Our society has managed to fall (or dive) into a steamy vat of superlative muck in recent years, and it has changed the way that we communicate. I’m not sure what, if anything, is still said or written in a normal low-key way, even the extra-low-key Brits are losing their ‘keep calm’ attitude, all that’s left of Keep Calm are the memes, mugs and t-shirts.
This need for overkill has seeped into everything, making our conversations sticky with over-the-top superlatives folded into big emotional statements (possibly to cover up a lack of real feeling?). At any rate, whatever you want to say these days, you’d best say it big, with exaggerated passion, because otherwise you will look wishy-washy.
For example, the word ‘like’ is almost obsolete, except when used as a pause in thought, like, right now. Take a look at this sentence: “I like this man, he is pretty smart. He’s not too shabby, and he’s funny, too.” If you say this, it will look as though you can barely stand the guy.
In order to pop, the declaration has to be brought up to modern standards: “OMG I love this man, he is the smartest person I have ever met in my entire life, and on top of that he is the kindest and nicest and most perfect person ever, and nobody is funnier in the entire world, maybe even the entire universe. Did I mention good-looking? Holy Toledo, I might die just thinking about him, he is that awesome. He is just a big cuddle-hunky-bunny bundle of awesomeness.” Saying it this way, people get the idea.
Digging deep into the past, about 1/2 century-and-change ago, kids could get into trouble for saying something like this: “I hate that kid down the street.”
“What on earth are you talking about, Jo Slade?” you Modern Millies grumble. “Why would a kid get in trouble for saying that?”
Well, because ‘hate’ was once considered a word that you just didn’t use. Ever. You could dislike someone (although even that would get you chided) but ‘hate’ was a dirty word, or close to it, it was seen as too over-the-top, too dramatic.
You would also catch hell for using the word ‘love’. You could love whoever you supposed to love, ie your mother and father and possibly your siblings (although you didn’t go around saying it, it was an assumed thing), but unlike today, you didn’t automatically love everything you didn’t hate, and you didn’t have to verify that love by saying it all the time. The word ‘like’ was the word of choice. And you didn’t need to announce what you liked and didn’t like, you just quietly went around liking stuff on the sly. Yes, this seems archaic now, but once upon a time that’s the way it was.
Linguistically speaking, you really have to be on your toes today. You need to keep up in conversations and correspondence that require massive doses of superlative drama, and this can often lead to one-upmanship.
Him: “Hey, come here, you are going to FREAK OUT over this website.”
You: “Ha ha, sure, but hang on, check this out, you are gonna have TEARS POURING DOWN YOUR HYSTERICALLY LAUGHING FACE over this one. Your head will EXPLODE.”
Him: “Well, I would but I am too busy DYING FROM LAUGHTER over this site. Come here and prepare to see the FUNNIEST THING YOU WILL EVER SEE IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE.”
Damn. Once ‘entire life’ comes into it, you’re close to being hooped, you’ve got to regroup, and fast. Might I suggest a nice little ‘anywhere on earth’ remark, with plenty of exclamation marks:
You: “OMG, wait, no way! This is shocking!!!!!!!!! Ya gotta see this, it’s THE RAREST OF RARE AWESOMENESS THING ANYWHERE ON EARTH, EVER.”
In closing, I’m going to leave you with a small taste of a pre-superlative yesteryear. It is not for the faint-of-heart:
“Hmm, interesting article in the newspaper today.”
“Oh? What is it about?”
“It says that a 500-ton meteor is heading toward Earth. Apparently we are all going to die in ten minutes, give or take.”
“Oh my, well I guess there isn’t much point in making dinner, is there.”
“Probably not, although I do feel a bit peckish, don’t you? Perhaps this is as good a time as any to tell you that I care about you.”
“Now, let’s not get emotional, dear. Should we sit outside and watch the meteor as it arrives?”
“Good plan, I’ll prepare drinks. Oh say, I think it may be here already, the house is shaking rather a lot. Would you mind terribly if your Martini is shaken, not stirred? Would you like one or two oli. . . .”
Welcome to your brand new year, fresh out of the box and sparkly clean. A new year means there are fresh horoscopes baking. You already get a quality horoscope on Castanet from Heather Zais, but we’re not talking quality in this column. This is the low-end economy horoscope for cheap people, like you.
If you are new to horoscopes, ‘horoscope’ is a euphemism for ‘a bunch of zodiac signs’. To make them easier to count, the signs are put into four groups. The best group by far is the Dirt group, because Capricorn is in there, and Capricorn is what is horoscopically known as ‘superior in all ways’. It is also known as ‘my sign’.
The four groups:
Dirt (Earth): Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo
Dirt signs can expect quite a bit of dirt this year. For some, the dirt will involve planting things then watching them die because you have no clue how to garden. For others it will involve the latest dirt about that hot number who works three desks from you.
Rainy (Water): Pisces, Cancer, Scorpio
Rainy signs should plan on getting wet this year. Go swimming. Or move to the coast. Or for god’s sake at least have a bath.
Nothing (Air): Aquarius, Gemini, Libra
Nothing signs will keep on breathing air, except for the ones who die at which point they will be switched over to either Dirt or Sparky which they will get to know up close and personal, although being dead means they probably won’t appreciate the irony.
Sparky (Fire): Sagittarius, Leo, Aries, Herman
Sparky signs will be smoking up a storm. What they are smoking we don’t even want to know, but it will probably lead to the same fate as Nothing.
Now for your individual fortunes. Normally you might just read your own sign, but in this case you should read them all, from the top. It’s important in a six degrees of separation kind of way.
Capricorn, you will win the lottery. The ticket will be in your leather jacket pocket, but you will forget all about it when you drop off the jacket for dry-cleaning after you spill a jar of pickles on it. Soon after, you will note that your dry-cleaner has retired, and is vacationing in Hawaii for several months. Yes, there is a connection. You will fall into despair, and complain non-stop on facebook about this unfortunate turn of events. You will go to Hawaii in hopes of finding the thief. Star-speak: Pluto is all over the moon’s cusp.
Taurus, you will find a lottery ticket. You know it belongs to the idiot with the leather jacket but you will cash in the unsigned ticket and not feel guilty, because you are a heartless bastard that way. You will sell your dry-cleaning business and go on vacation in Hawaii for an insanely long time. You will unfriend your facebook friend who keeps going on and on and on about a lost lottery ticket. Star-speak: Neptune is moving toward the sun and when it hits, Neptune will be crispy critters.
Pisces, this will start out as a good year for you. It sure won’t end that way. You will buy a dry-cleaning business which you’ll get for dirt cheap because the seller is retiring and is highly motivated. You will be eager about your new business until you start to notice that everything coming into the store is dirty. This will depress you, and you will join a facebook group for depressed people where you will meet someone who is feeling depressed because he went from very rich to very poor in very short order. The two of you will meet up, and consume vast quantities of cheap red wine to drown your sorrows. Your wife will leave you, at which point you move to Hawaii and hula dance for a living. Star-speak: The sun will rise then set each day, with cusps.
Cancer, you will leave your husband because he won’t shut up about dirty clothes. You will take possession of his dry-cleaning business in lieu of alimony, and will enjoy the work because you motto is ‘a little dirt never hurt anybody’ despite that you are not a Dirt sign. Later in the year, you will develop severe allergies to the chemicals used at the shop and will be forced to sell. Because you’re good looking and ruthless, you will sell for far more than the business is worth. You will fly to Hawaii to celebrate. Star-speak: Mars goes red with disgust over the erratic Sparky behaviour of the sun.
Scorpio, after a savvy market move you will be rolling in money, until you are tempted by a beautiful woman who is selling a dry-cleaning business. You will fall for her questionable charms and will pay several times what the business is worth. You will sell out to the pot-head who lives down the street from you so you can follow the seller to Hawaii. Star-speak: The cusps start fighting back, they want the right to be planets. They form a union.
Aquarius, your days of enjoying pot pretty much 24/7 will come to an abrupt end when your neighbour insists that you buy his dry-cleaning business. Although you want to say no to him, you know that he knows about that dirty little habit you have, not to mention the pot habit. You turn the dry-cleaning operation into a pot-growing operation, inspired, in part, by the meth lab in Breaking Bad. You buy a funny black hat like Walter White’s, but trust me, you don’t look like Walter White. Your business thrives, but at some point you will mysteriously disappear. Star-speak: Virgo is getting antsy about something, who in hell knows what.
Gemini, your job as a pilot for a shady econo-airline will be at risk when you toke some solvent-tainted pot bought from the dry-cleaner down the street. Completely out of your mind, you will fly the plane and 365 passengers to Hawaii instead of their chosen destination of Australia. You will be flying significantly higher than the plane you are flying. The airline won’t be pleased, and will have you arrested. Star-speak: Saturn gets a new ring, as if it doesn’t have enough already.
Libra, your career as a police officer will be compromised when you arrest a pot-head airline pilot who offers you all kinds of money to ‘lose’ him in a paperwork shuffle, which you do because you are completely lacking in any morals, a common thing with Nothing signs. You and the pilot will hit it off and go back to his hometown so he can off the idiot who sold him solvent-laced pot. You will help bury the body where nobody will find it, then head to Hawaii to escape possible investigation. Star-speak: The sun and Scorpio have a thing going, and it doesn’t involve cusps.
Sagittarius, you will go into business when you see an ad in the paper for a dry-cleaner in foreclosure due to the owner having gone missing. You will wonder about some of the dry-cleaning products being used, but will continue using them because they smell pretty good and are quite relaxing. You will feel unbelievably mellow, especially when you’re at work. Eventually you will sell your house and move into the back room of the shop. You use some of the money from the house sale for a quick trip to Hawaii. Star-speak: The sun and moon switch jobs, which result in various situations, mostly involving nakedness.
Leo, you will switch to a new dry-cleaner after hearing about the great place on the other side of town. At first you have doubts, since it looks as though the clothes come out just as dirty as when they go in, but the doubts will go up in smoke. After a few months you will start to sleep on the street outside the dry cleaners, because you never know when you might need your clothes cleaned. Star-speak: A star falls on cusping Libra, hurting both.
Aries, as city mayor you will be worried about the lack of motivation that seems to have seized the entire town. You will drop off clothes at a dry-cleaner, and soon after you won’t be worried about a thing. You sure will be hungry, though. You will meet a man who lives on the street outside the dry-cleaners. You’re pretty sure that the two of you get married and honeymoon in Hawaii, but it’s all a bit hazy. Star-speak: Libra and Aries are splitting up, and selling their cusps to the highest bidder.
Virgo, you will buy a lottery ticket for a good friend’s birthday. If he wins, the two of you can buy a boat and sail around the world. However, your friend is an idiot and will lose his ticket after which he will not be all that appealing as a boating companion. You meet a dry-cleaner who, while not exactly clean due to the strange chemicals used at his business, is laid-back and highly successful. The two of you go to Hawaii in your new boat. Star-speak: The sun is seriously thinking about calling it quits. It is that disgusted with humanity’s antics.
Herman, you’re not really a sign, are you. Just go home, okay? Star-speak: Hawaii is vaporized by a surprise comet riding in on the cusp of Armageddon.
It is haiku season here on Old As Dirt. So, Happy Haiku to you, or to be more politically correct, Happy Really Short Poem to you.
A haiku is a Japanese poem of seventeen syllables delivered in three lines of five, seven and five. I may not be Japanese, but by god I have lots of syllables, they’ve been sitting around in the corner for years, gathering dust.
Get ready to be haiku’d to death. We will call this:
Deep haiku thoughts about 2014 and random other stuff
The year has gone by
What the hell happened to it
I was there somewhere
And speaking of which
Long ago in the sixties
Was ‘there’ too, sometimes
Whoosh, time flies past fast
‘Past fast’ sounds dumb, sick, and wrong
But this is haiku
To be old is fine
Even though time flies past fast
Life: like this haiku
Haiku is like eggs
See? Because it takes no time
To make the damn things
Goodbye to Christmas
It stayed too long as always
Have you had enough
Of profound haiku thinking?
Or not, I don’t know
Snow! Snow falling down!
So pretty and white . . . hell no
I’m going back to bed
A new year is here
We might all be very good
Odds are against it
Haiku is easy
You don’t even have to rhyme
Man, I’m acing this
Mary had a lamb
Followed her every damn where
Shoot the bloody lamb
This is pretty good
Pretty pretty pretty good
Curb your enthusi
Old McDonald had
A farm / animals / lots of
Moo baa meow woof
Don’t make them, what is the point
Write haiku instead
Resolutions fail fail fail
Profundities there (somewhere)
Which haiku am I
The next or the one after
You decide, cowboy
I am good and nice
Sweetness and light, kind also
A saint all year long
Bad, getting badder, baddest
Throwing up haikus
Haiku anthem song
This country is good, okay?
But stop waving flags
Song from sixties
Look! They knew haiku!
A jargon haiku
Grab that core competency
Don’t drink the kool-aid
Youth haiku 4 u
Gimme some scrilla my mains
Derps they be chirpin’
This has ‘fail’ written on it
There once was a man
Last haiku for you
Last haiku for me also
Happy new year to
Read more Old as dirt. Twice as gritty. articles
I’m never at a loss for words, but once in a long while I’m at a loss for jargon.
I’ll reach out to spew just the right jargonesque triteism, and so thoroughly miss the mark that the listener becomes emotionally agitated. If you think people cannot become emotionally agitated over something silly, I need only direct you to any business committee meeting. You will find emotional agitation all over the place, usually concealed under icy smiles of contempt.
At any rate, the other day I mentioned to my tiger team the possibility of a brainstorming session on matters of core competency. I was greeted with silence. What have I done, I wondered, to offend my tiger team? My faithful S.W.A.T. Team (in which there is no ‘I’, of course)?
They were embarrassed to know me anymore, and were packing up their Frank Clegg briefcases and heading out the door.
This was not good. If they left, who in hell would do my work?
“Now just hold on there, tigers!” I cried. “Open the kimono, tell me what is going on here. Let’s leverage this situation, and make hay. Let’s not boil the ocean, peeps, reach out to me. Air it out. Gimme the deets.”
“Well,” one replied, “if you ever get around to crawling out of the 90s you’ll realize that the term ‘brainstorming’ is incredibly passe.”
I was so ashamed. It really impacted me. I thought I was giving jargon 110% but it turns out I was only doing a more mathematically reasonable 100%, a real Fail in today’s world. It was time to take it to the next level, but how could I, without knowing the replacement term for brainstorming? I couldn’t ask because they wouldn’t tell. They wanted to see me squirm. This was going to be tricky.
“Hey, I’m in the swim lane here, but you know what? I’m not going to drink the kool-aid without first up knowing what’s wrong with the word ‘brainstorming’."
If I could get them to tell me that, at least, I had a fighting chance of intuiting the new word.
“Oh man, if you even have to ask you’re never going to move the needle. To be honest, it must really suck to be you when you wake up in the morning.”
I thought about it. There was some truth to what he said, one look at the mirror first thing in the morning generally scared the hell out of me. Sensing a burning platform, I had to find out what the new word for brainstorming was PDQ. I knew it must be a real bleeding edge term to be so new that I’d never heard it.
Could I trick them into saying it?
“So, is there anything we should . . . discuss in detail this morning?”
“Probably time to collectively pore mindfully over some of these ideas of the brain. . . .”
“Time to get the brains rebooted?”
This was not going well.
“Okay then, let’s get our ducks in a row. Only one way I know to do that is. . . .“
Time to herd the cats.
“All hands on deck! We’ll jump into a collaborative discussion about our industry vertical! Best way to do that is by. . . .”
“Now hey, you guys, if we don’t get this meeting started, we’ll be sending our project over the wall before it’s ready. We won’t be full service. Time to drill down, people.”
“HA. It is what it is,” they said. “What EXACTLY do you want us to do?” said the little bast . . . smart-alecks.
“Maybe we should just take this off-line for now, revisit it after a break. Look! Doughnuts!”
No one made a move toward the doughnuts. Well, I did, so they wouldn’t go stale.
Several doughnuts later, after a tastefully quiet burp, I suggested that it was serious time to synergize, to reach out to each other, get back on track. “Let’s get to . . . taking our brains and storming ideas with them?”
“Restarting our brains and enabling virtual brain RAM?”
I started to whine. “Oh come on, guys, let’s talk that, then take it to the next level. It’s pretty cut and dry. I just want to talk. About ideas. From our brains. In an, ummm, storm setting.”
Silence, with sneers of jargon-setter derision.
It was hopeless. I was going to be out of pocket at this rate. If I didn’t find a window of opportunity quickly, the door of doom was going to whack me in the arse.
“Okay, dammit, start peeling that onion. Make a grab for the low-hanging fruit. I want to hear the replacement for ‘brainstorming’ in five seconds, hard stop.”
Hearing the ‘I can fire you, you know’ tone in my voice, I could see they were going to cough up the new term, albeit reluctantly.
It was a come to Jesus moment. They were onboarded.
Yes! I’m in!
Wait, hold on . . . thought showers?
I had to say ‘thought showers’ out loud? In front of people?
Ah well. The business world is a tough place and you need to be tough to get by. And you know what they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get . . . well, they get together and have thought showers.