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

I’m Offended!

These days, grievance is a growth industry.  For many people, being offended is the default setting on their lifestyle menu: they go there first and ask questions later.  This is a pain in the ass to the rest of us because the Eagerly Offended constantly demand centre stage, they won’t shut up and there’s no reasoning with those nimrods.  They want to be outraged.  So, since it’s practically impossible to beat ‘em, I’ve decided to join ‘em and be offended too – by clichés.

English is a beautiful language, and I’m shocked and appalled that people who wouldn’t recognize a simile if it bit them on the bum think it’s acceptable to toss around hackneyed phrases as if they were confetti at a gender reveal party.  There are millions of people all over the world who love and admire the English language, and the indiscriminate use of stale, worn-out and unimaginative vocabulary is very distressing and hurtful to them.  This is the 21st century — not the Age of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, for God’s sake!  We need to stand together to put an end to this linguistic appropriation and perhaps, moving forward, we can create a world free of lackluster analogies for our children to enjoy.  Here are just a few egregious examples to get the ball rolling.

I slept like a baby.

Talk to any sleep-deprived new parent and they will tell you that babies do not sleep well, at all.  They’re constantly waking up at all hours to either demand food or let you know, in no uncertain terms, they’ve turned it into something icky.

The expression should be – I slept like a single person who learned about birth control in middle school and, over the years, has become really, really good at it.

It was funny as Hell.

By definition, Hell is not the least bit humourous. 

The expression should be – It was as funny as the look on the loud-mouthed atheist’s face when Satan explained the Rules of Eternal Damnation.

Happy as a clam.

I have a strange feeling that happiness is not derived from getting dumped into a pot of boiling water and literally being cooked alive.

The expression should be – Happy as a fat person with a bowl full of empty clam shells.

They treated him like a dog.

Oh — they gave him free food, provided shelter, made sure he had clean water and exercise, paid for his schooling, personal grooming and health care?

The expression should be – They treated him like a human.

You’re only as old as you feel.

This only works on those particular days when you feel younger than you really are.  On all the other days, you’re pretty much screwed.

The expression should be – Everybody knows we’re all getting older; quit trying to do a chronological comb-over.

And finally:

Money isn’t everything.

Of course not.  There are all kinds of other things — like poverty, hunger, homelessness and deprivation.

The expression should be – Money isn’t everything, but it certainly is ahead of whatever’s in second place.

Definitions For Our Time!

Aside from fire and Velcro, language is the most useful tool humans have ever produced.  Once we went beyond grunting and growling, we were able to communicate complex ideas with a precision that made us the dominant species on this planet.  Unfortunately, these days we’re not playing nice with our words, and they’re losing their effectiveness.  We’ve taken to manipulating the language to try and give words extra meaning that they don’t deserve – and it’s failing miserably.  Here are a few contemporary words (we’ve all heard thousands of times – a day) that are supposed to carry a connotative punch – but they don’t – because we all know what they really mean.

1 — White Privilege – A bunch of privileged white people calling other white people “privileged” as if they did it on purpose just to be assholes.

2 — Twitter – A virtual stick that we beat people with until they agree not to disagree.

3 — Instagram – An historical record of just how culturally shallow we are in the 21st century.

4 – Facebook – Instagram for old people.

5 — Woke – “I live on a higher plane of consciousness than you do.”

6 — Virtue Signaling – This is how you know I live on a higher plane of consciousness than you do.

7 — Hate – Criticism you don’t like. “She said these jeans make me look fat.  She’s always been a hater!”

8 — Support – Criticism you do like.  “She said these jeans made me look curvy.  She’s always been supportive!”

9 — Brave – We’ve been using this word for everything from telling our daughters we’re gay to wearing pink chiffon, yoga pants and a hoodie.  Essentially, we’ve devalued the currency of this term so completely nobody even hears it anymore. (Remember what happened to “hero”?)

10 — Clicktivist – There is no IRL equivalent to this made-up cyberword.  The closest I can find is smug.

11 — Gluten Free – What we’ve been doing to safeguard our health — instead of finding a cure for cancer.

12 — Content Warning – The latest lame-ass attempt to keep the cybermob quiet.  We use it because — in the great tennis match between the eagerly offended and the immediately placated — the offended crowd upped the ante and declared that “trigger warning” itself was actually a trigger.  Go figure!

13 — Conversation – As in “We need to have a conversation about that.”  And it means: I’ll do the talking, and if you don’t shut up and agree, I’ll go Twitter (see Item #2) on your ass.  Not to be confused with “dialogue” which is too yesterday to be taken seriously.

14 — Issues – Problems that can’t possibly be solved.  A handy way to maintain perpetual victim status.

15 – Giving Back – The stuff rich people do when they are a) “woke” (see item #5) b) “virtue signaling (see item #6) and c) have some time on their hands.

16 – Awareness – Wasting time stating the obvious.  Does anybody know anybody who isn’t aware of inequality?

17 — Authentic – Social media sincerity that takes a ton of careful planning.

18 — Shaming – No, I’m not going to go there.

19 – Toxic – I don’t like this, and I’ve decided that nobody else should like it either.

And finally the one that demonstrates just exactly how easily the language can be manipulated:

20 – ‘Splaining – Add any prefix you want (man, age, size, eco, etc.) and you can get pissed off about it.