Last week I was in the local college cafeteria and struck up a “conversation” with a student. He was telling me about choosing a major.
“So the padre wants me to be a doctor. Chem? O-M-G. I mean I was like freaking! I literally had to take a moment, ya’ know? OK, so I met this dude and him and me connected! I’m so over medicine. He gave me this awesome idea – to major in English.”
“He gave me this totally awesome idea -- major in English.”
“Later,” he added, leaving with his Smoothie. What “later?” I missed out on the present.
This week I found myself e-mailing a young client who “lol’s” and “IMHOs” a lot. When I re-read it, to my horror, noticed I wrote “kewl” and “totally” twice, then inserted three Smiley faces, and used :) or): seven times. I have no idea if they mean happy, sad, laughing, screaming, yet here I was “talking” tweenie-toon ’n text.
True, each generation undergoes a period of linguistic rebellion that fortunately fades around the legal drinking age (to help us forget “groovy,” “splitsville,” “Daddy-O!” and 23 skidoo”). And true, some of these words have remained with us. But today, in our attention deficit digital world, are 80 million "millennials" or Gen-Yers attempting to add new concepts to the lexicon? No. Their entire mission is to a: shorten, b) lengthen to buy time to shorten, c) create hysteria to make themselves reality-TV-worthy. In this new short-speak who has time to say a whole word, or think of more than three adjectives? I mean, really, did Elizabeth B. Browning need to count like, all the ways she “Loved Thee” when she could’ve written: “UR Awesome?”
I’m offended. Yes, I’m offended as an American, as a writer, and mostly as a literate Boomer, who thought I was suffering from a small aneurism when I accidentally tuned in to Snooki on Jersey Shore. For those similarly offended, I bring you …
THE MOST OBNOXIOUS MILLENNIAL-SPEAK
Fillers, head-splitters, or “so nu, say something nu already! Nu?”
Joining the always fascinating “ …ummmm” and “uhhh ...” which have no place in a sentence unless you’re conducting a séance or in the lotus position, the millennials have created new ways to say absolutely nothing … repeatedly.
Most likely to make you dizzy: They were like at my door and said, ‘like … wanna hang’ and … well, so I was … like ‘Ya’ know … I mean … UGH! … So anyways …
Unless of course there’s an impediment involved, this selective verbal tourette is catching and capable of creating seizures in the listener.
Adjverbs & “Nounsense” Anyone?
Wordsmiths have played with parts of speech with “amazing” results. Dr. Seuss alone created a generation of creative grammarians who have managed to Hyper-size, thereby elevating the simplest feeling to “diva-worthy.”
*“Those jeans are awesome! Amazing!” The discovery of Black Holes was amazing, awesome. The discovery of designer holes in your black jeans – not.
*“I am soo done with/soo over her.” This redundancy suggests you’re soo not done that it will take another 17 “soo overs” till it’s “soo done.”
*“When he asked me out I actually/literally died.” In which case, you’ll be a cheap date. Literally.
* “Dude, that was one fierce mint.” Unless it was made of plutonium, “minty” (along with anything that doesn’t involve tigers or a tsunami) isn’t mighty, and you’re a wuss.
*“I’ll sooo freak out if I can’t get those Nike Air Force 1’s!” If the inability to afford Presidential plane sneakers is a “bummer” capable of sending tweenies spewing pea soup, their parents should be “freaking.”
*“That hair cut makes you look totally amazing. All you need is Acne-Be-Gone, and a retainer to look awesome, totally.” May I suggest the new term for the not totally “totally” be “wholly totally.”
*“Stop Barack-ing.” “He’s totally Mubarak-ing.” Turning VIPPYS into “adjverbs” may be kewl, assuming you read enough news to know who you’re talking about with whom, which you don’t if you’re busy turning people into parts of speech.
The millennials have shown genius in creating sarcastic speedy “nasty-isms.” My pick for the four most obnoxious:
“Ya' think …?” “Hel-o-oooo?!” “Duh!” “Whatever.”
Translation: “You’re wayyy too stupid to live.”
“Whatever” (whateva) has achieved the rarefied status of being the most noxious in some polls. If you’re too stupid to live, they’re too stupid to care.
“We got bin Laden!”
“I need brain surgery.”
“Your girlfriend’s chatting on “Singles & Looking.”
“ DUH! Whatever.”
Teeth Grinders: The Pompous, Ponderous, Platitudes
Not all ear-bleeders are caused or used by Gen-Yers. Here is my list of the totally annoying we hear from news people and colleagues.
*“It is what it is.” Mamalas you’re no Gertrude Stein.
* “Closure.” Achieved only when they lower the coffin.
* “Toxic” If people are – pui-- poisoning you? Move!
* “Agree to Disagree” He’s an idiot altogether.
* “The Bottom Line” You couldn’t have started at the top?
* “Going Forward …” And I was looking to go backwards?
* “Think Outside the Box” Why were you inside a furshlugginer box in the first place!?
* “Empowered” Head straight to OA (Oprah Anonymous). It’s the highest rated show on OWN – after the “empowerment” of Fergie and the O’Neals.
So…my solution to this hideous lingo butchering is simple. Say it right in English, and for those “opinion” moments, say it in Yiddish. Yes! Every word, every expression in glorious Mama-loshen is a thesaurus!
All you have to know are: “Oy,” “oy-oy-oy,” “Ai-ai-ai!” “Aha!” and “Hoo ha!”
“When he asked me out I literally died” “Ai ai ai!”
“That dude is so kewl.” “Hoo ha!”
“You threw me under the bus” “Aha!”
“I am sooo freaked.” “Oy-oy-oy!!!!”
That’s it. We Jews may not be big “hummers or mumblers” but passion? Making a magnificent tsimmis over everything from a good flanken to a bad one, is a linguistic specialty. And with a little inflection and fine-tuning, you can make Yiddish-speak suitable to all occasions!