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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Entry 24: Banned from the Lexicon

September 16, 2014

Dear Friends

RE: Entry 24

There are certain words, phrases better said, that should no longer have a place in public discourse.  For those of you who may continue to flail away your fleeting hours watching the news of any stripe, you poor wicked demented children of the cord, you are often exposed to many of these phrases; and so much so that they pass through you as ghosts, unseen, leaving their haunting residue on your very souls.

All of us have heard them, the 20-something idiot-laced punditry that has come to dominate every news network (yes, gasp, Fox too I daringly proclaim in hushed tones).  The words and phrases, so overused, are often poetic-sounding, laced with imagery, but now so much said they become stripped of color and meaning.  Sort of like “It’s a Wonderful Life”, they’ve played it so much at Christmas, I keep wanting George to drown, for Potter to take over the town, for Uncle Billy to get the chair.  Yes, it has come to that.
So here is the start of my list.  With luck, longevity and nothing better to do in the future I will supplement it:

In harm’s way.  I once looked this up to see where it originated.  I don’t recall finding it out, but I probably have confused clicking on a Google ad for loss of interest.   It is poetic, and projects a vision of strength, daring and courage.  I have this picture in my head of Nelson, standing on the bridge of a storm-tossed brigand, one arm sleeve dangling, then flapping in the wind, driving the ship headlong into the teeth of the fire of the French.  But it is no longer so.  Everyone uses it, in every context.  I once heard it at church (so many of these banned phrases end up in the offices of America, like gum on the floor of a theater, still pathetically on display but lacking utility and flavor).  “In harm’s way” has come to be used in lieu of “danger” by every clueless commentator on every talk show.   Worse, it is passive voice.  Yipe.
It is what it is.  What does this even mean?  I have actually heard this used by professionals—and I have taken to asking for an explanation every time.  Getting one is really enjoying, because the doper logic that coined that phrase falls apart when scrutinized or forced into clarity.  Once my high school gym teacher (and football coach) a great man, told me “don’t define a word using the same word”.  Pretty simple.  But time and again some clown will use this phrase and when challenged will say something such as “like, man, it means that it is all that it is and all that it can be”.  Somehow, those five words got transmogrified from the book of Exodus.  Ban, please.

The optics of the situation.  This is a relatively new one, maybe in the last year or so it has taken on a life of its own.  For the non-Fox News groupie, it means “it looks bad”.  But instead of saying that, someone got Roget in a headlock and he burped up that sentence.  My grandfather, from Italy, once sold a horse.  When someone came to buy it, he asked about the animal's health.  “She no looka too good” was the response.  About a week later the man came back asking for his money, claiming that my grandfather never told him the horse was blind.  “I tell you, she no looka too good”.   Clarity should be a goal.
A Conversation (as in “we need to have a national conversation about…”).   Blabbita blabbita blabbita.  Whatever happened to the days when someone attacked us, we did not get in touch with our inner self, try to understand the enemy’s desire to harm us, wonder how we could all get along, looked inwardly, morbidly so, at how we could have people hate us?  We signed up, went away, finished the job, came home and drove Chevys.  I say “we” in a broad sense.  More like our fathers and grandfathers.  They had no need for a “conversation” about anything.  The clueless classes that call for the rebuilding of America would have the need to have a conversation with a snail darter.   When America needed ditch diggers, our forefathers would shut up and dig.  They didn’t have some kind of existential angst over the philosophy of ditch digging. Only the well fed and over indulged can afford to be philosophical when there is work to be done.

God save us from ourselves.
I remain,


Fessler

PS—my grandfather never owned a horse, at least not in my memory.  But he did sound like that.