Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

Trash words and garbage grammar: how uncritical language adoption eliminates nuance and weakens expression

In Language on September 10, 2021 at 8:32 pm

Neologisms and other changes are part of the way language evolves. But when such changes reduce your power of expression, your ability to communicate nuance, they should not be considered inevitable but should instead be resisted as linguistic rubbish.

There are three types of such waste that I’ve identified: trash words, garbage grammar, and hijacked slang.

Trash words

The monarch of trash words is “impact,” which reduces effect, affect, impression, influence, and more into one cartoonish, caveman word. Impact doesn’t just shrink the speaker’s option for nouns. Thanks to an amalgam of ignorance and pretension, we have “impactful” instead of important or influential. We have impacting, impactfulization, and even — as God is my witness– “impactfulizationality.” (OK, I made that last one up. But for just a moment you thought it was real.)

To BBQ or not to BBQ

In Satire on September 10, 2021 at 7:26 pm

To BBQ or not to BBQ, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler on the grill to spice up
The slices and rashers of outrageous porkers,
Or to take the tongs against the meat and cobs
And by opposing brown them? Some pie to eat,
No more; and by a sheep to say we end
The heartburn and the thousand natural chops,
The flesh is hereon a consommé
Devoured in the dish. To die, to eat:
Some sheep, perchance sea bream—ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sheep that’s dead what meat is bunned
When we have scrubbed off this metal grate,
Must give us pause—that’s the pick
That makes kebabs with such a long knife;

When old punks go racist

In Punkity rockity music on September 10, 2021 at 7:13 pm

Most of the old punk rockers I love still play for freedom, fearlessness, inclusion, and anti-authorianism. These are the things I love them for. These are the things that give me hope. These are the things I can dance to! But some have become just about as sad as fuck. 

Punks and musicians are people, so they get old, their opinions get dumber and more calcified, and they mistake change for disintegration, at the same rate as the societies in which they operate. But it’s still sadder than when it happens to your dad. 

There have always been assholes in the scene, racists like Morrissey and Johnny Ramone, who are arguably closer to older racist assholes like Clapton  than to their peers. (Neo-nazi bands have always been marginal to an already-marginal scene, but their little foot soldiers were prevalent enough to warrant Mark Arm jumping off the stage and beating their asses and the creation of an anthem celebrating their failure.) Sadly, it’s not as unusual as it should be to see old punk rockers get locked up for criminal activities, especially, like Handsome Dick Manitoba, on domestic violence charges.

But to see someone like Exene Cervenka gibber like a poisoned bat that every mass shooting is a false flag operation is absolutely heartbreaking. 

The conspiracy nuts in the scene come out of a tainted strain of the normally healthy tendency to question received wisdom. Some of the late-stage racism and right-wing reductionism, like that of John Lydon and Glenn Danzig, comes out of a simplistic understanding of free speech and the urge to shock without the balancing element of an obligation to attack the powerful and defend the oppressed, not the other way around.

Thank God we still have ladies, blacks, Latinos, Asians, and queers like The Linda Lindas and Fuck U Pay Us, who recognize punk as a language with a purity of expression that they can ride above all the nasty bullshit of life, including the garbage that floats around in the scene itself.