I’m not sure why, but I seem to be amused with people’s use of words. I have written on this subject before, I suppose I just find it humorous and one I enjoy sharing with you.
I’m a big fan of the film Sling Blade. It was a great piece of work by actor Billy Bob Thornton, who not only starred, but wrote and directed the movie. The main character is a unique individual with a raspy sounding voice named Karl Childers (so many think his name was Sling Blade). Karl doesn’t speak often, yet when he does he offers some notable remarks. One that I hear so often is the expression “what not.” Now, literally it does not make sense; however the phrase now seems to have gained popularity. Yesterday, I heard it twice; once during a business meeting and then at home watching the evening news. It seems to be used and understood to mean “and so on.” Not to be confused with phrasing from my youth, such as: “What’s Happening; What it is; or What it be like; What Not” has become as trendy as “Yada, Yada, Yada (an episode from Seinfeld)” was a few years ago. Any wonder why those whom attempt to learn English claim it is so difficult to understand – no kidding.
Another statement commonly heard today is the word “perfect.” I encounter this word often when dining and ordering, so I suppose it has invaded the food industry. “What will you have? I’d like to order a hamburger with everything – Perfect!” Huh? Ridiculous, a simple nod of the head would be OK. With the exception of the character Wimpy (Popeye) a hamburger is far from perfection, especially when I should be ordering a salad. It drives me nuts (I know what does that mean?) when people use the word “perfect” as a substitute for “Okay, fine, yes, etc.”
It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Politics has taken over the airwaves and some of the commercials are insane. One anti-Trump ad has him discussing the issue of mass deportation. He states if he becomes president it will take place, however in a humane and nice way – what! When the word “nice” was introduced; I’m sure it was as an alternative description for pleasant or charming, not to be used within a sentence discussing deportation. I stopped keeping track how often I heard the word “nice” used during this election year. According to a recent interview a communications expert stated candidates are advised to maintain a 4th grade level of speech – Good Grief!
1 + 1 = 3
As a means to express enthusiasm and commitment I hear individuals state, they are dedicated to deliver a maximum effort escalating from 101 to 150 percent. How this is attainable and what device is being used to measure this impossible feat. “I’m sorry; although your labors were impressive according to our register you only scored 95% on the effort meter.” I suppose the statement of “doing my best” is just not satisfactory these days.
A Family Affair
Families customize the English language in unique and strange ways. On several occasions I’ve heard words completely understood by family members, yet as an outsider had me wondering what the word meant, and how it was conceived. Lately, the common affirmation by some members of my family is the affirmation “I know right?” spoken in the form of a question.
One of my brothers commonly uses the word “sweet.” “That would be sweet; sounds sweet; or just “sweet” are his regular expressions. Yet “sweet” does not have the logical antonym of “sour” to utilize in conversation. “That would be sweet” is understood as being favorable; yet “that would be sour” makes no sense at all – Go figure. I know I’m going way back, but legendary television talk show host Art Linkletter had a segment called “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” well my 3 ½ year old grandson is a testament they do. The word “cool” is one he uses to express enthusiasm or excitement. The word “cool” must be making a comeback, as I’ve heard others his age use it in conversation. I’m sure he does not know the word also stands for a range in temperature, but it draws a smile to my face to hear him say “Grandpa that would be cool.”
He’s a real character; a couple of weeks ago when he noticed all the Halloween decorations in stores, he turned around a told me “Grandpa, Halloween is my favorite time of year.” Again, he’s only three and half, how can he have a favorite anything yet?
As Hispanic, Latino and Chicano, I grew up with family members in which English was not a natural experience. It was ordinary to hear members speak in “Spanglish” and later, when interacting with others of the same background it was widespread. In high school I am guilty as being one of those who took Spanish to get a “B” just like the verse from Cheech and Chong “Mexican American.” That’s when I encountered Espanol – Castilian style. For those of you who may be asking “What’s the difference?” It would be learning English in Great Brittan and told go mingle in Alabama.
Ay Los Watcho(Translation: Until Next Time.)