|Lingo Liberation. .
by Rip Rense (Apr. 9, 2003)
Now that the "war" in Iraq is settling into "liberation" (read: social-political chaos), and all is blight with the world, the Lingo Czar must resume repulsing all invaders hell-bent on conquering Lingo Land, and subverting its resources in the name of "liberating" the language.
All verbal empire-builders are hereby advised to avoid using the following worn-out phrases, buffoonish slang, buzzwords, mistakes and/or 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, with recommended minimum punishment of one day of self-imposed silence).
WITH RESPECT TO---Bland, benign, and beige, this prepositional phrase hides sinister purpose! Tricky Dick Cheney, Donald "Duck and Cover" Rumsfeld, Richard "Bela" Perle, Paul Wolfmanowitz are all big users of "with respect to." They use it like Julia Roberts uses men. Examples: "With respect to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. . ." and "Here are the facts with respect to the Iraqi people. . ." Yes, Dick, et al., could say "concerning," "involving," "regarding," "relating to"---or they could abandon "with respect to" altogether, and just speak a lean, blunt sentence. But that wouldn't sound studied, cautious, calm, or downright. . .respectful. Get it? If you coolly say "with respect to" often enough, it also gets across the subliminal message that you "respect" something. With respect to with respect to, the Czar respectfully loses respect. T, P, CP.
No-n-n-n-n-n-n-no---The Czar is an ardent admirer of Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, but must blame her Elaine Benes character on "Seinfeld" for this irking idiom. Y-y-y-y-y-yes, when Elaine said no-n-n-n-n-n-n-no, it was endearing and obnoxious, a choice shading for a sharp caricature. When every other female on the tube---from weathermannequins to talkshowmannequins---says it, all the time (usually when caffeinated) it is merely obnoxious. Just say no. T, A.
CONTRARIAN---People used to call the Czar "cranky," which was a cutesy and condescending way of trivializing the splendor of his sarcasm and wit. This was the P.C. method of declaring "you irrelevant old gasbag." Blessedly, "cranky" came and went like Tom Cruise's last few movies---but it has been replaced by "contrarian." Now, the Czar somewhat enjoys "contrarian," as it at least dignifies the art of speaking bluntly; exposing the Emperor's shivering haunches. . . with an official title! But it is still reductive. It still trivializes. If you disagree bluntly once too often, you are conveniently branded a "contrarian"---someone who disputes merely for the sake being disputatious. You know, like Bill O' Reilly'ed-up. Speaking earnestly, pointing out phoniness, hypocrisy, exposing actual motives---these are noble callings! Ask Jesus Christ. Garry Trudeau. Kurt Vonnegut. P.
VI-LENCE---James Thurber wrote a spiffy kids' book called "The Wonderful 'O'," in which a pirate steals all the "O's" from the English language. (Ophelia Oliver hid her head in shame.) Well, it seems the pirate has struck for real, at least insofar as "violence" is concerned. Someone has appropriated---er, apprpriated---the word's "o"! TV newsmannequins far and wide are spouting only two syllables:"vi," and "lence." If the trend spreads, Oprah Winfrey and her magazine are in big trouble. A, CP.
RIGHT-SIZING---No-n-n-n-n-n-no, ladies and gentlemen, there is no-n-n-n-n-no end to the sanitized insanity of corporate-speak. You thought "downsizing" was a revolting euphemism for firing? Try the latest: "right-sizing." Yessiree, Mr./Ms. CEO, when you have projected massive profits on the basis of what-might-happen, only to find that what-might- happen. . .didn't, hey, don't downsize! Rightsize! All those axed employees with hungry kiddies to support will understand perfectly, because you are doing the "right" thing! Rightsize on! A, P, CP.
HARDSCRABBLE---Scrabble is hard, and so, apparently, is unpretentious writing. About ten years ago, a book critic scouring the dregs of a Thesaurus found "hardscrabble," and all hell broke loose. Every "staff writer" (there evidently are no more "reporters") at every newspaper in the country began using "hardscrabble" anytime they wanted to describe someone's deprived, poor background. It spread like Rosie O' Donnell sitting down. These "staff writers" imagine themselves to be real writers, because they employ such a decorative, onomatopoeiac word. (There is also a hint of chauvinism, as the word carries a romantic tone.) The Czar would like to see all these writers use "hardscrabble" in Scrabble. T, A, P, CP.
HAND-WRINGING---The is the current right-wing term for worrying. Tricky Dick Cheney loves the expression, frequently saying "there will be a certain amount of hand-wringing over" (take your choice) invading Iraq/using nuclear weapons/giving John "Crisco" Ashcroft the right to take away your citizenship. The President himself was revealed in a recent USA Today propaganda piece to refer to Doubting Thomases or second-guessers as "hand-wringers." Right---those wimpy worry-warts! Imagine fretting over committing a couple-hundred thousand U.S. troops to invading Iraq! Tch tch. Better that they adopt the President's attitude, "What, me worry?" Eh? That's Alfred E. Newman? Oh, stop your hand-wringing. A.
THANKS FOR SHARING---Hey, Lingo-pals, what is this, kindergarten? Have you regressed to "Show and Tell" mode? Do you moonlight on "Romper Room?" Adults everywhere are saying and writing "thanks for sharing." Gawwwd. The Hallmark Card pods have taken over! The Czar would like to share this: "thanks for sharing" is a polite way of saying, "I really don't give a rat's ass for anything you've just said, but I don't want to tell you what I really think, because I'm afraid of confrontation, so I'll say 'thanks for sharing!'" Or, "I really don't have the intellect to process your information and give a thoughtful response, so I'll smile like the Church Lady and say 'thanks for sharing.'" Okay, The Czar is looking in his Magic Mirror, and he sees. . .Suzie. . .and Billy. . .Timmy. . .Janey. . .and they're all saying "thanks for sharing!" Maybe they should all share a bottle of gin, and tell each other what they really think. . .T, A, P, CP.
ASYMMETRICAL ENEMY---The Czar understands that military-ese has its place---the military! This term, made mainstream by Rumsfeld shortly after 9/11, is intended to describe an enemy who cannot be conventionally ascertained; a phantom foe who does not adhere to "normal" attack pattern. Of course, it sounds more like an enemy who needs to go on a diet. The sight of government officials and TV newsmanne- quins gritting their teeth and pronouncing "asymmetrical enemy" reminds the Czar of Gen. Buck Turgison (George C. Scott) in "Dr. Strangelove," and of police reporters self-importantly aping cop patois like "shooter" (now, sadly, mainstream.) Retire this term from conventional use, unless referring to such truly asymmetrical horrors as tiny women with cigarettes and lattes driving massive SUV's (while applying eyeshadow.) A, P.
LAWS/RULES OF WAR---Folks, if there is anything that does not have laws or rules, it's war. This is legalized illegality. Civilization uncivilized. "Rules of war" must be the most moronic of oxymorons since "government organization" and "jumbo shrimp." Yet, in every military action, you hear both sides complaining that the other side is not obeying the "laws of war." You know, he didn't murder fair and square! Break laws/rules of war. T, P, CP.
AW-ITE---What's happened? Have you all just come from the dentist? Tongues numbed with novocaine? The simple term, "all right," is is so hopeful, so reassuring---plain, but always a joy to hear. Just think how many songs contain the lovely phrase, "It's all right" (including "It's All Right," by Curtis Mayfield.) But this heartening offering has been gutted of its lyricism, and brutalized into the hip-speak "aw-ite" (spoken almost as one syllable.) Make aw-ite all right again. All right? All right. A.
PEE---What's with women suddenly announcing, "I have to pee!" (Usually, it seems, while in a restaurant.) Is this their idea of "liberation?" That they can be just as crass as gallumphing, smelly, scratching males? "I have to pee" puts a very specific image in mind, and it is not pretty, graceful or (dare the Czar say it?) ladylike. God help us if they begin announcing other bodily functions so undecoratively. Look, dogs "pee." Ladies go to the ladies' room. (Unless the line is too long.) A, CP.
NON-STARTER---Non-Speak of the Week Award goes to. . .Karl "Vanilla" Rove! Has any man in history ever engaged so doggedly, so successfully, so superciliously, so punctiliously, in. . .saying nothing? Bravo, Karl! They should play "Nowhere Man" every time you step to the podium! "Non-starter" is one of Karl's (okay, and to be fair, grown-up political-type people's) most wondrous concoctions. In short, it means "No-n-n-n- n-n-no." Asked about Europe's proposal to increase weapons inspections in Iraq a few weeks ago, Kalm Karl said this was a "non-starter." How. . .benign. How. . .light and fluffy. How. . .feathery. In Japanese, the word, "satorare" refers to a fictional person whose thoughts are audible. If Karl Rove's thoughts were audible, "non-starter" would sound something like this: "Why don't you ass----s take a flying ---- at a rolling donut?" Or perhaps not. Perhaps guys like Karl have so much mayonaisse in their synapses that they actually think in this kind of deadening lingo. Finish non-starter. A, P, CP.
With respect to all readers' Lingo suggestions, the Czar says in advance, "thanks for sharing." Have a hardscrabble Lingo day, aw-ite?
Copyright 2003 Rip Rense, all rights reserved