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For Abuse of the English Language: The 2014 Acid Martini Awards

For Abuse of the English Language: The 2014 Acid Martini Awards

As you may be able to deduce from the fact that I spend so much time writing, I love language. (You little Sherlock Holmes, you!) I love my native language of English, and appreciate the little ticks and quirks that go with being able to use it well. English is considered a difficult language to learn, and there’s no better example of that than the fact that so many of the people who want to officialize English as our country’s national language have the linguistic capabilities of a seven-year-old. Maybe it’s an empowerment thing for immigrants; you know, trying to motivate them to learn to speak English better than they do? In any case, though, every now and then, little new words, suffixes, and slang terms pop up that lack the subtle sophistication of good English and come out sounding like Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit is trying to say them with a severe case of the mumps? Yeah, a lot of the more communal terms used in English drive me crazy, because it’s communal slang which slowly works its way into the common lexicon and changes the language. While I’m not against linguistic evolution, there are just some terms which should never, ever be used, for any reason. To honor the worst of the English language, I’ve created the First Annual Acid Martini Awards, named in honor of the drink I would like to offer anyone I catch using the following terms.

Apparently, this became a shorthand way of saying “totally” sometime while I wasn’t looking. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s inefficient, doing away with the finality of the S at the end of the adjective. Therefore, it can trip people up, and so it comes off as less shorthand and more of a way to blow out your windpipe at an early age if trying to use it in rapid succession. And that’s not even getting into the larger problem that exists with this term: A tote is a freaking bag!

Cray Cray
Here’s another adjective which can easily be mistaken for a noun. It can also be mistaken for a cutesy, precocious children’s nickname. Oh, look, here comes Cray Cray! A shorthand for the word “crazy,” cray cray is a failure because the most dominant letter in crazy doesn’t appear in cray cray: You don’t get that Z sound, and that makes for a term which hold less impact than the original version. So what tries to be a shorthand term for a mental condition just ends up perpetuating a bunch of negative stereotypes about people whose craziness isn’t obvious from the outside, and people will continue to mistake real crazy people for loud frat douchebros.

Speaking of loud frat douchebros, here’s a term which we’ve started using in our craze for short, convenient acronyms which go well in cell phone texts. It’s the acronym for “you only live once,” that eternal excuse for frat douchebros to do supremely stupid things with complete disregard for the safety of themselves or those around them.

This is a concept as old as time itself, and it’s not something I’m objecting to. My objection here is strictly with the way the millennials apparently felt the need to create a word which basically hijacked the concept and made it seem like something new and original which they thought up all by themselves. Maybe they felt the need to make the concept feel fresh and exciting, perhaps? I don’t know. What I do know, however, it that the whole idea of spending your week off from work sitting on your ass at home worked just fine when it was actually called spending your week off from work sitting on your ass at home.

This is a case where I’m not objecting to the word in itself so much as I am what the word morphed into. Literally has turned into a qualifier which is used to emphasize a greater point. This demeans the original meaning of the word, which is supposed to mean something that has to be taken as it was said. For example, if you stood in a line that was 30 miles long, you only stood in a line that was figuratively 30 miles long. If you literally stood in a line that was 30 miles long, it would have meant you physically stood in a line that physically stretched the entire length of Western Avenue. I hope whatever was at the end of that line was worth that kind of wait. I want to say I’ll literally lose my mind if people keep misusing literally like this, but I’ll only figuratively lose my mind.

Om Nom Nom
This is what Pac-Man kept saying as he gulped dots, isn’t it? It still only makes sense as the sound he makes when he eats.

Now that I thought of this, strictly adding “totes” up there was shortening that list by quite a bit, although I do remain adamant that “totes” is by far the most vile offender. I guess I overlooked the other upscale truncations, like “amaze,” “obvi,” “whatevs,” and all the others.

I can at least feel like this one is justified. People taking pictures of themselves on their cell phones is a relatively new phenomenon, and I abide by the belief that there’s a legitimate difference between selfies and real photographs. But that doesn’t make the word any more pleasant, and I’m hoping a better term eventually comes along that replaces it. I’m not holding my breath, though, especially not after that essay James Franco wrote about selfies.

I hope these words eventually end up going the way of other offenses of the English language like “jiggy” and that ridiculous “-izzle” suffix. Remember, language is very important. Little words can have a huge impact on people and events. We want language to be something that gets taken seriously, and the words on the list above are actively dumbing it down. So I think it’s time to start fending off these terms with a (figurative) pointy stick before the Germans start taking pity on us.


Happy Thoughts

Happy Thoughts

We live in a very sorry world which bombards us with bad news coming out of all orifices. So there are times when it helps to make a small list of the things in the world to be grateful for.

1 – Paris Hilton hasn’t been in the news lately.

2 – No movies based on Saturday Night Live sketches have been made in years.

3 – The Stanley Cup Playoffs are going in full swing.

4 – New Star Wars movies are in the works.

5 – The Polar Vortex is over, or at least the worst part of it is.

6 – Original basic cable television programs are better than ever, and truly worth watching.

7 – Johnny Depp, Robert Downey Jr., and Samuel L. Jackson.

8 – Keeping a food diary is the easiest way to control your weight, and it’s cheap.

9 – Masturbation. It’s sex with someone you love.

10 – A lot of creative and thoughtful podcasts are free.

Advanced School Life Experience

Advanced School Life Experience

So, apparently I didn’t mess up on my taxes TOO badly. I got one hell of a refund, and I’m going to be using it. I have my college applications filled out, and now I can send them in. The big one in my little paper arsenal is the one to Buffalo State, and I’ve also got one for D’Youville. Buffalo State won’t be a problem. D’Youville, being a private college, is giving me an addendum: I have to write one of those application essays.

You would think this wouldn’t be much of a problem. I’m a writer and hell, this isn’t even my first experience with college essays – ECC had me write up two of the damn things. Nick at 19 was a much different person than Nick at 31, though. Nick at 19 thought he knew everything and had no problem sitting still for two hours vomiting his idiot thoughts by pen, with the absolute certainty that he was providing the argumentative deathblow for everything he believed. Nick at 31 knows he’s a dumbass. If there’s a super-secret Adult Superbook that’s given out at the age of 30 which contains all the secrets of life, he didn’t receive his copy, and so he knows he’s doomed for eternity to keep making everything up as he goes. I’m being dumb enough even trying to get into my choice major. Lord knows, my choice – dietetics – is something I have a huge interest in. It’s invading many aspects of my life, and in doing so, its taken on a kind of pragmatism I wasn’t expecting ten years ago, or even five years ago, when I started thinking seriously about returning to school. With my interest in the working of my innards at an all-time high, I’d be dumb to NOT turn it into a career! Anyway, D’Youville is basically asking me about my life experiences and how they factored into my decision.

The long-perpetuated myth with things like application essays and job interviews is that there are no wrong answers. The day this country quits teaching those ideas and starts telling the truth, it will suddenly become a lot stronger. Essays and interviews aren’t like auditions for actors or musicians. They’re carefully treading through a semantic minefield while not trying to come off as flat and rehearsed. It’s real between-lines reading, and screwing up in the slightest way causes you to lose the entire thing. You better go in knowing full well there are right and wrong answers. Of course, I don’t even have to say that – it’s what’s known as a public secret.

While it’s true that I’m masterful with words, that’s not because I have an ability to make a journey to the local 7-11 sound epic and meaningful. So upon writing an essay like this, I doubt I would be able to fill it with saccharine sappiness veiled in layered metaphor. My life’s journey so far hasn’t been filled with mystery and wonder. I was a churlish, snarling social outcast until my early 20’s, and for those who have never been outcasts, I can tell you that being one makes it very difficult to have profound, life-changing experiences. What I excel in is pissed-off firebranding, and the few online readers I have who actually follow my work all seem to believe the appeal of my style is street-level bluntness. My half-serious joke is that most writers will tell other people that what they do heals the human soul. I prefer to bludgeon it to death. Yeah, it’s harsh, but writing is my way of both venting and making sense of a world which didn’t let me discover it until my teenage years had ended.

And so the big question has arisen: How the hell do I appeal to D’Youville? Do I pile on all the years I spent being a starving artist in Chicago and try to make them sound profound and soul-cleansing? Tell them the absolute, unfiltered truth, which is that I’m just a wannabe writer who get fed up with not being able to make rent? Do I mention that my motivations come in thirds – a third education, another third a chance to go abroad for a few months, and the final third to transfer the hell out of Buffalo? (Call it growing, people.) My counselor gave me her reassurance of my abilities as a writer. A few years ago, when I first applied for the University of Wisconsin (and couldn’t because I didn’t have any money), my good friend Katy – an alumnus who had also worked there in some capacity – said she was curious about what I came up with for an application essay because I have more life experience. Right now, it seems like the best thing I can hope for my D’Youville essay is to not disappoint her.

I just wrote my damned autobiography! Somehow, though, I don’t think my life story as told through a video game prism will get me very far at D’Youville.