Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Words Are, Like, Totally Cool, Like, You Know? Fer Sure!

Like, for real, dude. Just awesome. Literally! I'm just sayin'...

The preceeding statements were brought to you by the Department Of Lazy Thoughtless Speech (DOLTS), the same same group that brought you Ebonics such as "fo' shizzle, ma' nizzle" and Skater Lingo, as in "pumping mongo."

There are a lot of really dumb words and expressions people say that are irritating, not just to me but to the general population, but because many are so deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness they are almost impossible to remove from our daily speech. I know most people are reluctant to correct others when they are trodding on these linguistic land mines because that would be considered rude, unless it's family, in which case it's just terribly annoying.

Speaking of which, it has been brought to my attention by my wife Teresa and daughter Lissa that I use the expression "you know" all too frequently in my conversations. I recognize this as a problem but it's so dang hard to stop saying it after all these years. You know? I was thinking that maybe by writing about it, that it may help to purge those words from my conversational speech, and maybe even help rid a few others at the same time.

Do you or someone you know use words or expressions that you feel should be banished from your/their vocabulary because they are bothersome or tedious? Have you too been told that you use a term too much and need to stop it because your constant repetition of said term is irksome to those listening? Or is it just me? I'm sure there other guilty parties like myself that routinely torment their co-workers, friends and family with these verbal assaults, you know?

A fine example of just such a nuisance is my wife's boss, who has an apparent fascination with the word "So," and inserts it at the beginning of every sentence she can. My old boss used to repeat the term, "type of situation," in his speech as often as other people used the word "the." It would be fun to listen to him speak and keep a running tally of each incident in his speech. (Yes, he was that interesting!)

Another example is the phrase "hella," which means "very" like in the tune "Hella Good" by No Doubt. My daughter Shannon recently moved down to Southern California where it isn't used and someone called her out on it. They told her "you must be from Northern California. Just so you know, people here don't use "hella." And for someone who hella uses it as she does, it's going to be hella tough to change. You know? (Okay, I'll stop!)

Some of the expressions people use have gotten so stale and cliché that they have become the literary equivalent to an earworm. Isn't it time we take expressions like "think outside the box," "to be honest with you", "at the end of the day" or "between a rock and a hard place" and banish them to the same conversational exile that saw the demise of terms like "twenty-three skiddoo," "see a man about a dog" and "pantywaist"?

One of the worst offenders is the word "like," which is often paired with "you know" as in "like, you know?" Often referred to as "Valspeak" because of it's connection with the way kids in parts of the Los Angeles area spoke, it became a national fad after the release of "Valley Girl," a song by Frank Zappa (and sung by his daughter, Moon Unit) which best illustrated the unique way girls from the valley conversed at the time. An excerpt from the song goes:

So like I go into this like salon place, yknow
And I wanted like to get my toenails done
And the lady like goes, oh my god, your toenails
Are like so grody
It was like really embarrassing
Shes like oh my god, like bag those toenails
Im like sure...
She goes, uh, I dont know if I can handle this, yknow...
I was like really embarrassed...

Examine the following paragraph below and see if you are a habitual user of some of these terms. You may be surprised to see that you are one of the many to fall victim to the convenience and ease of these trite words and expressions:

So, like, the other day my boy Steve comes over to hang out. I'm not a happy camper because he was supposed to bring suds but didn't, and it just got my goat. "Dude, my bad!" he says and I'm like, "whatever." It was a simple request, not like it was rocket science, you know? I mean, at the end of the day I could care less, but it was just the idea, you know? I think it speaks volumes about how much he thinks of me. I know, right? Seriously. Irregardless, we drive out to the 7-Eleven and he hops out of the truck to get the beers. But before he goes in he turns around and asks me for a few bucks to pay for the beers because he is light. I'm like, "say what? You need money for real? Why didn't you just say you were broke on the phone?" That said, he tells me "no worries, dude. I'll pay you back next Friday." I'm stunned. I needed that money for gas and that's so not fair for me to pay when he said he would. Literally. I'm just saying, if you tell someone you are going to bring suds then do it and don't bullshit. I dunno, that's my 2 cents worth anyway. It is what it is, you see what I'm saying? Here I was thinking tonight was going to be so like, awesome and stuff, and Steve goes and ruins it. I mean, literally, it was a no brainer to just get some suds and come over. His over the top failure sent the evening in a whole nother direction entirely. Instead of drinking beer, playing pool and hanging out, I dumped his sorry butt at his home and called a different friend to come over with suds. I'm all about having a good time, but seriously, let's get our act together first. For real.

The next battle of idioms is on the horizon, dear readers. Prepare yourself for the war against textspeak! BTW, WYP? DGAM IGGP. JK, ROFL! SMEM TOM PLS! IDK. IOH. L8R! It's coming and your kids are leading the charge!

Give me literacy, or give me something else! But definitely not death.


  1. Man, you really took that paragraph "to another level"!

  2. My old restaurant trainer would say "really?" about twenty million times whenever she was upset with something.

    "Really? The coffee machine is still empty really? Really does no one sees this? C'mon guys really.

  3. LOL!
    (I still kinda like using LOL, Tom....)
    I think sometimes folks slip into the vernacular in order to fit in...especially kids...articulate youngsters are open to much scorn from ther peers....
    It's a shame that it's still considered "uncool" (a code word for lots of disparaging labels) to be "smart".

  4. Great comments all! Keep 'em coming! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this latest rant o' mine.

    @ Blasé - OMG, I completely forgot that one! Must have been a paradigm shift or something or other!

    @ Lissa - Wow, awesome comment Lissa! Great example of Words Gone Redundant. Really!

    @ Tom S - I agree that some, like LOL and OMG, are just too fun to use to ignore. Yes it's a shame that smart is uncool in school. But in the real world those dumb asses find out who's boss, huh? Gotta love karma.


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