Monday, 9 December 2013

Turning of the Phrase

There are infinite possibilities within language's potential. We can listen to the colourless green, we can dance in the waves of light or taste the face of love [here's looking at you, dearly Beloved]. Even the impossible, with language, can be. So it's a little disheartening when we come back - time and time again - to a few key phrases. The Word of the Day is: 'PHRASE'

Phrase /frayz/ n. 1. Grammar a. A group of two or more words arranged in a grammatical construction. b. Such a group without a finite verb and acting as a unit within a clause. 2. A way of speaking. 3. An expression, sometimes having special interest or importance. 4. A short remark. 5. Music A group of notes forming a recognizable pattern. ♦v.t. 6. To express or word in a particular way.

Now, I don't have a problem with these oft-repeated phrases, in general. Some people avoid clichés like the plague, but not me. If a phrase has been around the block a few times, it becomes ingrained in the public consciousness to the point that it can become yet another foundation of language, to be built upon. Some find this frustrating, but I feel that gives us the opportunity to then deconstruct and/or re-imagine these phrases again, to make soemthing new. We can all understand what is meant when these phrases are said or read, so it gives us the room the play with language.

But, in my own life, there are a bunch of phrases that I've heard one time or another that I just cannot stand. They frustrate me to no end.
However, before I start, I need to apologize to all of you that are hoping for me to 'shoot down' popular phrases of the day that you find offensive; especially memes. Because While 'You Only Live Once', 'Laugh Out Loud', 'Epic Fail', 'That's what She said' & 'You Mad' are all phrases I don't like, their erasure is something that we already agree upon as a culture. You don't need me to point that out, it would be a waste of time.
Not to mention, when said infrequently or ironically, these phrase can regain some degree of jovialty. Especially when used with irony, lol.
In their stead, the phrases I am talking about are a selection of sayings that are not only intellectually vapid, as those above, but actually drive us backward, as a species, for the unintelligence and disinterest these phrases seem to invite into the Great Conversation.
These aren't phrases that disturb or annoy me and these aren't just pet peeves. No, these are phrases that need to GO THE FUCK AWAY.

Now, a lot of these aren't exactly popular. You may not have even heard some them, but I can assure you that these are real phrases. I've heard them on several occasions and you've definitely heard most of them. I've been compiling this list since the beginning of this blog (almost a year ago) and they're not all well known, but despite their less-than-celebrity status they officially need to go over the cliff, to never be seen again, because they represent the worst kind of communication.
It's the kind of phrases that don't have intelligence behind them. So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to some phrases that - in a just world - you will never hear again. These are . . .

The A.W.N.'s Top 10 Phrases that Need to GO AWAY

#10  "That's so retarded."
Now, I myself once used this term a lot because - by the very definition - people with mental retardation are not as intelligent as the average person. I didn't see the harm in it because "they are stupid", but I've come through time to realize that this has to stop.
For one thing, it's incredibly arrogant to judge someone by something with which they were born. Someone born without a leg isn't less of a person [unless we're talking volumetrically] so they should be treated equitably. Using this word to casually refer to idiocy is insulting to these people - real people, remember - who deserve as much respect as anyone else. To do otherwise assumes superiority and a hierarchy of man, according to birthright. How arrogant do you have to be to start judging people by what they're born with?
But more importantly, it underestimates retarded people. People often say something is "retarded" when it is offensively stupid, they think that anything which is unintelligent is retarded. However, mental retardation isn't about incapacity, it's about reduced or slowed mental capacity (hence use of the word retard, which means "slow down"). People with mental disabilities can be a little silly at times, true, but they deserve a lot more credit than people give them. If you, like me, have used this term so mindlessly, do the world a favour and start saying "ridiculous" instead of "retarded", because that's what you really mean, and it doesn't insult anyone.

#09  "What do you expect? I'm only human."
I have seen great things that humans can do; experienced the wonders that we can build and the things we can achieve and witnessed the greatness of the human spirit. These achievements are stunning . . . so when people say this phrase: "what do you expect? I'm only human", like it's some great burden, a weight on their shoulders they have to bear - they're just being ridiculous. Being just human is one of the best things you could possibly be, yet people insult their own species in this way . . .
Not to mention, this statement is terribly condescending; do you think we would forget? How patronising must you be to feel the need to remind anyone of anything so ubiquitous?
Whatever, these are minor quibbles. However, the real reason why this phrase has to go? Because, more often than not, people say this instead of saying sorry. You call someone out for doing something wrong, or not finishing a task and their response is "I'm only human". Yes, you are, you're only a human with responsibilities and things expected of you. There's no one to blame but yourself if you do something wrong.
Even if you're not to blame - if you're in a situation where too much is being asked of you - this passive-aggressive stance is a great way to start a fight. It's blatantly obvious what was expected of you - if you don't understand, then say so.
The next time you want to say this, keep in mind that this is the answer:
As a human, you're expected to admit your own faults so that you may overcome them.

#08  "I like to relax, and turn off my brain."
I get this one all the time. As a writer, I have a tendency to enjoy a variety of stories, but I seek out stories that are more challenging. I like movies and books that make me think about the human condition; try to teach the audience something or question the nature of storytelling itself. For this reason, I don't like what people call 'popcorn movies', those films with explosions or excessive action; dumb romance; oafish/random comedy; bad plot or no deeper meaning or moral. I call out these movies for being simple-minded.
However, when I say that I don't like popcorn movies, inevitably someone will say "What's wrong with a dumb movie? Sometimes I just like to turn off my brain." This pisses me off for two reasons. Firstly, your brain is always on. Even when you sleep, your brain regulates your breathing and often you dream. There's only one way to 'switch off' your brain and that's to be dead.
But more than that, it's just wrong. If you wanted to relax your mind, you'd go have a nap, meditate or lie down. Watching a movie requires your full attention, so when you watch a movie and enjoy it, despite it having no meaning, and say to me "I just want to turn off my brain"; instead, be honest and say: "I don't pay much attention when I watch movies."
If you did, you would see what I see. Some people enjoy movies that I don't for personal reasons, but if they pay attention, they debate it, they don't claim to be switching off their brain. So admit it, the reason you like dumb movies is because you aren't fully engaged. I'm not saying you're necessarily stupid, you just don't have the mind for storytelling. That's okay, what's not okay is acting like other people are weird for wanting Art to mean something.

#07  "Do you have to be so serious all the time?"
I get this one a lot as well. Some people think I'm a bit of a stick in the mud, because I choose to take people at their word. If someone says something wrong or sarcastically and I don't understand, their response is always "do you have to take everything literally?" or, as above "why so serious?"
This doesn't make any sense to me. The world is literal. I'm literally existing in a reality where matter cannot be created or destroyed, it's constant. Also, as a Word Nerd, I know that words mean things. And while some words can have many meanings, they are still well-defined meanings which, while the interpretation of words may change, their inherent meanings are static. If I question your meaning when you say something; don't laugh at your joke or don't understand your sarcasm; it's because you've misused language in a way that does not communicate your intention. You're not communicating with me, because I don't understand. That's not my fault, it's yours for using language in a way that can be misunderstood.
But most importantly, I'm not serious all the time. People think that, because I don't find their "so random" joke funny, or ignore their sarcasm that it means I'm always serious. I'm not, I laugh at a lot of stuff; but I laugh at the real world, because this world is ridiculous. When you think like I do, and see things literally, you find a lot more things funny. Haven't you ever heard the phrase "it's funny because it's true."
So next time you want to ask me "Why are you so serious all the time?"; remember, my answer is: "I think it's funnier that way."

#06  "Well, you know what I meant . . ."
Any stickler for language gets this one a lot. Someone else says something wrong: "I could care less"; "supposeably true"; "my head literally exploded", or they just muddle up their words, accidentally, so you correct them. Then rather than correct themselves, their response is "You know what I meant."
No, no no no no - FUCK you! That's not how this works. Admittedly, there are some arseholes out there that love acting superior because they know whether to say "you and I" or "you and me"; but I am not like that. The reason I correct people is so that they may better their ability to speak (or write, as the case may be) without being misunderstood.
This response, it's akin to if I were walking with a friend and they tripped, so I then grabbed them by the arm and helped them stay on their feet; then rather than thank me they smack my hand away.
But worse than that, sometimes I don't know what people mean. Like, as a vague example, if someone says something like "put the hammer outside" and I say "you mean, in the shed?" they go all "You know what I mean!"
No, I didn't! I'm not psychic and it's not my job, or anyone's, to auto-correct your verbal typos! Every time you say something wrong, I have to correct it in my head, meaning I have to put in more effort to understand you. I find it easier if both parties speak in a way that everyone can understand. Instead of saying "you know what I meant", you could say "Yes, that's right". Or hell, just nod - if you can't say something nice, say nothing at all.

#05  "There's no such thing as a wrong opinion."
In my opinion, this statement is wrong. This is actually a misunderstanding of language, to a confusing degree. It's simple semantics. It's basically a misunderstanding of fiction. See, the statement "Anise Trevino rides in a time machine" is not true, there's no such thing as a time machine, therefore it must be a lie. However, if I say "Anise Trevino rides in a time machine, in this story that I wrote." then the statement can be (and is) true.
See, the statement itself is wrong, but to say "it can be true in fiction" is true. It's the same thing with an opinion. The statement "being homosexual is unnatural" is wrong, it's been proven countless times that it occurs in nature; it is empirically, objectively wrong. If someone then says "I think that being homosexual is unnatural" then they are wrong. Sure, it is true that "this person has the opinion that being homosexual is wrong" because we're not talking about the statement, we're talking about the existence of an opinion, but that doesn't make the statement itself right.
The reason this gets foggy is because most people have opinions about things that are subjective: "bacon is delicious"; "chocolate is better than vanilla"; "nachos is awesome". These often can't be proven wrong, because they're about subjective things, they rely on the nature of the speaker; while true for one person, it may be false for another, so unless the speaker is lying these have to be true. If you say "I prefer dogs to cats" then that's fair enough.
However, if you say "dogs are better pets than cats" then it's something that could (concievably) be measured, so it not longer falls under the purview of "subjective".
Either way, I am sick and tired of people using this "it's not wrong, it's my opinion!" thing as a way of defending themselves from education. Because even if you are right, you're still an idiot for not validating your own opinion's veracity.

#04  "I could care less."
Oh my god, this one. This fucking phrase. There are already hundreds and hundreds of people already who have spoken out against this stupid statement. And now I have to join the ranks!
Yes, you could. Being able to have less care than you already have, requires an amount of care greater than zero. And since care is a positive integer, 0 is the lowest amount of care one can give.
No, you're not being clever by "caring so little, that I don't care how much I care." because that's not what we're talking about. That's you pretending that you're accident was made on purpose when in actual fact you're just offensively stupid. Language is about communication, you little shit. If you don't care about speaking properly, then let me punch you in the mouth until your teeth fall out. Then I don't have to listen to you speaking at all.
Use your fucking brain. I am not going to do all your thinking for you. This is the same stupid shit that makes people think that 'down-side up' is the opposite of 'up-side down'. If you stopped for half a fucking second, and USED your head, you'd realize that you are not only inaccurate, but saying the complete opposite of what you intended to say. That's not 'being careless', that's being a moron. This phrase makes me want to beat people to death with a dictionary.

#03  "I love you so much, I'd die for you!"
I think it's pretty obvious at this point that I have a girlfriend. I've been mentioning her, this girl I call "Beloved", in so many of my blog posts that it's blatantly obvious, but I can't help it . . . I blog about what's on my mind and, well, she's on my mind. I do a lot of things for her, just as she does so much for me; but do you know something I definitely won't do for her? Commit suicide.
There's two very good reasons for this: a) I don't want to die b) she doesn't want me to die. So I don't understand why this phrase even exists. Yet, I've seen it all over, not only in romance stories, but also in real life!
It's obvious to me that people haven't thought this through. For starters, who would want this? I mean, I get the romance of it; dulce et decorum est pro mea puella mori and all that, but in reality any partner worth their salt wants you to be alive, so why offer it?
Secondly, this can take the form of emotional abuse, especially with teenagers saying it like: "If I can't be with you, I'd die!" which is just a form of controlling your partner through guilt, and a sign you should find a new partner.
Thirdly, you're essentially saying "I love you so much that I would gladly leave you and let you spend the rest of your life with gut-wrenching survivor's guilt!". Thanks, but no thanks.
Fourthly . . . it's too easy. Being dead is easy, you don't have to do anything; but being alive? Now that's hard. It's easy to die for someone, but to live for them? Sharing your life with someone else to make them happy? That has meaning. Not only do I want "I'd die for you" to go away, I want it to be replaced with "I'd live for you"; that's what I tell my Beloved, and I think it means so much more.

#02  "I don't know why, I just don't like it."
This may seem like a relatively harmless phrase, but I freaking hate it. I hate it for a simple reason, it's ignorant. I know a lot about what I do and don't like, hell this list is all about stuff that I don't like and I explain every single item on this list in detail. That way, if you disagree with one of my choices you can see why I made it. If you still think I'm wrong, you can look at my "working out" and show me where I went wrong. I like that, and it can make me a smarter person. I've learned a lot by being wrong and having someone point out the flaws in my logic, because I'm a skeptic. I question all of my decisions and I'm willing to change my mind.
So you bet damn well that it grinds my gears if I find someone who disagrees with me and once I ask 'why?' their response, rather than logic and intelligence, is "I dunno, I just don't like it."
This is frustrating, as I like a good debate for one, but even when people agree with me, it's annoying. I mean, if you don't know why you feel the way you do, then how do you even know that's your real opinion? How do you know it's true if it hasn't been tested?! If there's no evidence?
More than that, knowing the reasons behind your opinions can help you to know more about yourself and open up new possibilities. For instance, I hate mushrooms. But the reason I hate mushrooms is because of the texture. Because I know this, I gladly enjoy mushrooms on pizza (baked means they crisp up) and mushroom sauces (so long as its pureed). If I didn't know why I hated mushroom, I might have missed out!
This doesn't mean that you have to analyze everything but if you give me your opinion and I ask you "why?" and you don't know, the correct response is to say "I'm not sure yet, but I'll figure it out" and then proceeding to work it out, as soon as you can, then letting me know.

#01  "I was raped in that game, last night."
Before this gets misleading, I have to say I am not talking about victims of sexual abuse, here; and, in a way, that's kind of the point . . .
Did you feel sick in the pit of your stomach when you read that sentence? I did. Because rape is a horrible thing, not only for the physical violence it often requires, but also for the sense of violation and psychological collapse that occurs when something so personal is taken from your control. And also, on a much grander level, that within this culture we call 'civilized' there exist rapists that have so little respect and morality that they could do such a horrible thing. That is why I am getting more than a little annoyed that people are much too often using this terrible term as shorthand for "casual defeat".
When you perform poorly in an online game, or during communal recreation, it is NOT okay for you to make light of this word in such a horrible way. You are equating rape to a recreational activity. Something that not only doesn't matter, but in the context of the game this phrase implies that the rapist is the 'winner'. What the FUCK is wrong with you people?
What does that say about gender politics? What does that say about culture? Hell, what does it say about human empathy - or the lack thereof - when someone can treat something like rape with so little moral fortitude.
I'm not the Humour Police here, I get that people sometimes use these words for effect and it can be funny due to the audacity; but you're not Jimmy Carr and this isn't about a joke, it's about the desensitization towards a word of which we should not be desensitized!
So when you use the word 'rape' in this way, you are implying that rape is inconsequential, inevitable & desirable. You are disrespecting every single victim and normalizing a horrendous crime.
The worst part is, people are already so used to this term, they don't even seem to get it! Do you people even understand how disgusting this is?
This is not okay, and if I hear another person using this phrase, I feel like I'm going to strangle them. This just boils my blood, and if you don't see why that is a problem . . . I want you to take a corkscrew to the kneecaps you sick, heartless bastard!

Anyway, that's my list of phrases that need to go away. If you have any phrases you don't like, feel free to leave me a comment.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd and until next time, if you hear anyone utter any of these phrases, do us all a favour and reply with the phrase: "please, stop saying that"

1 comment:

  1. The term "I was raped" is the worst, because it's not funny, accurate, or sympathetic to actual victims of sexual assault. Especially since most cases of it don't get reported to the police or even receive a follow-up. The statistics can be startling for a wide-eyed idealist like myself.


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