posted by killre
You don't necessarily have to be a fan of the show to recognize what the writers, producers, directors, et cetera of NBC's Parenthood have accomplished. Recently named one of the twenty best shows on television, it is an hour-installment, scripted drama populated by a pantheon of characters who are all utterly bereft of any but the tiniest, torn shreds of eloquence. They stumble their way through the American dialect as if they have heard it before, but have never really understood what much of it meant. I can't figure out if it's a queer kind of genius influenced by reality television or if the writers are, in genuine reality, every bit as verbally stunted as their characters.
Trace evidence suggests it is the former, if only because they were able to slip the following line of dialog into last Thursday's episode (I believe it worth noting the line was delivered by a satellite character, not a representative of the main cast). I wanted to reproduce it here because I think it speaks to the spirit of our banner:
"I'm dying. It's like a hall pass to be blunt. Plus I'm really high."
One need not be a philosopher to note: We're all dying-- it's just a question of how quickly.
If, on the other hand, the reason for their characters' ineloquence is the latter, and the writers of the show lack even the linguistic competence to justify doing five over on "the 5" (Californians haven't the faintest clue what an "Interstate" is), they certainly wouldn't be alone. In "Idiosyntaxies, Part One," I investigated the history and interpretations of the expression the pen is mightier than the sword. A symbolistically updated version of the sentiment would be: The computer keyboard is mightier than the rifle. In this modernized metaphor, the words formed by the keystrokes are the bullets-- because, as we all know, guns don't kill people... bullets do.
We live in an era and in a society where it seems all we ever do is express ourselves. (No, I don't have a mirror handy. Why do you ask?) Movies, television, You Tube, radio, podcasts, Facebook, books, blogs, texts, tweets and something apparently called a "meme" --a word with all the aural panache of a malformed, premature kitten-- somebody expresses themselves and then somebody else expresses their thoughts on the first individual's self-expression and then a third person comments on that and then someone does the verbal equivalent of sticking their tongue out and away we go in a digitally connected shouting match that, heh, soon devolves into a digitally conducted shouting match. Well, assuming the metaphor holds insofar as words can be equated with bullets and the internet is a cybernetic wild west, at least in spirit, it seems to me millions of people are metaphorically striding down the dusty street at high noon armed with weapons that are partially loaded with blanks.
Consider some of the following constructs that are growing like weeds in our English garden...
Wholeentire. Sample sentence: "Dick had not kissed a girl in his wholeentire life." This is a compound word comprised of the component parts whole, which means "all of," and entire, which means "all of." Apparently, all ain't what it used to be. Mathematically, the existence of this word implies that 100% no longer equals 100%. Someone should alert Cal Tech. Philosophically, it suggests there's another level of wholeness beyond, you know, wholeness. With this in mind, it is easy to presume the term was coined by a theologian... or maybe somebody who was just really high. Either way, it was high time those of us north of the Mason-Dixon and west of the Pecos had our own version of the country-fried "all y'all," because verbal virtuosity like that needed to be replicated.
Personal note: I have been known to respond to the use of wholeentire in one of two ways: "Is that anything like totalcomplete?" or "Hole in tire? You mean you have a flat?" In certain situations, responses like these have been categorized as self-[rooster]blocking and the reason we're firing you.
Bighuge. Sample: "Jane thought Spot was a bighuge dog, but her previous experience was limited to Chihuahuas." Similar to the previous example, this is a compound word. It is the marriage of big, which means "large," and huge, which means "large." This has become the go-to term for a frightening number of Americans for whom enormous, giant, gigantic, humongous, mammoth, immense, vast,... let's see... oh yeah, large, massive, spacious, bulky, ample, important, significant --or, for that matter, the simple modifier very-- are foreign words that cause a faint crossing of the eyes and a dull ache just behind the temple. Nothing bighuge, mind you, just a mild discomfort.
Personal note: Oddly enough, I'm not bothered even slightly by tinylittle; I am, however, bothered immensely by Tiny Tim.
Whether or not... or not. Sample: "Dick couldn't decide whether or not to invite Suzy down to the swimming hole or not." You have probably seen or heard myriad examples of this construct, whether or not you realize it or not. It is tempting to suppose it is either used by, or perhaps used to portray, somebody who is so addled they ponder their options twice in a single thought. More likely, it is simply an example of someone who, by the finish of a sentence, has forgotten how they started.
Personal note: Or not.
Also... as well. Sample: "Jane also liked that Spot was a very friendly dog as well." There are a number of variations of this example, using interchangeable terms. While not technically compound words, because they tend to be used in separate locations within a sentence, they definitely double each other's definitions and, to use the gunfighting-with-blanks metaphor, accomplish little aside from making noise. Also means "in addition to;" as well means "in addition to." See what I mean?
Likewise, additionally and moreover also mean the same thing as well, too.
Is is. Sample: "What Dick's dilemma is is that while Wendy is the prettier girl, Suzy is the faster one." This construct is gaining traction with alarming rapidity. I'm tempted to say is... um... is the language's most passive verb, but doing so would ignore its past-tense form was and, in turn, that word's plural form were, whose only attractive feature is that it still has more sonic impact than meme. That said, is... ahem... is pretty passive, and its definition is absolute: "to be." One wouldn't think we'd need to double down on it. After all, Shakespeare had Hamlet soliloquize, "To be or not to be," not, "To be and to be." I guess, though, a world that needs wholeentire to describe a realm of wholeness that exists beyond wholeness also needs is is to describe an existence beyond existence. It stands to reason.
Are-are is actually a word... in Dolphin.
Two thousand and. Sample: "By the end of two thousand and thirteen, Jane was a disappointed divorcee with an unhealthy connection to her dog." To begin, I think the moment has long passed when we can start referring to the years of this century as twenty-whatever. Failing that, can we at least drop the word and? In math, and indicates a decimal point. Two thousand and thirteen actually transcribes as "2,000.13" or, granted some leeway, "2000 and 13." Two thousand and anything is a chamber-full of syllables. Waste your bullets elsewhere, Broadside.
Personal note: Due to several factors, it's possible I'll not post again before the end of the year. I already have something cooking, however, for the first week of 2000 and 14.
P.S.... Dan "Whether Or Not You Like The Slogan 'Show off your Impiou-Tee' Or Not, You Must Recognize What A Bighuge Compromise It Is Is. So Pleased Am I That The Wholeentire Debate Is Is Over, I Won't Point Out The Letter U Is Is Extraneous. 'Impi-o-Tee' Would Also Have Worked, As Well" Hicks must go.