Archive for December, 2008


Stop fighting me! (Happy New Year)

31 December 2008



In the movie Bedazzled (the demented Peter Cook/Dudley Moore original, not the disappointing Brendan Fraser remake) the devil is portrayed as one who spends less time causing wars, plagues, and disasters than simple aggravations. He puts scratches in record albums (remember those?) and causes a pigeon to poop on a clergyman, resulting in a blasphemy. 

This concept seems to me a remarkably true one. Day-to-day annoyances are more than enough with which to do battle. I am often heard to cry, “Stop fighting me!”

A sock that insolently falls behind the dryer. A key that requires interminable fidgeting. A garden hose that refuses to relinquish its kink. A drawer that somehow entangles its contents so that the one item you need brings unwanted friends along. All the trash that when tossed at a wastebasket bounces off the rim and onto the floor.  A zipper or a button or a snap that simply will not close, dammit. Plastic wrap! Stop fighting me!!

The world becomes an obstacle. One’s mood sours, which leads to snapping at others which leads to hurt feelings as well as guilt and shame, and on downward we go until we’re doing the devil’s work for him.

It’s almost a relief to have governments, banks and overpaid executives to blame for things. Most people I know have said that 2008 was a bad year. For me, it wasn’t a catastrophe but it certainly was not much fun.

I’ve noticed something interesting as we approach 2009. Experts predict a difficult year ahead, but the general public seems surprisingly optimistic. I believe this is for two reasons. First, Obama. More than just a man anymore, he is a symbol of hope for many of us. Good luck, Barack. You’ll need it.

Second, because ’08 was unpleasant or worse, there is a compelling need for it to be over. It may be wishful thinking that the change of a digit will also mean the change of our fortunes, especially since New Year’s is such an arbitrary date anyway. Still, people see the change of the calendar as a new beginning that could finally bring blessed relief.

Despite the odds, I truly wish us all well. 



Present Imperfect

21 December 2008


watchyerlanguageTime was, if you heard some news or a suggestion you liked, you might respond, “Good.” What with language being a casualty of inflation, what once was a thoroughly appropriate word was often supplanted by “Great!” Lately I’ve been hearing a ridiculous overuse of “Perfect.”

Really? Perfect? I doubt it. Unable to be improved upon? Unlikely.

I lament how the meanings of words become diluted. One such victim is “awesome.” The next time you hear someone use the word, consider if what they are referring to actually might fill anyone with awe.

I cringe at word misuse. “Unique” does not simply mean unusual, but rather “one of a kind.” One, only one! Something cannot be “very unique.” It might be mighty rare, or quite uncommon, or even “nearly unique,” but once it is unique, that’s it. Otherwise, it’s like saying that the light switch was turned “very off.” Or that something is “very perfect.” Can’t be.

Absurd abbreviations, in a deluded attempt to be hip, are another matter. Is anyone actually so hopeless as to follow an advertiser’s campaign and say “SoCo” instead of “Southern Comfort?” A local TV channel, in their onscreen graphic promoting upcoming programming, has inexplicably replaced the word “Tonight” with “Ton.” How does that help? And recently I heard that, in place of the aforementioned “perfect,” someone actually uttered, “Perf!”

Weakening words and their meanings results in our being less able to say precisely what we intend. Because both god and the devil are in the details, I decry the pervasive, lazy sloppiness that cuts our vocabulary off at the knees. Like littering, the discarding of clarity demonstrates humanity’s appalling apathy.

Alas, I realize it will only get worse. There’s no stopping the dumbing down of language. Hey, everyone’s doing it. Because after all, no one’s perf.