Killing English

We are killing the English language.  I’m not talking about government euphemisms or corporation obfuscation.  No, this is ordinary people taking ordinary words and choking the life out of them.  Let me demonstrate.

Old — Where did all the old people go?  Apparently, they’ve all been rounded up and taken to an over-the-horizon retirement community where they’re enjoying senior living.  (I have no idea what this is BTW, but it seems to involve a lot of manicured lawns, plastic patio furniture and drugs.)  Then, one day, magically, they all become elderly and get carted off to an Elder Care Facility where … uh … I don’t know … we never hear from them again.  But old people?  No, our world doesn’t have any old people. 

Fat — Nobody’s fat these days, so unless you’re a supermodel, you have three choices — plus size, curvy and we’re not going to talk about it.  Apparently, the world believes that if we don’t actually say the word, people won’t know when their pants don’t fit anymore.

Brat — Let’s get real!  Not every obnoxious kid on this planet has a diagnosed illness.  Sometimes, they’re just brats, but if you want to get into a fistfight, mention the word.  It is amazing to me what lengths bad parents will go to, to avoid being called “bad parents” — including saddling their child with an incurable psychological disorder.

Stupid — “There’s no such thing as a stupid question.”  Think about this!  Of course there is, and they’re normally asked by stupid people.  The Law of Probability alone says half the population of this planet is stupider than the other half.  However, use the word to describe someone who is obviously in Group A and you’re liable to get lynched by a Twitter mob.

Ugly — I’m not even going to go there.

Died — When I was a kid, people died.  It was a harsh reality of life.  Then, suddenly, people quit dying and began passing away (like sugar dissolving in the rain.)  It’s a cute idea, but honestly, when someone goes headfirst through the windshield, “he passed away” doesn’t really describe it.  And, of course, these days, folks don’t even pass away anymore; they merely pass (as if it were a spelling test.)  The #1 preoccupation of literature, religion, philosophy and life itself, and we’ve reduced it to this bullshit?  How bland has our existence become?

This is the language of Shakespeare, Blake and Yeats — have some respect.  But the real problem is, as we continue to drown our language in mild, we’re starting to think that way and that scares the hell out of me.

Originally written January, 2016 and gently edited

OBIT: Common Sense

It is with great sadness that I must announce the death of Common Sense.  Even though Common Sense had suffered from a debilitating illness for many years, few, if any of us, realized it was terminal — until it was too late.  Early reports say that it was not one massive act of utter Stupidity that killed Common Sense but years of petty Ignorance that simply destroyed Common Sense’s will to live.  Common Sense was predeceased by its lifelong partner, Pragmatism, and is survived by its children, Reason and Logic, who have vowed to continue their parents’ work.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time.

There is no clear record of the birth of Common Sense, but there are numerous documented examples of its accomplishments throughout human history.  Unfortunately, despite these many accolades, these days, Common Sense’s abilities and achievements are largely ignored.  And while it’s true some older people still remember Common Sense, it’s difficult for most people to imagine that Common Sense once practically ruled the world and had many devoted followers.  Sadly, those days are gone — perhaps forever.

Clearly, however, not everyone is saddened by this tragedy.  Politically Correct immediately took to Social Media to celebrate the demise of their greatest foe.

“Fry in Hell, Common Sense!”

“We totally reject the so-called ‘Common Sense Approach’ to problem solving.  Solutions do nothing to promote awareness of the issues.”

“Ding Dong! Descartes is Dead.
Ideology cut off his head.
Ding Dong! Rene Descartes is dead.”

Very uncool to use the ‘D’ word — and completely insensitive to people who have experienced (or will eventually experience) loss when friends or family pass.”

“Common Sense was an antiquated relic of the Eurocentric Enlightenment that has no place in our contemporary, ideologically diverse world.”

“Although we do not support Stupidity and Ignorance, we do recognize their legitimate struggle to reshape the narrative away from Common Sense’s solution-based agenda.”

“Aristotle was a misogynist, a xenophobic racist and probably a slave owner, and we call on all educators and pedagogues to stand together and erase his name from the curriculum.  We also call on all institutions of higher learning to remove his likeness or graven image from their physical environment.

“Reason & Logic — u r next!”

As yet, no funeral arrangements have been made, but it was Common Sense’s dying wish to be buried alongside Humour, Satire and Irony, childhood friends who were brutally murdered during the Culture Wars of the 1990s.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that mourners turn off Twitter and Facebook for A Moment of Cyber-Silence in memory of Common Sense’s ability to elevate the conversation beyond Internet trolling.

Rest In Peace, Common Sense.  You will be missed.

BUT . . .

The most powerful word in the English language is “but.”  It’s a grammatical Liam Neeson with a very particular set of skills that kicks ass.  It’s way better than that greedy little “and” who’s always looking for something extra the minute he shows up.  And, don’t get me started on “or:” grammar’s Hamlet, who couldn’t make a decision if his life depended on it.  No, for sheer conjunctional word power, go with “but” every time.  Here’s why:

1 – “but” sugarcoats the punch in the face — When you want to rip somebody a new one but you don’t want them to get so angry they go home and get a shotgun, throw in a “but.”  For example: “Jennifer, you are one of our most valued employees, conscientious and hard-working, BUT you have the math skills of a goat, and if you don’t get with it, I’m going to fire you so hard your grandchildren will be unemployed.”

2 – “but” pleads your case — When you know you screwed up and you’re looking around for something else to blame, use “but.”  Once again: “I know I drove your car into the side of that guy’s house, BUT you didn’t tell me it had sticky brakes when I borrowed it.”

And if you play #2 correctly…

3 – “but” can even get you off the hook — “Normally, I’d pay for the repairs to your car, BUT if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t have ever known about those bad brakes.  Actually, I did you a big favour.”

Also

4 – “but” lets us look on the bright side — When your situation seems about as bleak as the slums of Mordor, try “but” to turn the lemon into lemonade.  “Hey, bro!  Sorry I had sex with your wife and your little sister last month after your birthday party, BUT they both phoned today, and guess what?  They’re not pregnant.  Cool, huh?”

And finally the most badass tool of all:

5 – nothing important ever gets said until someone says “but.” — In any conversation, discussion or argument, you can discount everything that’s said before “but.”  In fact, you don’t even have to listen.  Check it out:

“I understand your point of view, but only the part that happened before you opened your mouth.”
“Of course I agree, but not enough to quit arguing with you.”
“That’s an interesting opinion, but I’m not all that familiar with LooneyTunes cartoons.”
“Certainly, this current refugee problem is a crisis of biblical proportion and Western governments have a moral obligation to offer as much assistance as possible but what are all these gypsies, tramps and thieves doing in my country?”
“I like pasta, too, but there’s no way I’m eating that Italian glue tonight.”
“I’m not a racist but, man, those people are weird.”
“I love you dearly, but if you leave the toilet seat up one more time, I’m going to shoot you in the head.”
Etc. etc. etc.

So here’s to you, “but,” you sassy little conjunction!  Thanks for always being there for us.

Originally written November, 2015