Monday, February 4, 2008

Bathroom Monologue: Weeding the Garden of American English

Speakers of English, I implore you to treat your language a little better than a truck stop bathroom. "For a fraction of the price" is meaningless, because 1/1 is a fraction. So is 2/1. It’s just rude to say something is "literally" happening when it isn't but you don't care because "literally" has become the oral equivalent of bolding text. And when people describe a politician's "meteoric rise," do they realize that meteors don't rise? They crash, at quite high velocity, sometimes killing almost everything on the planet. You don't rise like a meteor any more than you run like a corpse or thrive like compost. If you ever rise like a meteor, get it on film. You'll get into Ripley's for sure.

These miscarriages of the language are responsible for the third greatest number of unpublishable bathroom monologues (behind politics and action figures). The worst offense is "evolution." Evolution is a wonderful theory that is so obviously at least partially right that if it is false, well, then I wasted forty minutes a day for a week in high school that I could have spent being bored in the hallway. Evolution is the sometimes-chaotic change over a period of generations in the lines of living creatures, specifically manifesting through the alteration of gene sequences that produce heritable biological traits that generally provide some benefit to the organism’s chance or rate of reproduction. Cars in this country did not evolve. Teen fashion does not evolve. The HIV virus evolves. The menu at Starbucks does not evolve, nor does anyone who has ever ordered anything off of it.

Individual human beings do not evolve. Ever. You grew, you grew up, you matured, you learned, you adapted, you expanded, you gained experience, you changed, you aged, and possibly, once in a while, you became a better person. But you did not evolve. Evolution occurs across several generations. No matter what your psychologist tells you or how much you feel like a new person after a day at the spa, you didn't evolve. Stop using the word like that. I understand that you don't want to use "change" anymore, as you've known it since you were four and it's lost its buzz, but if you're really so bored with all the accurate words you could be using, then make up a new one. Latin and Greek roots aren't doing anything tonight. Give 'em a call. Fucking "bootylicious" and "d'oh" got into the dictionary. It's not that hard. But leave evolution out of it. It's busy enough, hopefully creating a dominant life form with a less retarded way of communicating than speech. Oh, and about "retarded..."

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