Lingo Czar Needs
Meds. . .
(Aug. 27, 2003)
It's football season (gasp), time for all TV sports commentators to stand up as they call the action, for some strange reason---and time for the Lingo Czar to punt the Lingo pigskin.
All players claiming to speak English are therefore 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).
FOOH-BALL---Just as a football needs a tee for kickoff, "football" needs a "t" in order to kick in. Somehow, the "t" has disappeared. Best guess is that millions of Americans found it difficult to say "foot-ball" with a cheeks full of Cheetohs, so compromised with a grunt. It is now "fooh-ball," the first syllable being little more than "uh!" with an "f" at the beginning. W, A.
IN A WORLD---Will somebody please gag the guy---there is only one, apparently---who does voiceovers at movie previews? Not only is his scratchy baritone hypertrophically theatrical---but he begins seven out of every ten previews with "In a worrrrlllld. . ." The Czar knows that Voice Boy doesn't write the previews--- demographic types do. You know, people who have studied which phrases and voices "test" best with audiences (Read: how to aurally brutalize impressionable, hapless, popcorn-pacified empty-walleted $9-ticket-holders.) Yes, there has been an effort to add variety. Occasionally, you get "in a place. . ." or "in a time. . ." The Czar would like to be in a worrrrlllld where previews have no narration. T, A, P, CP.
YOU SET ME UP!---While on the subject of previews, one hears the line, "You set me up!" (or he/she/they/it/ Mommy/President Bush set me up! ) almost as often as "In a worrrrlllld. . ." Are the same demographically trained seals who write previews also writing scripts? (Don't answer.) Seven out of ten "action" film previews---and The Czar has made a careful study of this, rest assured---feature a sweaty, panicked man or woman shouting (usually into a phone), "YOU SET ME UP!" The Czar confesses to yearn for dialogue that is a bit more complex. Of course, this is like yearning for people to think. Every time His Wordliness sets foot in a theater, he wants to shout, "YOU SET ME UP!" T, A, CP.
HERO---The Czar is second to none in his gratitude to firefighters, law enforcement officials and the military for the courage they bring to their jobs. But these same people will be the first to tell you that they are not automatically heroes. Doing your job does not necessarily make you a hero, unless perhaps you teach in public schools. Heroism has traditionally meant, well, doing something heroic. Taking daring action to protect or rescue someone. Nowadays, anyone in a uniform is automatically deemed a hero (with the exception of parking cops.) This is not fair to. . .heroes. P, T.
JOR-DAN---Proper names are not often singled out by the Czar, but given the preponderance of the moniker, "Jordan," an exception must be made. From currently injured Dodger right fielder Brian Jordan to screaming mommies in supermarket parking lots, this name is ever in the air. And it is, astoundingly enough, usually mispronounced. Yes, parents are unwittingly unable to correctly speak the names of their own children. It is not "Jor-duhn." The syllabic slash should come after the "d," not before, as in Jord-uhn. This phenomenon is related to the "im-por-dunt" syndrome---the same phonetic problem that caused many an L.A. newsmannequin to refer to our former mayor as "Rior-duhn," instead of "Riord-uhn." Roll, Jor-duhn, Roll. W, A.
ICONIC---It's silly enough that the word, "icon" has replaced "star." Everyone now wants to become an "icon," which is really rather funny, considering that it is equivalent to saying, "I want to be a recognizable symbol." Might as well aspire to become a Cheez-Its box. Think the Czar is kidding? A poll taken among young American students a couple years ago found that the top most coveted profession was---not doctor, lawyer, architect---but "icon." Yes, apparently, kids all wanted to go to Icon School and study iconography. Now every TV newsmannequin on "Entertainment Tonight," "Hard Copy," etc., flaps gums about this or that "iconic" celebrity. Every newspaper critic plugs it into every other review. "Iconic," in other words, has become iconic. Probably because it is too laborious to say "iconographic." T, A, P, CP.
MEDS---Blame "E.R." for this one, perhaps. Taking pills, taking medicine, taking prescription drugs---it's all "taking meds," now. Dunno. . .seems to the Czar that illness is not something to cutesify. T, A.
NUANCED---Farewell, "multi-layered"! Goodbye, "subtle"! So long, "complex"! Adios, "delicate"! Nuanced has replaced you all. It's in every other news story, spoken by every other government official. It's in every other entertainment story, tripping off the tongue of every actress trying to sound erudite. It's in every other film review, sandwiched in between words that The Czar has never seen outside of a Harvard dissertation. How and why "nuanced" became so popular is something that requires little nuance of explanation. People are parrots. P, T, A, CP.
THE COMPANY HAS DONE NOTHING WRONG---It's an interesting sign of the times when such a phrase---and variations like "the company has broken no laws" or "we stand by our procedures"---become cliches. It sort of indicates that, well, there must be whole lot of shady stuff going on. You regularly hear "the company has done nothing wrong" and its variations from the mouths of gray-fleshed men with carefully controlled hair and drab suits. It's almost a kind of CNN leitmotiv, weaving in and out of the music of corruption, deceit, cooked books, obfuscation, and chicanery. Of course, it translates to: we are guilty as hell, but you'll have to take us to court to prove it. Wouldn't it be nice to hear one of these guys say, "Yeah, well, we tried to illegally make as much money as we could without regard for anyone or anything else. It's the new American Way." T.
I'M NOT MAKING EXCUSES---A cousin of "The company has done nothing wrong," this one is highly amusing. You see, it is always spoken by someone who is---yes, you're way ahead of me---making excuses! Here's an example from the world of sports: L.A. Dodgers General Manager Dan Evans, under fire this season for lousy trades, said this to the L.A. Times: "You can't just create players. You just can't create financial flexibility in an environment that doesn't allow it. I'm not going to make excuses." Now, Dan did it backwards. He gave the excuses first, then said, "I'm not going to make any excuses." Thus hoping that the dead air that followed would give the impression that, in fact, he had made no excuses. Didn't fool The Czar, Dan! There is no excuse for "I'm not making excuses." Unless, of course, that is your only excuse. T, A, P, CP.
FAIR AND BALANCED---One of many terms utilized as if it has hard-and-fast, concrete definition that is universally accepted. You know, like "moral." "Fair and balanced" is entirely subjective, of course, but tell that to the people at Fox News, who apparently felt so cocksure of their definition that they (gasp) trademarked the expression. (How that happened, The Czar would like to know, as he would like to trademark "cool," and sue every commercial that uses the word.) Then when good old Al Franken came along to razz them with his new book, well, Fox went to court, claiming that Al stole their phrase! "Of course, the judge all but laughed Fox out of the courtroom. In other words, the network did not get a "fair and balanced" shake, and hardly deserved one. Hmmm. . .maybe the Czar should trademark "unfair and imbalanced." T.
COLLIEFORNIA/CAULIFORNIA---The Czar likes dogs, and admires collies---and also enjoys eating cauliflower. Still, His Wordliness does not confuse dogs or vegetables with the state of California. Now, Arnold Schwarzenegger's accent is his cache as an actor, but if he wants to be governor of California, at least he should get a movie speech coach to teach him how to pronounce the name of the damn state. On the other hand, Bush still can't pronounce "nuclear," so maybe it doesn't matter. A, CP.
Have yourselves a nice fooh-ball season, and watch the Cheetohs.
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