by RIP RENSE
GIVE THE GIFT OF
THE LINGO CZAR!
(Aug. 15, 2007)
The Lingo Czar has
been busy in the garden, which bloomed vastly and sumptuously this
summer---only to prompt an attack from a young female neighbor who objects
to plants that are not carefully controlled at all times. The Czar decided
to channel his disgust into this, his first column in months.
Citizens are advised to avoid the
following buzz-words, buzz-phrases, and general idiotspeak currently passing
for language in this, the tragic early years of the 21st century. They are
rated T (trite), A (asinine), P (pretentious), W (whoops), and CP
(criminally prosecutable, with a recommended sentence of one day of imposed
THE FOUR QUADRANTS---Some things are so beautiful, so
exquisite, that the senses are unable to take them in, leaving one to gawk
dumbly. Such is the case with “the four quadrants.” This term is so
perfectly infused with everything phoney, avaricious, amoral, oblivious,
stupid, and pretentious in what shall here be termed Hollybabble, that it is
just sheer art. Now, “The Four Quadrants” is originally something so arcane
and cerebral that it usurps every point of The Czar’s I.Q. to take in, yet
remains unknowable. It involves psychology, and philosophy, and a guy named
But Wilber’s quads are not the quads of this rant. This lofty term has been
shanghaied by Hollywood, hollowed out and gaudily tarted up by
agents/producers/ directors/PR people, and other oddly evolved life forms.
It is now used as patois among those who speak of “back story” and “chick
flick.” The Czar heard one such creature, a female film executive, tell
Mantle about such-and-such film being a “four quadrant picture.” Eh?
Czarmobile almost veered off the newly widened 405. What was she
talking about? Well, even Larry was a little stumped, I guess, because
Executive later explained somewhere in a light-speed torrent of Hollybabble,
that a “four-quadrant” picture is one that appeals to: young, old, male,
female. Wow! Imagine such a thing! A movie that anyone can enjoy! You
know, the way movies used to be before they were turned into movie-product
by demographic-enslaved jerks like this Executive. Anyone who now spouts the
cliché, “full circle,” will be forgiven by The Czar. A, P, CP.
RENOWN---Repeat with me, children, “renown” is a noun,
“renown” is a noun. And. . . “renowned” is an adjective, “renowned”
is an adjective. . .Very good. The renown noun error is one of
some renown. Which is to say, contemporary manglers of English are renowned
for saying “renown” when they mean “renowned.” Renown is renowned,
you might say, for not being “renowned.” In advertisements, articles,
greeting cards, corporate memos, college-eradicated people are writing such
things as “He will present his renown stories. . .Mabel will bake her renown
cookies. . .” and so on. It is renowned, folks. Renowned stories,
renowned cookies. These are things of renown (noun), you see, so they are. .
.renowned (adjective.) Here’s a little poem to help you remember:
When I say you are renown
I become a grammatical clown
But if I say you are renowned
I own the whole grammar town.
Remember, it wasn’t Les Brown and his Band of Renowned. A, W, CP.
TRICKED OUT---This is a pet descriptive device of critics, who
love to pepper arcane vocabulary with bits of perky slang; Y’know, to show
they’re just regular folk. Here is the example, from a recent restaurant
review (by a Pulitzer Prize-winner, no less): “a genuinely old dining room
tricked out to look like the old-timey backroom at Applebee’s, a place to
sluice down crab cakes and flabby shrimp cocktails. . .” (Really, have you
ever “sluiced down” food?) Everything is tricked out nowadays: cars,
concert halls, shoes, films, bicycles, symphonies, donuts, and restaurant
reviews. Tricked out was a good little trick at first, but it is out
of tricks. Sluice it down with some other flabby clichés. T, A.
OLD-TIMEY---Almost as dopey as “back in the day” (which
day---June 4, 1958?), “old-timey” was sort of okay when it was used by
musicians to generally refer to early American folk music. After all,
musicians have carte blanche to use any and all slang, given that they speak
a higher and holier sort of language. But now
old-timey has spread, as the
previously cited restaurant review demonstrates. Old-timey? Which
time? How old? One man’s old-timey is another man’s past. What's wrong with
"old time?" Old-timey
is vague, and sickeningly cutesy, you know, like
Dr. Wayne Dyer. T, A.
GIVE THE GIFT OF---This seemed an innocuous enough little
commercial slogan---something that blended into the banal billboard
background---until The Czar saw this sign in the window of a restaurant:
“Give The Gift of Beef.”
Honest! Yessir, just what I would like for my
birthday, or Christmas---a nice, beautifully wrapped package of. . .cow.
Does anything say “I love you” like a side of ribs? Give the gift of
Porterhouse! Ribeye! Brisquet! Soon it will be Give The Gift of Tuna! Give
the Gift of
Tongue! Give the Gift of Macaroni! Please give the gift of
refraining from saying give the gift of. A.
NO WORRIES---This is a true story. The Czar recently purchased
a few items from a grocery store, said “Thank you” as the eternal bag was
handed over to him, and the clerk responded, “No worries.” Really. No
worries. The Czar almost stopped to say, “I didn’t ask you if you were
worried.” Or, “Really? No more worries? How wonderful! Thank you so much! I
didn't know you were in charge!” Now,
no worries sprang from a good
enough impulse as an alternate means of saying “fine,” “don’t worry about
it,” “it’s okay,” and other such pleasing phrases. As in: you tell someone
you’re sorry you parked a little too close to their car, and they say, “No
worries.” (Fat chance!) It was an annoying little reflex, but not terribly
objectionable, as its heart was in the right place. But “no worries” is now
supplanting the woefully missing “you’re welcome” from automated courteous
ritual speech. “Thank you/ No worries” conveys that the recipient of “Thank
you” believes that you are worried---possibly about discharging your
courteous duty by communicating gratitude. He/she/it is telling you that you
needn’t worry about being grateful, which translates, really to “you needn’t
say ‘thank you.’” This is the sort of worrisome madness that goes on in the
Czar’s poor head when someone says “no worries” after he thanks them. A,
THE KNUCKLE---This is language of the hand, a gesture that has become
hackneyed in politician after politician---probably most popularized by
Knuckle” Clinton. Somewhere along the line, an image advisor counseled that
it is not polite to point. That the public does not like to see politicians
sticking their fingers in their faces as they make speeches (or at any other
time.) That it smacks
of accusation, and appears impolite, even self-righteous. As we know,
image is the sole basis on which Amerryguns make up their voting minds.
Hence. . .The Knuckle. Please report to The Czar the next time you see
Billary, or Barack, or Biden the Blowhard, or Rudy the Creep, or Mitt The
Mormon, or any of the mountebanks seeking to rule the world. . .point. They
won’t. You’ll get the curled up fingers, and The Knuckle (until they are
elected, then the index digit is
unrestrained.) The Czar just
might vote for the next candidate who points. A, P.
FOOFY---Now, this “word” might not be a word---The Czar refuses to
check---and it might not be a cliche, or even popular. But it brings up a type of
device that bears mentioning. You see, most journalists think they are great
writers, not merely reporters. They have convinced themselves of this by
using all sorts of language that Hemingway or Chandler never would have
used, but that looks mighty impressive in a newspaper or magazine---and also
by occasionally just making up their own words. This shows high style, you
see, panache, individuality. And thus did an
obit writer for
the Philadelphia Inquirer refer to the late Tom Snyder’s hair recently as “foofy.” The Czar
is not acquainted with any males who would have done such a thing, so it
will be assumed here that the reporter was female, or female-ish, or feeling
pretty (the obit bore both male and female bylines.)Message to obit writers: it’s probably a good idea to keep the tone
of your pieces somewhat dignified, seeing as the person is um, dead. But
this little obit scribe, as is the case with so many, many “journalists,” is
trying to stand out from the crowd, make a little name, etc.. While this is
something that Tom Snyder certainly would have understood, it is indecent to
verbally strut about in an obituary. It’s practically foofy. A, P, CP.
BONDED---Has even the lovely and spontaneous and suprising act of making
friends been reduced to machine-like meaninglessness by psychobabblers? Does
Karl Rove look like the Pillsbury Doughboy? Does Oprah preen? “Bonding” was
originally a clinical term, if not a psychology textbook one, and it should
have stayed that way. I recall an acquaintance describing how he led a group of
people on a tour of Japan: “After the first few days, we bonded, and. . .”
Gasp. No no no---you’d didn’t bond. You. . .found common interests. .
.enjoyed one another’s company. . .were united by being strangers in a
strange land. . .and became friends! Bonded makes it all sound like so
mechanical, artificial, expedient. . .hollow. Yet it is the norm nowadays.
We bonded is heard constantly. It so cheapens human interaction, which is
plenty cheap enough, isn’t it? We both had teency dogs, we both had
ingrate kids, we both
drove gratuitously expensive cars, we bonded. The Czar believes in
friendships developing subtly, mysteriously over time, and that they are made of a little
more than whether you both carry
Paris Hilton chihuahuas
in your purse. A, CP.
NAUSEOUS---No one in the world, in all of human history, has ever been
nauseous. They have been. . .nauseated. Nauseated. Nauseated. The ubiquitousness of
nauseous is enough to make you sick.
ADJUNCTS---Another instance of brutally forcing a noun to
mutate into a verb, which is
quite a habit in bureaucracy today, especially in
academia. This actual sentence appears in a genuine curriculum vitae:
“Currently he adjuncts at Temple University.” Currently he. . .does what? He. .
.adjuncts? What, does he stand next to one of the Temple U. buildings and
pretend to be another wing? Adjuncts adds junk. A, CP.
REHOMING---Not since “pre-owned” has The Czar found a term so amusing. As
with the Spanish, “rebozo,” which means “to become a clown again,” so
“rehome” means “to become a home again.” Well, it might as well. But this
beastly bit of verbiage is used by animal rescue folk (mostly) to refer to
placing some poor creature in a new home. Let’s rehome him. Right. And then
let’s refeed him, and rewalk him, and get him to rebark. Save us from stray
lingo creatures, wandering the streets of communication. Please do not
rehome them. A, CP.
FAN FICTION---Another spiritual cousin of “pre-owned,” this refers to writing
that cannot, has not, and probably should not be published. It is
written by fans---generally science fiction and fantasy fans. So now all the junk
and adolescent idiocy that is typed by fans deluded into thinking they are
writers has its own category! It’s a genre! Celebrate! You’re no longer just
a fan. Write a few pages, and you are a fan fiction author! The only thing
possibly more unsettling is the knowledge that, yes, there is an audience for fan
fiction. Think of it: fan fiction fans. The snake eats itself! The only
fiction here is in the heads of the fans who think they are writers. A.
vewwy cute widdle word that means, essentially,
vewwy cute. Precious. Almost sickeningly sweet. It could be in the running
for the top ten most onomatapaeic words in all of English. The problem with
twee is that it is so overused by critics who are vocabularily
outgunning one another (mine's bigger than yours) that twee has become. . .twee.
T, P, CP.
PERSONAL WORK---Michael Richards said he did some "personal
work" after going bonkers over some jackass audience members. Everyone in
rehab is doing "personal work." Half of Hollywood is doing "personal work."
The Czar does personal work every morning in the bathroom, which is where "personal work" belongs. A, P, CP.
The Czar wishes you a nauseous
and foofy lingo day.
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