In my view, the world is divided into four easily-demarcated classes – listed here with examples of what they might write to you in a typical e-mail presented parenthetically, so you can begin to understand what I mean:
1. The illiterate ( “ni2e4nrtio24r9 .” )
2. The functionally-literate-but-barely-awake ( “omg lol did u c that new heros last night???? omg lol!” )
3. The pretend-literate ( “Needless to say, blah blah blah point that wasn’t worth making and really was needless to say, but I said it anyway.” )
4. The literate ( “Diane,”. )
The first class is thankfully small, and the last class is unfortunately even smaller. Internet discourse is increasingly dominated by the two middle classes, and it’s getting harder every day to put up with their shenanigans.
I come to you not to complain about rofl, lol, omg, omfg, roflmao, pwn, letters substituted for words, or ones used in place of exclamation marks. These things have been griped into the ground, and in any case, there’s no stemming the tide of doped-up teenagers who have read many times more words in text messages than in books. The sea of dumb is well past the point of being sandbagged back; it will take our coastlines as it wishes. English teachers and old people – give the fuck up.
No, Diane, the last significant territory over which we can make war is the ground occupied by the pretend-literate and their sorry repetition of very sorry catchphrases. The pretend-literate are just smart enough and status-conscious enough to be ashamed of themselves when someone smarter than them points out that the things they say have no meaning – or have been repeated so mindlessly as to have lost what meaning they once had. We need to put them on this wheel of shame, and keep it a-turnin’. To that end, I give you a list of pet phrases, expressions, cliches, and words that these well-meaning primates are driving us crazy by over-use thereof; I hope you’ll make full use of it.
1. “Needless to say.” Needless to say, I hope it would go without saying that I have made my point on how needless it is to say “needless to say.”
2. “That being said.” This was at one time a reasonable and useful way to separate disparate threads of an argument, but it has since been devalued by all the people who insist on starting every third sentence with it because dang it, some of those sentences just didn’t seem long enough or have quite enough commas in them. For all of the good folks who are still using this phrase correctly, I’m sorry, but you have to find a new way to say the same thing. This one’s plum wore out.
3. “All things being equal.” Do you know what that means, or do you just like the way it sounds? Well, all things being equal…
4. “At the end of the day.” This is what you will be saying at the end of your life. Because I will be killing you. After you say. It.
5. “Sorry, but…” This is just sarcasm for lazy people. You’re going to need to mock what I actually said if you want to make me feel dumb. When all you can do is go through the textbook maneuvers, I’m going to stop playing nice and win the argument in six moves or less.
6. “To be fair…”/”In all fairness…” This is the epitome of a filler clause. No one ever says this to qualify their argument with fairness. It is now used just to separate sentences. It’s the new version of “um” or “like” for college-educated people.
7. “Honestly…”/”To tell the truth…”/”I can honestly say…”/”The truth is…” Why do people feel the need to constantly qualify their language with assertions that they aren’t lying? Could it be because they usually lie like sacks of lawn waste? Or is it because they are monkeys who just learned how to spice up their simple ideas with words that make things seem vaguely more complex and intellectual?
Tired references and threadbare quotations
1. Occam’s Razor. Yes, we all took Philosophy 101. It turns out that you are not the only person who has ever heard of this extremely simple concept. You’re just the only pretentious gasbag in the room who thinks it’s pertinent to every message board discussion of anything. The next time you are about to bring this up, I would ask that you stop yourself and instead copy-and-paste in the following text: I have a bachelor’s degree in communications and make $26,000 a year in my shitty entry-level office job. I will never be any better than this. And there’s a good chance that I may get a lot worse.
2. The Uncanny Valley. I blame Roger Ebert for the propogation of this meme, as he apparently ran into the idea somewhere and mentioned it in a couple of his movie reviews (for movies involving CGI-rendered humans, obviously; I didn’t look it up but I would bet he first referred to this theory in connection with “The Polar Express”). Prior to Ebert mentioning and explaining it, I had never heard of The Uncanny Valley, and I thought it was mildly interesting (and somewhat obvious). After the second time I saw it in an Ebert review, I noticed that it started popping up all over the internet. Today, a Google search for “Uncanny Valley” yields 369,000 results. Sigh.
3. There’s no there there. Where? Anywhere. There’s never any there there. All the there there was, is gone. Stop looking for it.
4. The emperor has no clothes. Yes, he fucking well does. The next time someone uses this expression near me, it had better be referring to a literal emperor, and his danglies better be swinging in the morning breeze.
1. “Batshit insane.” It’s a real pity when a humorous, very evocative, and downright folksy expression like this one is flogged to death ahead of its time. Which reminds me of…
2. “Bugfuck nuts.” You can thank the internet at large, and Ain’t It Cool News in particular, for exhausting both of these. Apparently Harry Knowles and his acolytes need two different expressions for the same thing, so constantly are they describing someone or -thing as completely crazy.
3. “Oh noes!” As in, oh noes! We said something eighty million times in one month and now it’s no longer funny!
4. “You owe me a new keyboard.” I haven’t kept up with the internet all that well, so it’s possible this one has gone through some weird ironization process* that now makes it clever to say something really stupid. Or more likely, it’s just still a bunch of stupid people saying something really stupid in a non-ironic manner. I have done some calculations, and if my math is correct**, no one has ever actually ruined a keyboard by spitting liquid on it while laughing at a joke in the entire history of the universe. This is especially true when the joke in question involves the words “oh noes.”
5. “The internets”/”The interweb”/etc. Sadly, it’s time to move past this once-mildly amusing in-joke. Yes, it’s funny that old timers don’t get technology. But it’s somewhat less funny that most of those old timers actually know how to speak, while as a collective, we PC-addicted young’uns are slowly turning the English tongue into a rubbery bag of bullshit. Needless to say, Diane, and in all fairness… it’s time to crank that shame wheel again.
* The process of adding irony.
** It’s not.