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(Dec. 6, 2006)

          Deck your 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 should be.)

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, W, CP.

(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. T.

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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