by RIP RENSE
LINGO CZAR GIVES YOU THE
DETELLS. . .
(March 24, 2004)
Forget all the recent hoo-hah over Sandra
Tsinging the bleeping f-word---the Lingo Czar is giving you the Lohdown on terms that
really ought to be bleeped at all times under all Lingocircumstances.
Citizens are therefore 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 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).
I SEEN---No, I'm afraid you haven't. I realize
that asking for the Great Lingo Herd to change deeply ingrained speech patterns is like
asking cows to un-moo, but I seen enough. I mean, I've seen enough. Attention, Herd: next
time you get your fifteen seconds of fame when a TV Newsmannequin sticks a mike in your
mug and asks for an eyewitness account of the murder/ shooting/arson/ slow-speed
chase/high-speed chase/ cat-in-a-tree, please do not start your sentences with "I
seen." As in "I seen this guy running up the street, and. . ." Please.
"I seen" is a bad scene. You are trying to employ past-perfect tense (remember
your friendly "helping verb," to have!) imperfectly. So be more perfect
and use simple past tense. "I saw." See? Just do that one favor for the old
Czar, and he will allow you to say "ho," "bitch," "fly,"
"dude," and "cool" with impunity. I seen enough. W, A, T.
LOOKS PRESIDENTIAL/UNPRESIDENTIAL: Children,
children, please put down your milk and cookies. It just looks unpresidential. Now, The
Czar doesn't play politics much, but what exactly does "look presidential" mean?
Huh? Does this mean that a candidate should wear big flapping silk suits with
soundbite-perfect ties and piously say "May God bless the United States of
America" a lot? Or should he look like Lincoln? Warren G. Harding? Nixon? How is it
that you, the Amerigun Public, so often use this term as the primary means of making up
your tiny minds about a candidate? How often does the Czar hear you say, "Well, I
don't know, he just looks presidential!" as you smile giddily into a camera
(obviously anticipating that ice cream cone Daddy's going to buy you after dinner.) Or
"I don't know why I don't like him---he just doesn't look
presidential." Oh, woe to the country when choices are based on the gut feelings of
those whose brains have been gutted. Howard Dean didn't "look presidential," but
John Kerry did, and on this basis, apparently, was the candidate selected. Yet Dean was
the man who went out on a limb and spoke his mind, had the courage of his convictions to
oppose current administration megalomania---er, policies. Guess those things aren't
"presidential." Oh, darn the Czar---there I go, playing politics, after all.
Look, does Ralph Nader "look presidential?" No, he looks grocery store
managerial. Lincoln? Rondo Hatton with a goatee. Harding? President as zeppelin. Nixon?
Lacked horns and pitchfork. Bush? He looks like he could be president of a Fraternity of
Loyal Brotherhood of Elks, maybe. Listen: I saw a an old guy on a bus bench the other day
who "looked presidential." He had a fine beard, noble visage, and dressed
nattily. Maybe I'll write him in. T, A, P, CP.
FIRE IN THE BELLY---Is there a phrase that conjures a more
peculiar mental image? This unfortunate expression has caught on among those who would
pass themselves off as manly, masculine, and otherwise male. John Kerry recently uttered
the grotesque words, "wait till they see the fire in my belly!" Uh, viewing Mr.
Kerry's belly, or anything related to it, is a most unappetizing idea. And if there's fire
in there, well, where there's fire, there's smoke, and. . .we'll let that go. I don't
know, it's just rather vulgar, all around. "Belly" is best reserved for
children, anyhow, as it is anything but cute on adults. Fire in the belly, you're fired. T,
REDEMPTION: Gadzooks, film critics! Do you imagine you are writing
doctoral theses? The way you garishly declaim about movies like, oh, "Fifty First
Dates," makes the Czar thinks you haven't had one in a long time. I mean, you are
forever prattling on in hifalutin lingo that most moviegoers have never experienced
outside of "Jeopardy!", with particularly frequent references to
"redemption." This is a film that is about redemption, you say, in
reference to movies written by people who probably can't spell "redemption." Why
such grandiose terminology for such common commerce? Most films have nothing redeeming
about them in the first place, anyhow. P, T, A.
MAKES US THINK---A prevalent prevarication among pundits and
poseurs. Critics and commentators are forever saying sagely, scratching chins or smiling
slyly, that a film/book/artwork/piece of music/ "makes us think." As if this
alone is a measure of worth, an arbiter of artistry! What a namby-pamby, puny, and
otherwise featherweight notion is "makes us think." You know, "I didn't
necessarily agree with this, but it made us think" or "This film might upset
you, but at least it will make you think." Folks, if you're not already thinking,
you're in deep trouble. Besides, what's so special about provoking thought? Hamburgers
provoke thought, and poodles and tweety birds. Finally, the Czar objects to the
"presumptuous 'we'," which is to say, users of this phrase are speaking on
behalf of the Czar, with no knowledge whatsoever of what the Czar is thinking, if
anything. Make you think, did I? T, A, P, CP.
DE-TELLS---Formerly "details," this vowel-challenged
noun now pervades the domain of TV newsmannequins, "reality" shows, and sitcoms.
"Details" has fallen victim to the dropped-vowel Valley syndrome (along with
"female"---now "fe-mell"), where for reasons known only to speech
therapists and The Department of Homeland Security, "long a" has been supplanted
by "short e." Perhaps it has something to do with the speed at which Valley
girls speak, which simply does not allow time for lips, tongue and teeth to coordinate
with vocal cords to produce that nasty, demanding long "a." Tune in the evening
news, and listen to Kelly/Lena/Marta/Laura talk about "de-tells at eleven."
"A" has fallen down a hole. W, A.
JOURNEY---Wow, thought this one went out of fashion with
"aura." But no. . .it's a staple of every phoney-baloney
writer/artist/actor/"icon" out there. Don't believe it? Tune in Oprah! Every
second sentence on that show seems to be about someone's "journey" through
pain/insanity/addiction/incest/toenail biting. Then you have the cliché about "life
is a journey/enjoy the ride" etc. Well, lemme tell ya, if life is a journey,
I'd just as soon postpone the arrival. I'm more of---as the Grateful Dead sang---a
"may be going to hell in a bucket/ but at least I'm enjoying the ride" sort. A
close cousin of "process," as in "it's all part of a process,"
"journey" needs to be sent packing. T, A, P, CP.
POSSE---Call the Sheriff and round up "posse." Yes, this
varmint's time is just about up. When you hear middle-aged Caucasian housewives talking
about their "posse," you know the pizzazz of this little bit of palaver has
taken a permanent powder. Of course, the Czar found "posse" to be positively
passe the first time he perused it. T, A.
YOU GUYS---It's true that "ladies and gentlemen" sounds
a bit pretentious, a bit pompous, but it beats the hell out of "you guys."
Attention all TV newsmannequins and interviewers, you are no longer twelve years old (at
least physically.) You are no longer roaming the corridors of elementary school, saying
"Wait up, you guys!" You are adults, at least in terms of numerically measured
longevity. Many of you are well over the age of 30, which means you have not behaved like
a teenager in at least a year or two. Yet there you are on the tube, calling everyone
under the sun "you guys." Including women. Of course, the Czar should count his
blessings, probably, that you have not yet begun addressing your subjects as
AMAZING---It amazed the Czar how much "amazing" is used.
You would think people would have been amazed long ago by the prevalance of
"amazing," which has long since lost its ability to amaze---being now roughly
equivalent to "good." Yet, amazingly enough, "amazed" pervades the
acceptance speeches of every awards show recipient, every actress talking about their
role/boyfriend/diet coach/plastic surgeon/guru, etc. It amazes the Czar that people are so
amazingly unthinking and unoriginal. T, A, P, CP.
UNHELPFUL/NOT HELPFUL---The Czar has remarked upon this before,
but it apparently did not filter up to anyone in the White House yet, so. . .This is a
Donald Rumsfeld-ism, as near as it can be traced. He loves to show his upper teeth,
squint, and say that something is "unhelpful," and this has caught on throughout
the Cheney, er, Bush, administration. White House Press Butterball Scott McCLellan loves
the term, and just the other day, unnamed White House officials were quoted as saying that
Israel's assassination of the paralyzed Hamas leader was "not helpful." Such
euphemisms really take the sting out of reality, don't they? No, further destablizing the
Middle East, escalating the chances of all-out war are "not helpful." Flirting
with cataclysm just never really is. T, A, P, CP.
The Czar wishes you all a safe and
sane Lingo journey.