Monday, December 31, 2012

Push that envelope right out of the box

And think outside the bucket.

By Capt. Fogg

I would never have heard of Lake Superior State University were it not for their annual list of objectionably worn out words or cliché tropes that need to die -- right now. I have to admit that their track record of publishing this somewhat facetious list has impactified their reputation in an awesome  way, enough so that I go looking for it every year.

Of course, my lifelong effort to avoid pop culture makes some of these things new to me although they may be sufficiently old to you and malodorous enough to the list makers at LSSU to warrant the Big Ban. I do agree with most of their choices of course. Guru for instance has not only gone  gangrenous and flyblown and worse, it's also a bit insulting to actual gurus, but YOLO, you only live once, was a total surprise to me, and hearing it once was more than enough. YODO, to you dude -- You Only Die Once -- and if I had my way it would be slow and painful.

Trending was a bit of a surprise until I read that it's being used in a novel way by journalists: those irrepressible word creators -- used not in the sense that a trend line in a graph of literacy rates, for example, is trending downward, (and I think it is) but in the odd sense that something trending is being more frequently noticed and talked about by those same journo-babblers. Becoming trendy, as it were.

Trend that one right into the trash, please. The same dank dumpster that efforting as a pretentious journo-twit replacement for "trying" was tossed into a few years back. Yes, I agree with the UP gurus (damn) that bucket list should kick its own bucket and those Randites using job creators to describe wealthy people should be stuffed into that bucket before kicking it under the bus. I also agree that it's time to push fiscal cliff over the fecal cliff (along with the hack it rode in on), but, all in all, the annual list includes only 12 entries and is really meant to amuse. 

There's a slightly serious side to this, but mostly we're trying to have fun with it,

said university PR director Tom Pink, but I'm a bit more serious than that. I mean I'd like to carry a cricket bat with IMPACT written on it so as to create a serious impact with people who can't get through 12 words without uttering some maggoty metaphorical use of that word. No, I don't want to  kick ass  because that's another item on my own personal enemies list. It's a long list too, including anything one is likely to say in a Starbucks to persuade them to condescend to charge you eight bucks for a cup of coffee. 

Venti  you see, isn't going to die of its own accord, nor even barista. Certain words need to be whacked, a still viable term, and anyone venturing to order an Americano from Flo at a Georgia Waffle House or any Dunkin' Donuts in America runs the risk of blunt instrument impact trauma if not an occasion to sleep with the fishes (oops, that's on the list too). Somebody has to enforce these things and if you don't watch yourself, if you jump the shark, drink the kool-aid, then welcome to the Cliché Cafe, where the obnoxious neologisms check in but they don't check out (dammit! that's also on the list). But you know what I mean. Some things are just too important to leave to nature and entropy. When some comet wipes us out 100,000 years from now, some idiot is going to say AWESOME! if we don't stop Cliché Cancer in its tracks, nip it in the bud (oh hell...).

So it may feel all trendy to talk about alternative medicine and natural medicine, but it doesn't dignify superstition and irresponsible marketing thereof. Words like that, words like pre-owned and mobile estates are used as industrial lubricants, coined to avoid having to call things snake oil or used car lots or trailer parks -- to charge more for a damned coffee, for instance. That's what I'm talkin' about (ouch). Don't go there, don't buy that, and for Pete's sake if you do haff to go there, don't tell us you bought the T-shirt. Keep your dignity in-tact.

What? OK, ok, it's hard to avoid all these solecisms. True, if you use death nail for death knell, mute point for moot point; if you haff to do something irregardless of the consequences, you're beyond help -- and you're in danger. Either shut up or look carefully for that man with the bat. He's looking for you. If you hear or read something that's just so cute you haff to work it into the very next thing you say, it's time to be mute even if your points aren't. Somebody else has long since worn it out. Git 'er done and not so much aren't funny any more and portmanteau balbations like ginormous are a bit like fish and visiting relatives. Three days and they begin to smell bad. Be advised.

And that's my real point. Maybe a sense of smell has more to do with good English than a bunch of rules and lists. Maybe we need to develop a track record of waking up and smelling the coffee. Maybe striving to be hip is self-defeating. Maybe. Maybe it's better to say it hurts than negatively impacts on.  A big wooden bat upside your head hurts too. Make your choice. Avoid clichés like the plague.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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