Constipated? Yes, that too.
It’s a very adaptable phrase! Still, the Czar wishes all would revert to
simply saying “Good morning,” “good afternoon,” and “good evening.” That
way, he’d have a good one. T, A.
TWEAK---Now the sole verb used to indicate changing,
adjusting, editing, fixing: a work of art, a pair of pants, piece of
writing, a tie-knot. What’s wrong with. . .changing, adjusting, editing,
fixing? You know what tweak actually means? It means to pinch, twist, and
yank. Yow! Well, given the editing that The Czar has experienced through the
years, “tweak” might be rather accurate, after all. Still, “tweak” has
started to reek. Please pinch, twist, and yank it out of discourse. T, A,
(BLANK) BOY---The Czar is aware of the historical precedent
for using “boy” to label things that are not boys. Or girls. Take the “high
boy,” for instance, a type of furniture. How and why it came to acquire
gender is a matter for Cecil Adams. And how “boy” has suddenly become a
rampaging generic slang is attributable to the viral manner in which trendoid expressions infect heads. A sleepy young UCLA student was heard to
remark into his cell phone, while shuffling through a Whole Foods Market one
Sunday morning, “Yeah, I’m in the Whole Boy.” Now, here is the point where
the unthinking employment of this word can dangerously obscure intended
meaning. T, A.
MAN UP---As the great Jack Paar so often said, “I kid you
not.” People are saying “man up.” It was bad enough when “word up” was going
around, whatever that meant (definition mercifully eluded the Czar, as this
phrase came and went faster than thoughts through George W. Bush’s head.)
“Man up” is---get this---intended to encourage young boys to behave with
greater maturity, if not masculinity. “Man up, Johnny! Just because Willy
smashed you in the head with a baseball bat, that’s no excuse to be a wuss.”
Yes, parents and teachers are telling little kids who might be a little
sensitive or prone to tears (estimated at just over 100 percent), to “man
up!” Can’t you just picture the fat slob authoritarian Little League coach
yelling at his team to “man up?” Man oh man. Of course, I guess it beats
“person up!” A, CP.
WUSS---Another marcher in the long, limp parade of pansy,
sissy, wimp, 98-pound-weakling. The etymology of “wuss” is unknown to
Webster’s, which means it was probably born on an elementary school playground.
Seeing as a great many adults never really leave that playground, its
popularity is hardly a wonder. Anyone who feels compelled to seriously label
someone as being weak is certainly a wuss. Retire all such expressions,
unless referring to Neocons. T, A.
FREAK---In the late sixties, “freak” had the respectable
connotation of “expert.” If you were a Schopenhauer freak, this meant you
were extremely well-versed in Schopenhauer. That particular use of the term
long ago grew into hoary cliché. The most recent use has more to do with
whore-y cliché, suggesting craven sexuality. “She’s a freak” refers to
someone for whom sex is even more important than the Oprah Winfrey show.
“Get your freak on”---well, you get the idea. Somehow, in high schools
across the land, “freak” has now come to describe a style of dancing which
shall here be antiquatedly described as “frottage,” or less picturesquely,
“dry humping” (and its more vulgar cousin.) Yes, thousands of years of
human civilization have produced the quadruple bypass, the jumbo jet,
microchip, and. . .hordes of dry-humping high school kids, with females
routinely driven to open orgasms. Adults who object to this custom are
branded as sexually repressed freaks, in the oldest and purest definition of
the word. The Czar objects to the whole freaking business. A, CP.
FREAKING---If you want to use the “f-word,” then just use the
“f-word,” for f---‘s sake. Actors, professional athletes, politicians, and
even less despicable people are routinely employing “freaking” as a
modifier, as in “the whole freaking thing.” This substitute for “f---ing” is
somehow considered polite and acceptable, which is hilarious, since everyone
realizes that the intended word is “f---ing.” Just say “f—.” Don’t freak
around. A, CP.
HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM---Not since “It doesn’t take a
rocket scientist” has The Czar found an expression so intractably and
inextricably stuck in human synapses. This defining phrase of the ill-fated
Apollo 13 mission is launched over and over, at the slightest provocation.
Gad, is it possible to get through a day without hearing some chattering
chump or bubbly babe on Fox or CNN invoke this as if it is witty? “Houston,
we have a problem” is a staple for glibmeisters everywhere---that enormous
segment of U.S. citizenry that considers every statement a straight line.
Houston, we have a problem?” Houston, we have a lingo problem. Send this
into deep space. T, CP.
ON SOME LEVEL/ REACH THEM ON SOME LEVEL---A cousin of the
mystical, vague “the next level” and “a new level,” this usage of level is
equally foggy. Where are these levels? Where is the next level? What level
are we on in the first place? You hear actors, politicians, professional
athletes, and even less despicable people talking about “reaching them on
some level.” Oh, and artists are big on this one. Why, there are no persons
more highly skilled at not leveling than conceptual artists, who spin great
webs of weirdness in explaining the purpose of their
room-full-of-chairs-sawed-in-half. It’s intended to show the duplicity and
fracture of soul, spirit, national psyche, toenails. . .I’m trying to reach
people on some level. . .Please do your level best, oh, lovers of level, to
level use of this expression. T, A.
SUSSED OUT---Now this is a perfectly legitimate turn of
phrase, possibly a shortened version of “suspect.” It means, of course, to
glean, discern, learn, and otherwise discover something being sought. It is
now the reigning fashionable way to say glean, discern, learn, or otherwise
discover something being sought. Why, we haven’t been able to suss out.
DEMOGRAPHIC---In the puffery and piffle department,
“demographic” is ever at beck and call of mountebanks and martinets. No one
says “audience” anymore, let alone the hulking “segment of the population.”
Invoking “demographic” brings a learned, scientific aura to a usually
wretched observation, such as “We have good name recognition from our target
demographic.” (Translation: we have managed through media harassment to
imbed our vile product into the heads of the people whose pockets we want to
pick.) As regular readers of The Rip Post know, the “study” and “discipline”
of demographics is considered by the RP Editorial Bored to be public enemy
number one in societal decline. Demographics, the RP believes, comprise the
callous reduction of human beings to response mechanisms whose lowest common
denominator responses are exploited for profit---all dressed up as a
science. Demographers forever claim to give people what they want, when in
fact they simply pander to what people will react to. So it is a great pity
that this term and conceit have been adopted into general discourse, and
accepted as normality by the vast demographic---er, public. A, CP.
WALK THE WALK/ TALK THE TALK---Tavis Smiley might be a
perfectly good-hearted human being. For a penetrating interviewer, he makes
a very nice mannequin. Okay, he’s a little better than that, adept at
keeping things flowing---and that’s a knack. And he completes sentences,
unlike Charlie uh. . ..maybe we should. . .if you look at it with. . .of
course, this could also mean. . .Rose. But Tavis, you use clichés that are
not merely trite, they are. . .tripe. Veer any further into cutesy punchy
quasi-rhyming lingo, and Jesse Jackson will sue. Talk the talk/walk the walk
(and vice-versa) is a decades old macho (man up!) way of referring to
hypocrisy, that’s all. Street cred? Street crud. And um, seeing as you are
so well dressed, Tavis, and your program is supposed to be a substantial
exploration of topics done with a degree of dignity, why not choose words
that reflect this tone? In other words, if you’re going to walk that walk,
why not talk that talk? T, A, CP.
THAT’S A GREAT QUESTION---Is there any real need to expose
this device? That’s a great question. Isn’t it obvious when a politician
tells George Stephanapolous (beginning every other sentence with the
ingratiating, “George”), “that’s a great question,” that he is either
stalling or patronizing or lying? That’s a great question. T, A, P, CP.
The Lingo Czar wishes you
all a Merry Christmas. Every last one of you.
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