Saturday, January 1, 2011

Words words words

What is the name of that phenomenon that occurs when we,  as a society, decide to change the language or the rules overnight -- and we all just buy into it?  Of the "Have a Nice Day" variety.

I have watched some of these happen within my own lifetime.    There's one right there:  my own lifetime, as if that clarifies any confusion about whose lifetime I mean when I refer to it as my.  We also like to use it for emphasis in phrases like, "in a pool of his own blood."  Wouldn't being in a pool of someone else's blood actually be more horrifying.  whose waste is this?

At some point, we began to refer to "the weight," as in "How did you lose the weight?"  Our weight used to be part of us -- it was a commodity of sorts.  one "lost weight."  Then someone (Oprah likey, or Richard Simmons) made it an alien parasite thing separate from ourselves, so we lost the weight and we gained the weight and we held onto the donut.

"Without all the sugar."  I watched that one happen too.  "Do you want fried chicken without all the fat?  Do you like coffee but not all that caffeine?"  This is Adman FlimFlam to make you think you read No Fat and No Caffeine.  Minus x is less than All.  Semantically, they win.  Run "without all the sugar" through your favorite search engine.  The results are ...weird. 

Lately I have noticed a sign that appears to require me to alert my server to any food allergies in my party.  What kind of Not It game is that?  Why isn't the person with the allergy (the allergy) responsible for this announcement?  It's not enough I have to learn food allergies for the people I am actually hosting, now I have to keep this in my head when we are out in the world, too?

That said.... let's talk about "that said," which I believe Our President introduced into the national dialogue.  It caught on so quickly, people are now using it in place of "Um..."  Here is what "that said" means:  Make a foundational statement about your beliefs, opinions,  rules and regulations, then concede an exception to that rule by opening with "that said, [counter indicated thought]."  Like this:  "I firmly believe that women should be admitted to the US military academies.  That said,  VMI is not one, which is why I stood by their single sex status."  And Shannon Faulkner really should have been in shape before she showed up.  But that said....

"That said" is not a synonym for "here is my next sentence."

Was it 20-25 years ago that the grocery store complex (and you know they determine these things as an industry) sold us on their plastic bags (urban tumbleweeds, an associate once called them).? They pushed them on us like Loosies, then they tried to make us feel bad about them.  "Paper?  Or Plastic?" say the baggers, in a whisper, like cancer.  Don't disdain me, Market Basket, these were your idea, handles and double bagging and all. Hell yes, I want the plastic.

Then came the "green" bag.  The shopping mavens of Chinatown have been using these forever; in Mexico, these bags are gigantic!  You could carry a kidnapped corporate executive in one.  They are handed down in families.  I'll admit I am all about the reusable bags.  Now the big sign as I enter the grocery store tells me I really should wash my bag.  Weekly.


This is what you did with the water bottles.  You scared us into drinking out of  faucets, then you wagged your societal finger at us for doing so.   Stop trying to make me fearful of what you keep shoving into my hands.
Drink bottled water!
Oh, not out of bottles...
Out of this metal thing!
Oh, but not an aluminum one...
Try this glass!
Oh, glass will stress fracture...
Try a water fountain!
But don't get meningitis....     

Are you reading that sign at right, or are you simply slapping your head?

Slang comes and goes, of course, and there is bizspeak, which is an adult form of slang that is actually more irritating because it may not disappear.  It has that way of standing in for perfectly healthy words, and overdoing the job at that.

"in the cloud"?  shut up.  This is worse than "cyberspace," which we also didn't need.

"on the ground," meaning, quite simply... "there."  Or "locally."

"out there," a general um-noise that indicates the speaker has no evidence to back up what they are saying.  As in "all the medications out there," (silently: "that I can't name, but there must be a lot" )

Happy 2011, readership.  Let's see when the zeitgeist decides we switch from saying "two thousand" to "twenty."  I think it has already happened.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you're back. Guess the mill closed down for a couple of weeks over the holidays. All the mill girls off together. Much better than giving you a vacation at some other time of year!

    I know language is supposed to grow, but too often it gets all gangly like a teenager and bumps into things instead of moving forward. I don't know that it has a name. Maybe just "sloppy thinking"?


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