Sunday, March 25, 2007

Aunty Christ and the moratorium on lame

Being a person of leisure leaves one with many, many hours each week to spend in thought and reflection. Why only a few weeks ago I came up with a plan to stop violence in Somalia. Last month, I proved the Reimann hypothesis and built a better mousetrap. And lately? I’ve begun campaigning for a moratorium on the following absurd, dead, meaningless, or otherwise offensive phrases.

1. It is what it is

For some time now, I’ve been contemplating an entire blog posting about why this phrase needs to be abandoned. But really. Do you need me to tell you that this is the last refuge of the lazy-minded and those who are trying to sound deeper or more carefree than they are? Sure this phrase is, at its essence—if nothing else—true for everything it can be applied to. What is anything but what it is? For that matter, I am who I am, and saying so is either a statement so boring and self-evident as to be not worth expending the jaw-energy required for the saying of it, or one that willfully ignores certain other truths which someone in the room is apparently trying to discuss: I am not someone who spends a lot of time being nice to people, and I would rather not discuss why. Or, I am someone who must refer to her glass-unicorn collection in every conversation, no matter how annoying other people find it. Oh sure, it probably stems from a lack of conversation topics with which I am familiar, or a need to remain in my comfort zone at all times, or a reversion to childhood, but I really don’t wish to comment on any of that, thanks.

So, yeah, it is what it is, and what it is in this case is a distraction, a diversion, and most importantly a conversation stopper and an urge to just drop it already, will ya? In some cases, this is maybe a good thing; is there any need for further discussion about, oh I don’t know … Small Wonder? It was what it was (which is to say, an unfunny early-1980s sitcom about a girl-robot), and now we can all move on with our lives. But, if anything, Americans are likely be a little too used to not thinking through a point of view, not discussing their opinions, and relying on quick, smug talking points to convey their message. It is what it is is a good example of this. Please, please, let it end.

2. I just threw up in my mouth

Oh please. You did not. Here’s an example of a somewhat-amusing statement from a less-than-amusing movie finding its way to the lips of millions of unoriginal, lazy jerks who think (and correctly, initially) that saying this is funnier than saying what they really mean, which is, “That’s disgusting.” Now that it’s nearly three years since said movie was released, can we all just move on?

Oh, we can? That was easy. Thanks.

3. So bad it’s come all the way around the other side to awesome

This is really more of a ban on an idea than an actual phrase, I realize, and I myself have been guilty of using this one in the past, mostly when trying to quote one of my favorite movies, Ghost World. But the truth of the matter is, this idea, this phrase, in its manifold permutations, is not applicable as often as we all think it should be.

Case in point: Sanjaya Malakar’s performance of “You Really Got Me” on last week’s American Idol. On Television Without Pity’s forums, anyway (I’m too lazy to find the exact link for you), it was suggested that, unlike his earlier performances, which were said to be just plain-old bad, this performance was so bad that it was awesome. Now, I realize that this conversation is entering the realm of the subjective—some people are fans of Sanjaya, some hate his voice—so perhaps saying that something is so bad it’s good is subjective too, right? I disagree. Something very bad may yet be good in some aspect. It may be cheesy, corny, over the top, or unintentionally funny. It may be (as Sanjaya’s performance was, I would argue) not your cup of tea and yet there is something to it that can be said to be fascinating—the bravery, the energy, the lack of artifice, an element of surprise. Any of these things can render a bad performance watchable, entertaining, and awesome, in a way; but it’s ridiculous to think that there is a circular qualitative scale in all of us upon which, at a certain point, things go from very, very bad to wonderful.

Now perhaps that is not what anyone’s saying. I’m being too literal, I know. But really, my complaint with this idea is not so much that it doesn’t make sense. It does make a sort of sense, in that everyone who hears it knows exactly what the speaker means. The main problem I have with it is that it’s so overused. It’s a cliché, a dead metaphor. Oh, did I say “dead”? What I really mean, I think, is “skanky.” It’s the Britney Spears of metaphors—overexposed, unamusing—and I for one am sick of it. And her, but that’s another story.

4. Douchebag

Don’t get me wrong. This is a wonderful insult: Concise, accurate, rolling off the tongue so beautifully in nearly every situation in which people other than Aunty Christ are involved. But maybe it’s overstayed its welcome, is what I’m saying. Rich Bachelor has come up with a good substitute, and I want to help spread it around, seeing as how it doesn’t even have an entry in the Urban Dictionary: diaper bag.

At first, I wasn’t really feeling it. It’s three syllables, one more than the epithet it replaces, and it lacks the subtly condescending sibilant fricative in “douche,” replacing it with the jarring plosive in “diaper.” And as long as we’re going longer, wouldn’t four syllables work better? More symmetry, more finality, ultimately giving the insult a sense of gravitas that “diaper bag” simply cannot equal? Compare: diaper biscuit. See? The iambic pentameter is particularly nice, I think.

That said, I’ve now come around to toot the old Diaper Bag horn. The three syllables, the plosive, the truncation of the final iamb all marry to form a general fuck you to the intended insultee, I think. Plus the implication of either ladyness or babyness, and the use of the oft-overlooked word “diaper,” which, now that I think of it, is a pretty funny word in and of itself. Diaper. Haw! I chuckle just looking at it.

This brings us to the end of this latest installment of What Phrases Aren’t We Using Anymore. Sorry for the long gaps between posts, guys … guy … whoever’s still looking at this. I’ve been really busy, um, doing stuff. I’ll have to, at some point, detail what it is that I’ve been up to, since I’m pretty sure none of you have met a lady of leisure before, and that is indeed what I have happily become. But still, my bad. It is what it is, my friends, and that’s all I have to say.


disco boy said...

to begin, "it is what it is" is a brilliant techno song from the late 80's by a guy named derrick may under the non de plume of (spelling intentional) rhythim is rhythim. light, soulful, percussive... detroit techno at it's finest. however, as an element to conversation, yeah, it sucks. it does lead me to a great backhanded insult: "it's good for what it is", which so often leaves the recipient of said pseudocompliment pleased, then confused. i found myself using that one frequently when reviewing records.

the one i dee-spized for many a year (and still do) is the casual "it's all good". it isn't. it never was. never will be. norman vincent peale didn't even think so. gladly, you don't hear it as much as you used to, but every once in a while, some fool will drop that gem, and i get to shoot my patented stinkeye.

both of these, as you mentioned, are frequently used just to fill up that little moment of time that most folks feel awkward with, the response to an insincere and obligatory section of conversation, a chance to be the last person talking, a nervous, whitey version of the urban "you know what i mean?" (or it's southern contraction "naw mean?"). yeah, i hate 'em too.

many years ago, in a stoned haze, a pal and i laughed at how a conversation will hit a lull in a crowded environment just at the precise moment when you are saying something unexplainable and potentially revealing... the moment will show up, and you're the poor fool saying "pubic lice shampoo" when everyone else is taking the converso-break at the same time. i think it was me who said these words so eloquent: "i hate it when it gets all quiet and you're still sayin' stuff." and with that, the moment happened again, and my friend just stondedly says... "stuff". yeah, it was funnier at the time. and with that, it became that word that you say when the recess allows it.


and then you try and go about your way. i still find myself doing that, it's so much better than saying what i usually say, like "anyhoo" or "mmm". i should learn how to talk less.

Aunty Christ said...

Ohhhhhhhhh, I feel another moratorium coming on. I cannot--CAN NOT--stand to see the egregious phrase "1 comments" on my blog page. I'm sorry, Blogger. It just does not work for me.

I think Rich has mentioned an '80s metal anthem called "We Are What We Are," but you'll have to ask him about that yourself. I know nothing of this '80s metal of which he speaks.

And "It's all good"--yeah, your hatred is well-placed on that one. I can think of 10 un-good things just about the Democratic party right now--and that's just off the top of my head. And I'm drunk! So, yeah, anyone who thinks that everything's all good clearly needs a reality check. Or a flogging. Yeah, let's go with flogging.

rich bachelor said...

"We Are What We Are" was by a horrid synth-pop band called The Other Ones. Yet further points lost for unoriginal band name.

The best response, by the by, to "It's All Good" is: "What about the Holocaust?" I have yet to hear any lint-headed retorts about Jews, Gypsies and Queers having Bad Karma or something.

My own fave spin on this one, for a time, was: "It's all under control", since that too is a meaningless statement.

disco boy said...

ooh, ooh! the other one's, i remember them! "we are what we are, oh-oh-oh-oh, we only want to be ourselves... (repeat) we're just like anybody else"! right? right??? KING ME!!! (sorry...) can we forgive them if they are swedish?

some weirdly unattractive overdeveloped high-school freshman made me a mixtape that contained that song when i was a junior and dating kristin... hm. again, awk-ward...

why couldn't it have been "god is a beast that eats man" by the oily bloodmen? (sorry enjoying a ol' school punk moment here...) would have actually looked beyond physical beauty on that one...

BTW, the new whitey hippy spin on "it's all good" seems to be "understood...", which carries the same number of syllables, and yet implies no understanding at all of what you are talking about if said repeatedly... no one could possibly understand that much without at least a clarification.

and you couldn't possibly expect anyone who uses the phrase "it's all good" to have any reasonable response to something as real and massive as "the holocaust" could you? you might as well be asking them about sartre's "l'être et le néant"... expect the same response. to wit: mc hammer wrote a song called "it's all good". de la soul wrote a song (that featured mah girl chaka khan) named "it ain't all good". goes to show. wait, what?

flogging. has anyone heard flogging molly? they are the heir apparent to the pogues, and they contain skateboarding-hero matt hensley on accordian.

it's too bad that musical jeopardy isn't a money-making endeavor, or folks like us would be... well, rich.

rich bachelor said...

Amen to that, brother.

Casual Observer said...

Here’s something "to file under who gives a crap".

‘Diaper bag’ is also the name of a special pouch that can be attached to a horse carriage. Commonly used on carriages that operate in urban areas, it is suspended between the horse’s hind legs and the dash board, and does an effective job of catching the horse droppings for later disposal.

In terms of using diaper bag as an insult, it has the added effect of implying that the subject of the insult is 'full of shit' and quite literally 'lower than a horses ass' in the hierarchy of life.

I could "talk for days" on the topic of overused phrases, but then "I digress" so I’ll get back to "working hard, or hardly working" as the case may be, "lol : )".

Mr. Middlebrow said...

I've seen 'douchebag' (which I still find perfectly serviceable--as a put down) evolve in two directions.

Douche + something else = Douche nozzle, Douche whistle, and for the Arrested Development fans, Douche chill. Still don't know what the last one really means, but it's AD so I go with it.

A popular variation among liberal political bloggers is 'cobag,' short for, as near as I can tell, colostomy bag. Which to my mind is a way better insult than a vinegar-and-water hoo-ha irrigator.

Aunty Christ said...

Mr. Middlebrow: And yet "Does it smell like vinegar in here?" is more clever than "Man, it smells like shit in here all of a sudden!" I dunno. Just saying. You've made me sad with the "douche chill" reference. Not because it makes me miss Arrested Development, so much (though there's that, too), but because I DO NOT remember this at all. How can that be? And I love AD so. (Well, me and, like, all the other douchebags.) Better go hand in my supersecret Michael Bluth decoder ring now. I'm such a jerk!

CO: That's some pretty good stuff typed by you. In particular, frankly, your user profile. Ya know, I've always wanted to meat the man of my creams. You know--someone to cumplete me, etc. etc.

Nice. I can't keep it up though. Sorry.