As a writer you’d think I’d at least try to be a scholar of the English language. Not so much. Although maybe a little more grammar conscious than the average bear, I have a command of the English language that stops at about the platoon level. However like all of us, I’m out there in the world, subjected to what others believe is a grasp of wordstuffs that will both satisfy utilitarian communication and more importantly, impress the opposite sex.
That’s where catch phrases infiltrate and contaminate the English language with weeds of stupidity that cover our feeble minds like kudzu – and won’t let go. Nothing separates man from our former apelike selves like stupid, infectious catch phrases. “Heard that,” “Get r done,” “In the house,” “Give it up,” “KnowwhaI’msayin’,” “Go for it” and the teeny bopper misuse of “like” are just some of the offhand remarks that make me cringe and weep for the future of our country’s intelligence ranking among developed nations.
Recently I overheard someone use the popular phrase “I ain’t ever seen anything like it” to describe an event, living creature or Wal-mart shelf filler that somehow amazed their otherwise sharp and unimpressionable mind. It was the casual way they just rattled it off without really thinking about what they were saying that really disappointed me. It was almost like the phrase had either become so watered down in their normal rotation of amazement exclamations that it was simply second nature or, even more sadly, there are a lot of common everyday things the comparable likes of which they’ve never seen. Either way, I felt a little sorry for that person.
While watching some concert on television I heard a rock n’ roll lead singer offer up the common rhetorical rebel rousing “We’re having a great time, are we not?” to which to crowd responded, as usual, with cheers of agreement. This one really baffled me. If you think about it, what this accomplished vocalist wants to establish with the first phrase, “we’re having a good time,” is confirmation that the crowd is in fact enjoying the night’s performance which, if so, would merit cheers of agreement. However, by adding the needless suffix “are we not?” the singer has turned the phrase around to imply some sort of negative connotation that means, when you reorganize the sentence to make sense states “we’re not having a great time, agreed?” So the crowd’s cheers, in this case, should actually be boo’s in order to generate the intended response. That is, unless the lead singer is looking for an excuse to get back to his drugs and groupies backstage.
The crème de la crème of useless phrases in my book is the completely ridiculous “it is what it is.” The intent of this phrase has some merit. If you are making a bigger deal out of something than need be (like the content of this column for example), you can quickly bring the matter at hand back down to its baseline of importance with this phrase. What I’ve noticed however is that people are using it in vain attempts to sound philosophical, or at least smarter than they actually are. This really hit home when Kate of the famous octagon family “Kate Plus Eight” used the phrase to describe both her divorce and the responsibility of raising that many children on her own. When you answer an interview question with a response that not only doesn’t provide any sort of explanation but in this case doesn’t provide ANY information at all, then you have failed English. Do over.
Chuck Crowder is a local writer and general man about town. His opinions are his own.