Category Archives: Language

A Plethora of Hysteria

My last boyfriend had many sisters, half sisters, and stepsisters. He insisted on a family reunion which I was against from the start. What a pack of misfits. Cicada wouldn’t shut up, Rotunda broke my porch swing, and it was really hard to get rid of Remora. Neuralgia and Miasma gave me a headache and Candida and Chlamydia weren’t too appealing either. Rodentia, though cute, managed to gnaw through the main power cable, plunging us all into darkness. Hyena kept everyone up at night, and so did Ephedra. Not to mention that dimwit Cupola up there straddling the roof at 3 a.m.

Fistula, Influenza, and Trauma made extra work for everybody while Deliria and Phobia were needy and annoying. I could say the same for Coma, but at least she was quiet. Alfalfa, Chakra, and Yoga complained about Ganja, Hookah, and Tequila, provoking longstanding lifestyle differences (though I saw them slip into Sambuca’s room on several occasions). Urethra, Enema, and Bulimia hogged the bathroom which led to an abrasive altercation with Loofah. Tempura, Polenta, Tostada, and Lasagna joined forces with Spatula but even they were not safe from Granola’s snippy barbs.

As usual, there was bad blood between Piranha and Scuba. Polka aggravated Rumba, Magma and Tundra bickered, Siesta detested Tuba and who could blame her. Vanilla was a bore. Barista was so bloody perky that she finally woke up Inertia, causing second-degree burns to poor Stigma who was standing nearby. Amnesia was useless. Sepia looked so old! Academia and Diploma were always bragging and Replica was a complete phony. Pagoda was OK but Dogma, Myopia, and Propaganda were nothing but trouble. I do not wish to speak of Placenta. I was jealous of Lycra, distrustful of Nirvana, and mystified by Enigma. Only Charisma and Stamina didn’t attend—claimed they were out of the country. I should’ve done the same.

It didn’t end well. Junta, Militia, and Armada finally settled the conflicts—with Beretta. I am so done with reunions.

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Fueling the Cult of Resentment

The Racial Politics of Grammar Correction
The Week—December 1, 2013
A minority student group at the University of California, Los Angeles, is accusing a professor of racism for correcting grammar and punctuation in minority students’ assignments. The group, Students of Color, says ‘the grammar lessons are acts of micro-aggression’ that have created ‘a hostile class climate.’ Professor Val Rust said he was just trying to help students, but conceded they ‘don’t feel that is appropriate.’

I’ve been seeing signs of proper spelling and grammar being politically incorrect all over the Internet for a couple of years now. It’s not really surprising considering the war between liberal and conservative fundamentalists. Political fundamentalists will grab at anything, no matter how graceless or unproductive, to preserve their identity. If I showed this article to the very liberal community here, they would have no choice but to agree that correcting minority students’ grammar truly is hostile and aggressive and inappropriate, because they are the enablers who make claims like this possible.

True believers of either party are parodies of themselves. Blind-faith liberalism must be a gene just like religious zealotry–I don’t think followers can help it. I want to be one too, to lift this shame of not belonging, to fit in, to be able to sleep at night because I’m so damn right. I want to be convinced—but it’s as impossible to have a discussion with a devout liberal as it is asking a Jehovah’s Witness to explain their fervor. I’ve tried.

Last week one of my cleaning customers referred me to her neighbors, two feminist ladies. After my customer gave them my name and number, the two women said: She’s not a Christian, is she? No, my customer said, she’s an atheist. But what if my name were Juanita? Those women wouldn’t have dared ask if I was a Christian, they would’ve assumed and accepted it without a bleat.

In the very liberal LGBT community in this town, huddled together in colorful houses, everyone has intricate metal crosses and Our Lady of Guadalupe artwork all over their walls both inside and out. So, uh, the strong Christian faith of Latin America is what, quaint? Artsy? Adorable? Are the artifacts of the religion 90% of Latinos embrace just trendy, whimsical knickknacks? Doesn’t that seem kind of insulting, as if implying that nonwhite Christians are not smart enough to know any better? Why are they not held to the same intolerance shown to white Christians?

The voices of quietly questioning individuals who despise politics are not welcome here. It’s not enough that I support gay marriage (or, more honestly, whatever), and have been an atheist since I was a tween, the liberals here want all of my devotion. It’s assumed I feel exactly like they do about everything–that’s made clear by the political proclamations they make within the first five minutes of meeting me, without knowing anything about me. It’s my nature to ask questions, but if you dare admit you don’t believe the exact same thing they do, they’ll either shun you or yell at you. Both have happened to me here on numerous occasions, to the point where honestly I’d rather hang out with the rednecks. They’re a lot more fun, especially when drinking and eating carbs.

Is this what ‘belonging’ is all about? The word ‘conservative’ is now an obscenity, and everyone is encouraged to blame them loudly for all that is evil—in conversation (which is kind of joke these days), in TV shows, movies, stand-up comedy, social media (where it’s mandatory for all hip people to pass along link after link to news articles where conservatives have committed some imagined atrocity), and even in dictionary examples (that’s where they use the word in a sentence). It’s the worst thing you can be, and it’s saturated every layer of our society. Strangely though, I don’t know many people here who are raging conservatives, but I know an awful lot of angry liberals. Both are unpleasant and scary and convinced of their superiority.

If I prayed, I would pray for a warrior to rise up out of the ruins of America with brilliant ideas on how to get us working again. Not a Democrat, not a Republican, not someone whose master is a political party. An inventive, wise prodigy who wouldn’t make me feel ashamed of proofreading my work. No chance of that happening, so let the hate mail begin.

 

A Smokin’ Cover Letter

lividia.lapsus@chronic.com
8/20/12  4:20 p.m.

Dear Mr. DeStickler,

I am writhing to applify for the poofreader position you have adversitized in Obscure Jobs Monthly. I overstand you seek a detailed person—I pay acension to many details and would be happy to provoke you with a list. The requireships for this deployment and my commandeering use of linguage are a perfect match.

Let me be a blunt. I am very dispendable and pried myself on being resluts-oriented. I am self-deficient and dipsomatic with a divisive backgrowned in fending misteaks. I aslo have execrable communicable skills, deadication, and always finish what I star

My bong-term experience in the wirting world has taught me how impotent it is to be articular in educationable pubications.

I look to forwarding an intervention with you soon.

Sincerably yours,

Lividia Lapsus

____________________________________________________

lividia.lapsus@chronic.com
8/20/12  4:25 p.m.

Dear Mr. DeStickler,

I just relized I flailed to detach my resume. I am currently quality control manger at a despinrady in Arizona. I mean dinspedary, no that’s not right…depinsnary? Wait, dispensary. See how I checked the spelling? Dude please. I need a new job.

Thank you in advants for your consinderation.

Lividia

Cosmic Effluvium

I met Planchette in a pasture where we were both staring at goats—he was hoping for some new kidskin gloves, I just wanted to snap a few photos. He claimed we met by coincidence but I realize now how random encounters are much more certain to occur when one person is stalked. Next thing I know we’re speaking in tongues and he was laying hands on me. Much was made of his expertise in touch therapy, but he was your basic medium. Planchette put the sham in shamanic healing and taught me the true meaning of mentalism.

I experienced a vision of life reincarnated but it turned out I just needed stronger glasses. His approach to our relationship was holistic—he wanted comprehensive possession. I made the mistake of mocking his new-age views so he insisted I submit to past-life regression—now I’m channeling a two-year-old. He promised we’d transmigrate to an oracle of divine relocation but instead I landed in a near-death experience.  His audible frequencies usually put me in a somnambulistic trance and teleported me to a higher unconsciousness, and he was always mad that I didn’t return his telepathic voice mails. Sometimes I’d turn ghostly white and start scrying.

Planchette boasted he was certified with the Countrywide Collusion of Simulated Psychics. We’d often hand out coupons for free dream interpretation via text messaging, then direct them to his website where he sold shamanic healing kits. The kits included tiny drums, rattles, his new CD The Dronings of Our Ancestors, some mild stimulants, and a package of Kleenex, all assembled in a handy carrying case for the paranormal price of $189.95.

It’s true he had a hypnotic effect on me but thank goodness I was fine once the narcotics wore off. I intuited I was in the gateway, maybe even the vestibule, of a psychic disturbance so I sat down to engage in some automatic writing, but what came out bent my pen. Next time I feel the need for an astral projection I think I’ll just stay home.

You’re So Vane, You Probably Think this Storm is About You

Dear Kelvin,
I’m all for whirlwind romance, but cool it with the high pressure, it’ll only result in a squall. All this hot air has prompted a wind advisory. Just because you have a few degrees from Contrail Community College doesn’t make you a supercell.

Dear Glacia,
Oooh, blustery. Thanks a lot for the cold front. Whatever happened to “oh baby you raise my dew point like no one else?” You seemed pretty saturated to me last night but then you always were a little hoary.

Kelvin,
Sorry but my humidity is relative. We’ve been drifting for a while now and the effects are cumulus. Must you drizzle? You’re like a fog that never lifts. It shouldn’t be a surprise my subtropical region is in a depression. What do you want me to do, sit and spin? No wait, I’d need a vertical axis for that.

Glacia,
You should be glad my visibility was poor last night because you were a category 5 disaster. Did you actually pay for that new permafrost? What, in centigrade? And you blew through that row of desserts like a cyclone. Weren’t you embarrassed by the evacuations? Try getting your face out of the trough now and then and you might appear more gradient.

Kelvin,
I predicted that torrent. You overcast me with your wit. It wasn’t my idea to eat at the High Winds Buffet, so chill out. I need to circulate before I vaporize into atmosphereless haze. By the way, how’s the job down at the cloud bank?

Glacia,
Turbulent but thanks for asking. How’s yours slinging funnel cake at the state fair? Good luck starting at absolute zero. Your density precipitates you.

Kelvin,
What in hail are you talking about, you nimbus? You know I don’t speak Celsius.

Glacia, let’s clear up this unstable anticlimate. Wanna meet me at the Isobar?

Kelvin, can I take a rain check?

Aw c’mon Glacia, give me a 50% chance. Afterward we can play twister.

Kelvin, you don’t really deserve inclemency…but if I can ride your thermal and you promise to wear a windsock…

Glacia, to the stratosphere, you little dust devil! I’ll set up the lightning rod…

Small Mercies

I’m on a mission, one that keeps me from self-destruction. Each of us in our own spheres of influence have the power to do good. It might not seem like much in the grand scheme, but collectively it matters. Maybe our presence will prevent someone from doing harm. The world is already so warped by meanness the least I can do is stand my ground—if nothing more than to spite the next bully who comes along.

More Verbal Entropy: These portmanteau words are driving me crazy. OK so it’s fun to think of a blend of two words to express a concept. Sometimes you luck out and find two words that roll easily off the tongue or are clever. What’s creepy is how ubiquitous this trend is, kept alive through the vast internet. Here are some we didn’t need: dramality, flexitarian, jealousify, listicle, mirthquake, swacket, undoplasty, welebrity. Worth a giggle if you thought it up yourself, but there is nothing new here, just bland pop culture mistaken for originality. I’ll bet most people who love words make up their own anyway. Here’s one I just thought of…it’s true we live in a mediocracy, but it’s powered by the mediacracy!

Then there’s disemvoweling which evolved from texting, forums, etc. You know it’s a major trend when Madonna puts out an album called MDNA and we all know what it means (though the ‘a’ remains, disemvoweling normally strikes vowels only). There are even apps to help you spell words wrong. I guess we should be happy that texting drivers skip the vowels, but it’s just one more trend contributing to modern-day illiteracy. However, the word disemvoweling itself is an expressive and useful word. Another newish word that fulfills a need is petrichor. The eloquent definition for this glossy word from OUP is “the pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather. Origin: A blend of petro- ‘relating to rocks’ (the smell is believed to be caused by a liquid mixture of organic compounds that collects in the ground) and ichor.” I can’t wait to use this word word when monsoon starts, because who doesn’t love that magical earthy smell.

Search engine term of the month: Search engine terms are bizarre and sometimes repulsive. When I write about pitbull abuse, I get hits looking for how to abuse a dog so it will fight. It’s a depressing way to learn about depravity. A few months ago I posted some photos of a vintage fridge-sink-stovetop unit from the fifties, and this month’s most revealing search term was “sex with appliencs.” Yeah dude, come on over to Find an Outlet for some spicy appliance porn. I’ll show you how to cut a glory hole in the back of a stove, because nothing screams orgasm like 220 volts.

Politics. Ugh. The bumper sticker below sums up exactly how many of us feel. We long for sane leadership but don’t see anyone who is in touch with real life. Six months ago we were confronted with the world population reaching 7 billion—millions of articles addressed it and suggested strategies. Now the biggest issue raging in Republican politics is contraception? How can this be happening? Is the media pushing this to alienate the candidates? It’s working, they’re turning women away in droves. For god’s sake give free birth control to anyone who wants it in the world—instead of aid, send birth control. Think of it as a low-cost contribution to saving the planet before it reaches the 8 billion projected for 2025 (if we’re still here). Do they think people (especially kids) are going to abstain—are they kidding? Anything but.

Some states force insurance companies pay out enormous sums for fertility treatments, and there are movements to lobby the government to pay if you’re not covered. Taxpayers have funded $240 million through Medicare during the last decade for penis pumps for old men—is that okay?  This is not a time to spotlight personal religious beliefs while solid plans for our country’s (and planet’s) future remain hazy. More and more people say they may not vote at all, and that might include me. I absolutely cannot support Obama, but neither can I vote for someone who is so misogynistic that they would deny abortion in case of rape. If this happens, expect protests that will make the Occupiers look like kittens. I really, really want a generator.

Instead of uniting all us Demoblicans and Republicats, they are dividing us into two nasty camps like never before, leaving millions of Americans disgusted. It’s exactly what won’t work.

Bumper sticker displayed by someone who probably won't vote.

Why. Why can’t people proofread. Would you get your new tat done here? Remember that song by Offspring?
"Now he's getting a tattoo yeah, he's getting ink done
He asks for a 13, but they drew a 31!"

There's a joke here about the pervasive plastic bags stuck to prickly pears and everything else—it's the state flower of Arizona.

The barren Huachucas are a stark contrast to the cottonwoods greening up along the San Pedro River. We hope the recent snow helps new life spring from the fire-ravaged mountains.

An amazing old face of someone who looks like she's been through hard times. I'll bet she's got a thing or two to teach us.

Jada, on left, 6 months ago. Jasmine just told her to go lie down and she's pretending she is. If only it lasted longer than 30 seconds.

And here she is now, about a year old. She's now officially the biggest dog of the pack, and I don't think she's done growing. But she's still a work in progress and will be for a while. She's a great new feature of our security system though.

Last year's seed pods and new growth of the scale-like leaves on my favorite southwest tree, the alligator juniper.

Happy little non-killer bee (the plant was full of them) on a gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) doing what they do best.

It's very warm here and everything is either flowering or about to.

Mwahaha! Some people have ridiculous amounts pillows on their beds or sofas, made goofier by all these huge tags sticking out. It's OK to cut them off, really, no one will arrest you! I applied scissors to this one myself. I had to.

We're now boarding two beautiful rescued horses. I'm not doing it for the (nominal) money, nor because I'm in love with horses, though they sure are growing on me. I'm doing it for the neighborhood. People trying to leave are dumping their houses cheap or renting them. The owners of these horses have their home up for sale nearby, and one of the reasons they want to leave is because they were driving back and forth twice a day to a town 28 miles away to board them. Now they're here, minutes away, and I hope the owners won't move, or at least that they won't give their house away for nothing, which is what you have to do to escape. Some of the new people moving in to my neighborhood are real low-rent. We've had the sheriffs out here a couple times in the past month, prompting us to turn our little house into a fortress. And there was a major drug bust here a month or so ago, complete with cops, border patrol, DEA, sniffer dogs, and hazmat suits.

The Difference between Satire and Sarcasm

I stay away from commenting on political blogs because I have to watch my blood pressure. But reading a friend’s blog the other day, I saw a commenter heckling the writer with sarcasm. The writer maintained civility, but finally told the commenter how rude he was. At this point I entered the fray and tried to explain to the commenter that we do want to hear what you have to say, but can’t take sarcastic comments seriously. The commenter’s reply was this:

“Sarcasm is a great tool when debating politics. Where would we be without satirists in this country? Its use works quite well. While it may irritate some, its purpose is to illustrate the ridiculousness some adhere to without peering beyond their particular veiled perspective.”

The commenter probably thinks he really taught me a lesson. He did, but not the one he intended. I know from experience that when people are scornful and sarcastic, you must let them have the last word, so I did not point out that these two words are not interchangeable. If you battle a sarcastic commenter, it will never end.

There’s a reason great satirists of the world are beloved. Think Ambrose Bierce, Oscar Wilde, H.L. Mencken, Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker, Joseph Heller, Tom Lehrer, Woody Allen, Christopher Guest, Monty Python, The Onion. Satire is intended to educate, make a point, or show absurdity in a brilliant, witty, and humorous manner. Sarcasm is what gets you sent to your room, embroiled in a bar fight, or fired. Sarcasm is wounding and is a favorite tool of bullies. Satire and sarcasm are the difference between the Wall Street Journal and a tabloid, Masterpiece Theatre and Jersey Shore, leadership and tyranny.

It’s also the most overused and ineffective device used by Internet commenters who are full of their own perceived superiority. I can think of no worse way to get someone to see your point of view than sarcasm. It’s not funny, not clever, not gracious. It’s what ten-year-olds having a tantrum do, what married couples who hate each other do, or what the co-worker nobody in the office can stand does. No good can come of it because it’s intended to be humiliating rather than constructive. Here you are desperately trying to win people over, and all you’re doing is further alienating them.

I am open to discussing politics without fury, with a rational, intelligent communicator. Sarcastic comments put your immaturity on display for all the world to see. It’s right up there with showing the top of your G-string above your jeans or spitting a wad of phlegm in public.