Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I hate stock expressions, treasured adages, truisms.

Most times (in my inhospitable view), the proverb is meaningful only because the shallow thinker has heard it enough times, or heard it early enough in their life to treat it as some sort of foundational fact. The origin of the phrase is utterly unknown or too out of date to be relevant anymore, but that doesn't matter. But what disappoints me even more about this sorry situation is that I, TOO, will begin to use these idiotic phrases in order to more easily communicate with someone not a communicator. We'll put it that way and leave it. Each time I do it, I lose a grain of respect for myself the size of a salt crystal, which may seem inconsequential, but there are only so many fucking grains!

My friend Marshall and I used to square off and see who knew the most dumbshit adages offhand. Fish in the sea, darkest before dawn, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. He usually had more. Growing up (and still, if I didn't have the volume of her comments turned down to "1"), my mom liked to use a combination of time-worn sayings as well as brief pop music interludes to mark various types of moments. If she was feeling merry and teasingly motherly, she would sing the chorus of "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison. One of my earliest memories refers to hating that song. When I was in middle school, I was serenaded with Neil Diamond's "Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon," the timing of which made me almost violent with self-defensive, awkward pubescent loner rage. When there is a problem that may be slightly humorous yet still insurmountable, one is treated to "Que Sera Sera". Really - sometimes the personal flair makes a bad situation worse.

I can't decide if it's in conflict with my hatred of stock expressions, but I love colloquialisms, and I love slang. New or old, it's often a tiny flash of brilliant shorthand for something tons of people are experiencing at the same time. It's not a cliche yet, or maybe good items never will be because they're not trying to teach you something (unlike most of these phrases of "comfort" which seem overwhelmingly to advise that you remain in what is probably a bad situation, and cease complaining), or explain something. I love witty wordplay and I love when it's about something so seemingly obscure or requiring a challenging channel of thought that you feel like a genius or an insider when you identify it.

I saw this old ichat conversation that I had saved the other day. After a prior talk about mass abuse and misuse of "per se" ...

m: i heard the perfect use of ~persay~ on cnn the other day

b: tell

m: can't remember exactly. woman was interviewing someone, said, "so what would you call this and that, persay".

b: just wanted to hear herself say it

b: they love to hear it come out of their mouths

b: there's another one that people just one tier above the persays love. incidentally

b: meaningless little pocket of air that adds an air of intellectualism, either british or old fashioned

m: so i guess you're not a fan of coincidentally

b: no, but i would use if it fit in context, which it never would with me.

b: i do say ironically too often.

m: just stay away from ironically enough

b: exhausting trying to be clever outside of all of this common wisdom, though.

m: lately "in terms of" is being used in place of regarding, concerning, even "as far as", which was bad enough.

b: yeah. i say "as far as" more than "in terms of"

m: i rigorously avoid both. that kind of construction has to be thrown out entirely.

m: "now about x ..." is good. because most people say something like: "he won't get very far, in terms of x"

m: it's a ridiculous splitting of an idea. or they just tack on -wise. "he won't get very far x-wise"

b: well, i like that.

b: have you seen the apartment, 1960? shirley maclaine and jack lemmon. it's a joke throughout the movie.

b: "that's the way it crumbles...cookie-wise."

m: every midwest human resources mom tacks -wise onto her nouns.

m: anyone worth their salt...

m: worth your weight in gold

m: but yo

m: not everything that glitters is gold!

b: too troo

b: but how can you even tell, when it's always darkest before the dawn?

m: ha! oh shit i hate that one so much

m: but you CAN save it for a rainy day. Practical Dictionary of Cliches, "Never think again!!!"

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