Friday, March 9, 2012

Wordsuck


My preacher friend Torosian was discussing the spirituality of superband U2 and the thousands of souls at the outdoor concert arena standing in one accord to Where the Streets Have No Name. Torosian acknowledged, however, that Bono, the Edge and company aren’t perfect people.

“I’ve heard them on TV releasing some bombs,” he said.

Dropping explosives from a Cold-War era bomber? No, it’s some lame abbreviated slang for dropping expletives into language. You knew that, totally up with that shit. I’ve heard my 21-year-old brother-in-law, Matt, drop that buzzword in conversation. “…and then Dad said the f-bomb.”

You will never catch me copping to that term, “the f-bomb.” It’s nothing but a wrung-out, pussified euphemism signifying nothing but social-media plasticity and trendiness. Just an emasculated, punk-ass word.

Back in the early ‘90s, in my Media Writing 301, our instructor Les Anderson told the class of a group of Vietnam War protestors from when he in college. They marched around campus, carrying a banner that read, “Fuck Lyndon Johnson.” Actually the word signifying coitus and various nouns, verbs and adjectives was not used. It was just inferred by the three dash marks trailing behind the F.

I’m not advocating for profanity, but it’s like Les said: “If you’re going to use a word, use it.”

Dammit.

Back in the mid-90s, my Pabst Blue Ribbon loving city editor, Jackson, banned the word, “teetotaler” from ever appearing again in the pages of our precious newspaper – our good little product. (I had used the word in a quote from a local public official bent on keeping the county dry.)

“I’m a beertotaler,” the man said, using a hybrid term with true coined-word potential.

Now, I’m enforcing a prohibition over the “f-word” or the “f-bomb” in my columns. I hate the terms even more than I hate the N-word. Not talking about the racist epithet, which I also disdain. I’m speaking of that phrase, “the N-word.” It’s a polite way of referring to an ugly word. Bowdlerizing, or raping, the works of Mark Twain and Harper Lee to save readers from discomfort only insults their intelligence.

A word or phrase doesn’t have to be controversial to deserve annihilation from the language, just stupid and weak-sounding. For me, the most offensive thing about Superbowl XXXVIII wasn’t Janet Jackson’s controversial nipple exposure. The sad legacy of that event is that now every time a woman’s tits fall out of her dress, we have to hear about a stupid “wardrobe malfunction.”

After 9-11, broadcast journalists and the subjects they interviewed kept talking about “the culture of the FBI” and “the culture of the CIA.” Culture? Okay, so you have Renaissance paintings, ballet, regional folk art…you know, culture, and the FBI and CIA. What the hell were you thinking? Maybe they didn’t“connect the dots.”

I got tired of hearing the word, “gravitas” used during the 2008 election year. It was a good word the first time I heard it used – by Katie Couric, but when pundits went on the bandwagon, that word got old quicker than a Celine Dion song from Titanic.

Gravitas is dead in the water now. This election year, the Republicans are too busy spewing hatred to overuse a smart person’s word – I’m just sayin’. Hate that one. It’s the Seinfeldian “I don’t think so” of the 2010s.

“That’s tight.” I’ve actually used that one, but last week after hearing my 16-year-old nephew use that expression 20 times in about five minutes, I completely lost my taste for the term. Totally.

“How’s Jeff?” Okay, I’m right here and you’re referring to me in the third person because you think it sounds sweet and cute. Not a fan of sweet and cute, but it’s all good. No, it isn’t.

How’s it hangin? Life is good.

So glad my wife, Maria, doesn’t make me sit through that dreadful American Idol anymore. Wassup dawg? You made it your own.

I was writing an article and had to call a source at home. I got her husband -- a Wichita media personality -- on the answering machine and he ended the recording with “toodles.” I could never again watch that man do the weather without getting a sick feeling, but whatever.

Anyhoo. Some words jump the shark through over-usage, but this one, like the despiciable “toodles” and “man boobs” was dead on arrival. Anyone who says anyhoo should have his --or her -- head shoved down a toilet to be flushed down like a turd.

Maria and I were watching a stupid “reality” show in which some classy guy had a photograph taken of himself naked and surrounded by fruit. He cleverly placed a banana over a part of his anatomy, which he identified by a refuse-like term. Don’t understand it. I would never refer to my package as “my junk.” That’s way worse than even “the c-word.” What’s up with that?

Oooo-kay, let’s go there. Some slang terms for sex just aren’t beautiful things: “knockin’ boots,” “horizontal push-ups,” “bumpin’ uglies.” That’s a vile, ugly expression. I prefer an expression more palatable to my ears like “gettin’ a freak on.”

In the ‘70s “what’s your sign era,” great sex and anything else of above average quality was “far out.” Didn’t John Denver – whom I can’t stand – use that phrase on the Carson show, like, 20 times one night? That phrase deserves to be obsolete.

Maybe, “awesome” should go down with it. I heard a 70-year-old woman use that term three times in conversation recently. From Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times At Ridgemont High (one of Sean Penn’s most brilliant roles) to Grandma. How cool is that?

You didn’t hear “awesome” much in the 1970s – at which time I was a kid and in Sunday School, (yes, I’ve gone from sex to church in two paragraphs – omg.) We sometimes sang this hymn: “Oh my Lord! When I in awesome wonder…” Thunder. Lightning. Sunrise and sunset. The Big Man in the sky and phenomenons of nature. Inspires awe, doesn’t it?

Last night, my wife called me by cell phone. We’re both about to get into our cars, but we should arrive home at the same time. “Awesome,” she said. Yes, we’ll both arrive home at around 6 p.m., that’s pretty awesome.

Sometimes I’d like to get away – to an honest place, free of social media and celebrity-like pretenses, a watering hole where the language is real and unvarnished. So I went to the Backwater Bar & Grill and enjoyed a few refreshments alongside my vociferous and portly friend, Mr. Grissmachy. When Mr. Grissmachy isn’t on a right-wing anti-Obama rant, he loves to wax nostalgically about his younger days as a street brawler.

“I literally kicked kicked that guy’s ass,” he bragged.

Mr. Grissmachy, unless your foot actually made forceful contact with the man’s buttocks, I don’t think so. I don’t call a house fire an inferno unless the whole dang thing is engulfed in angry circle of hell flames and I don’t say literally unless it actually happened that way.

We’re cool, I guess. I would take the old man’s misuse of syntax over a wuss phrase any day. Mr. Grissmachy’s word choices – like referring to a remote control as “ta ta” aren’t weak; they’re just annoying. Okay, “tata” does sound a little pussified.

S’all right though. Too old and fat to physically fight, there’s nothing the old man likes better than bashing liberals, shooting pool and some good old fashioned raillery just for – what’s that he calls it? – “shits and giggles.”

Overall, I’m steadfast in my standards. Most of the aforementioned words and phrases have no place in the J. Guy dictionary, but I admit I’ve occasionally said “awesome” when it wasn’t warranted, when something wasn’t awe-inspiring.

I’m not proud of that, but, it’s like, you know, it’s cool. I’m not a perfect person.