When I was young I wanted a secret language; one that my sister and I, or maybe a handful of friends, could comprehend. We could talk about anything we wanted in this language: school, turtles, our hopes and dreams, and other people we liked or disliked. But mostly I wanted a secret language because it set me apart. I’d be able to speak English just fine to those outside my Secret Language circle, and they would be impressed and awed by my abilities. I’d have something they didn’t have.
Recently I had to ask a co-worker what “dank” meant, and if it’s a good thing. He had recently described something as dank. I understood from his context that he didn’t mean “cold and musty.”
He laughed, “Where’d you hear that word?”
“You just said it,” I explained. “So, is it good?”
“Yeah, it’s very good,” he told me. “It’s a stoner term you know. Stoners say that things are dank.”
Uh, remember when I just said you used the term?
Oh, yeah, bro. The dankness overwhelmeth me.
The rest of the night, I was sure to be marginally annoying by referring to things as Dank. “These new pastries are very good. In fact, I’d go so far as to describe them as dank. They are supreme in their dankness.”
Stuff being dank doesn’t work when you’re in your forties, kids.
At some point I got old. I don’t know when it happened. I remember when things were radical, awesome, bitchen, tubular, even gnarley (which was both good and bad at one point. Now I think it’s evolved to surfer talk for only bad). I survived copasetic, bodacious and cool. Fab, boss, funky, groovy, tight, The sixties had far out, and outta sight. My opinion: they were worried about not seeing stuff in the sixties, so they used lots of drugs, which led to sex, which led to radical kids (they never were all that radical), which led to to dank grandchildren. Hip (hep), neat (neat-o) and keen (keen-o) were a bit before my time but I may have used them, once in awhile. Aces? Snazzy? My Granny Spurgeon used to say snazzy. So was swell. I make sure to use them all because I don’t want anybody to know how old I am by my language.
I’ve heard killer, “the shit”, “the bomb,” “the shit bomb”. Some good things are actually bad. Michael Jackson tells us he’s “bad, I’m bad… you know it. OOO!” So how do we know anymore? I wouldn’ be surprised if some kid eventually comes up to me and says “That hat is the explosive diarrhea!” and it’s actually a good thing.
By the way–if you say you’re apt to say “killer” or “I’m the bomb,” or “I’m radical,” I’d recommend not using slang if you happen to be going through an airport security line.
How about fly, chill, crunk, sweet, insane, dope, crazy, wicked? Are these words off the hook or what? Oooh! Off the hook. Different than off the rack, which is definitely not off the hook.
I had a professer (Norman Arnesen, if anybody is wondering) use the term “the bee’s knees” in conversation with a totally straight face. Cat’s pajamas anyone? What about the cat’s meow? Killer diller?
Why does it mean one thing if you say “you’re the shit,” and another if you say “you’re shit?” And what about puncutation? If you say “your shit” you need a verb. Stinks comes to mind.
I have also noticed modifiers–all of them are variations on “very”… Hella, hecka, mega, epic, mongo, leet, über, –that’s a good one. We have a dearth of words in English with umlauts. Ever notice, by the way, that the word umlaut doesn’t have an umlaut? I think there should be an ANSI code so I can type an umlaut-N for every time I reference the movie Spinal Tap. Granted, this is the first time, ever, I’ve referenced the movie Spinal Tap.
We also have très, super, ultra, you know… comic book superhero terms. Make you own! Mix and match. Norm Arnesen should have said “That seminar was ‘hella-the bees’ knees’.” Best super hero name ever!
So, I may not be dank, but I know people who are.
Which words do you find yourself using? Are you stuck in a decade?
I just got home from work. Apparently Super Bowl Sunday isn’t the busiest time of year for us. I spent the last two hours walking around, cleaning things, then walking around only to clean them a second time.
Honorificabilitudinatatibus: that’s a nice long Shakespearean word to start your morning. Hope you’ve had your coffee!
Shakespeare used it only once in his entire body of work. To use a word only once in your entire body of work is called a Hapax Legomenon. These are remarkably important words for people (and I admit I am used to be of them) who count and rank words for a living. Continue reading Hapax Legomena
Language, it turns out, is pretty important. After all, how do you complain to tech support, or order fast food, or be sarcastic, if you don’t use language? Language can be used to persuade, inform, convey emotion, and, this is becoming more clear to me every day, hurt people. Continue reading Politically Correct? or Just Correct.
I’m sitting at the computer with a plate of salsa, cheese and Triscuits. Dinner has been served, and I was still feeling a bit snacky, so I grabbed a couple snackies. And yes, the autocorrect really wanted to make Triscuits into “tracksuits.”
It’s pretty much a non-blog day. I have little of consequence to share with you. It was a morning-to-mid afternoon workday, where I made drinks, and handed folks sandwiches, and filled the ice bin several times. Iced drinks sold like hotcakes today (it’s my blog – I can use a lousy simile whenever I want!) because it made it to 92°F (33°C) today. We never really got a springtime. It snowed a couple weeks ago, had 14 days of completely inoffensive weather, and yesterday we blasted into the era of Hot Friggin April.
I noticed somebody exaggerating today. They told someone something, and the warm weather stretched the fabric of their facts just a leeeetle bit. I didn’t say anything, just shook my head in resignation. It really annoys me. It’s a pet peeve, if you will, having somebody do that. It seems to just aggrandize their deeds just a little bit, propping up their maybe-fragile ego. Jerks.
Then, I realized, I do the same thing ALL the time. For example, I didn’t wait 2 hours for my kids. I waited 1. But I said 2, because I’m an insecure jerk with a fragile ego. My fragile jerkish ego says I only got 1/4 of the piece of chicken, when really I got a whole piece and I wasn’t really hungry in the first place. But exaggeration makes my story better, see?
I’m a pinhead. I try to avoid it. Before I know it, a lie (let’s call it what it is, folks) slips out, and I try to make myself look a teensy bit better, or more trodden upon, or harried. Maybe it’s to gain sympathy. Maybe it’s to make me seem “special,” if for just a second.
I also exaggerate when I’m joking. For example today, I told a friend that we should buy wax, and teeny combs, and join a Mustache Club together. We’d be mustache twins, I told her! She politely declined, insanity not having eaten away the better part of her judgment apparatus. A stupid joke, to say the least. But my point is, what is a joke, if not an exaggeration? Comics do this all the time. It’s a game of exaggeration, or embellishing the truth the entire time they’re on stage. But somehow it’s different.
The difference is in the verbal contract. All conversation is a “contract” between the speaker, and the recipient of that conversation. In a dialog, people take turns being the speaker, and the listener. Normal places and situations (like work, or church), we expect truth, or the contract is broken. If the child in the back seat shouts “Mommy! I really have to go potty now!” and forces mother to pull over, the child had better pee (or at least make a good effort of it), or we know what’ll happen next. Broken contract? Bad news.
In comedy, the recipient expects to be fooled. Several times, all night. The funny comes when words are twisted, stories are ludicrous, and situations are untenable. Take, for example, the words of Steve Martin: “I slit this sheet; this sheet I slit / And on this slitted sheet I sit.” Say it five times fast. If you’re not laughing (or at least horrified), then please ask yourself why not? The words are twisted. The story it presents are ludicrous. The possibilities are untenable. Comedy gold! And he didn’t even need to wear an arrow through his head.
If I’ve exaggerated to you in the past, I’ve broken contract. I want to apologize to you for it. If I’ve done it while being funny, I hope it didn’t go over like the proverbial lead balloon. If I’ve come down on you when I’ve found you exaggerating, I’m sorry for my hypocritical attitude. I’m a pig. It’s what I’m good at, so I hope you can make allowances.
Nothing too profound today. Just a few exaggerations, an explanation, and an apology. Be well, folks.
Almost exactly a year ago (350 days ago, to be exact), I wrote a post about swearing. In case you want to read the whole thing, I’ve linked it here. Regardless, I wanted to highlight a few points about good ol’ invective, and how it’s affected me. I recently felt it was time to revisit the whole thing because… well, because I wanted to.
In the thirteen months I’ve been writing this blog, I consistently harp on this point in as many ways as possible: words matter.
In July I wrote a post that elicited as much vitriol because of its subject matter (accepting LGBTs in your church) as because of the sentence where I referred to the Bible as a “musty 2,000 year old document.” I was told by one that I had “done great damage to the Kingdom [of God].” That’s debatable. Anyone who had read my statement in passing, and actually changed their mind about something… well, I’d guess their Kingdom wasn’t very stable in the first place.
I was raised in the Church, attended a Bible college, and then worked in that same academic environment for nearly 20 years of my adult life. Swearing was one of those litmus tests that, for Christians, separated the sheep from the goats. The goats were the ones who swore. I was a goat.
Recently I saw a pastor whose blog I frequent (don’t click the link if you’re even a little bit worried about having your faith challenged), who dropped the F-Bomb. An upset person droned up all the usual arguments: “We are a people set apart” and “They shall know us by our fruits” and… yeah. I don’t buy it. I think people are thin-skinned. I don’t mention this in defense of him by any means. He’s a big boy and can fend for himself; I’m just qualifying my words matter mantra with the following: when you get upset, remember what your mother taught you: “Sticks and stones may break your bones….” Really. Words matter, but words can’t ultimately hurt you. I think God has better stuff to do than to be a language cop. Why do I think this? here’s an extract from my Feb. 2011 blog on the matter:
I realized, sometime during my year [in France], that words had different levels of meaning there. For example, “shit”, in English, has a much heavier connotation than merde does in French, even thought they translate to the same idea. Similarly, putain, even though it means “whore” is roughly the equivalent of saying “fuck” in English. So, we have to ask ourselves, are we as a culture afraid of the word itself? Or does it come from the idea of that word? The French word biche. Any guesses? It means “doe” (A deer. A female deer). Tant pis means “oh well,” and has nothing to do with piss. Un bon phoque means “a good seal,” and not… well, you get the picture…
I ended the paragraph with the following: “If we shy away from a collection of morphemes grouped in a certain way, then we’ve just unknowingly condemned a lot of folks to Hell.” I stand by these words a year later, and urge everyone to look beyond the delivery of the message, to see the message itself. You might be missing out on a lot by taking offense at a random collection of fucking syllables that are only meaningful in a handful of cultures, on a globe of seven billion people.