It’s Like, Basically Awesome?

There is a tide of rubbishy words approaching, a flotsam and jetsam cluttering up our shores.Collecting some, a mudlark in reverse, here is my latest assortment.

Meet up with – why these extra prepositions? Do these people never actually meet face to face and have the courage to look into each others eyes? Why else do they need the ‘up’ and the ‘with’? These are unnecessary invisible fences.
(A far sadder version is the term beat up on. Do they miss? Why otherwise the ‘up’ and ‘on’? They either hit someone or they don’t. This is trying to pretty it up, by suggesting a nuance of distance; as if they are not actually hitting the target-usually someone’s face.)

Floor – A recent aircrash in London and a passer-by interviewed said that debris was falling onto the ‘floor.’Floor! Out-of-doors road surface, tarred, macadamed,bitumened, pavements flagged or paved or also tarred; stone, grit, paving-stones, puddles and general what-have-you.Absolutely no trace of wooden floorboards (varnished, polished or not,)no lino, optional rugs or carpets or marble tiles in sight.
At some time soon, an entire criminal case will hinge on the word ‘floor,’ whether the witness saw something/someone drop to the floor, being either on the rugby field or in the library with Miss Plum and Colonel Mustard.

Hi – The number of literary and political figures who send out really important information which enfolds some gravitas; yet the email or letter begins with ‘Hi’ as if we were teenagers, American, and in a 1960s film.There is no guidance, by the way, in PCs for Dummies.

Check it out – Oh dear.They don’t (see ‘meet up’ with’ above) trust you. They are going to check out your book, poem, cafe menu,website or photos. No mere looking at, no;’check’ implies a clipboard of prerequisites that you are going to be measured against. They have a list.

Drizzled – Please, please let us reclaim this from the kitchens of posh eateries, from its Balsamic Vinegar habitat and get it back out into the winter streets, where the rain drizzles just as you are coming out of work.

Basically – “So,Basically, you live in Skegness.” This little,well, four-syllabic word, often inserted to gain time, is now used as a conjunction, whereas it’s really an adverb, made for presenting a list of stripped-down essentials.The luxury version and the basic version. It brings up images of camp beds in the spare room, shops’ own-brand biscuits or cereal and school uniforms.”Who basically told her to name her price.” But what else did they say?

Buy into – An import from America? You cannot enter a conversation now without some invisible money-tokens, Monopoly money. Agreement or disagreement (= not buy into) are no longer free emotional decisions – you buy and sell opinions and ideas. So someone whom everyone agrees with/’buys into’ will be popular/and rich, perhaps these days, both.Its the new capitalism claiming the words right out of your mouth. (Have a read of The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein)

Literally – From being almost a direct quote, to now merely being ’emphasis’ this is another dicey word. It means that actually, really, forensically, something is true,really happened/happening.But now it is used for added glamour. For instance: “The cat is literally among the pigeons” actually means that there is, right now, a crowd of pigeons sitting round a lazy unthreatening cat.

Hopefully – Been around for some time now (and fading out?) and the precursor to trendy ‘basically.’ I remember a mention of someone meeting (no ‘up with’in those days) a shepherd in Northumberland in the 1980s and being surprised that he was using ‘hopefully.’ Originally an adverb of manner, as in “to travel hopefully is better than to arrive,” it is now sprinkled like icing sugar.

Bathroom – Reading a thriller, the Private Eye goes into a Chicago pub and goes into the ‘bathroom.’ Images of drunks in baths, hot water flowing over the rim,drinking from bottles, the floor gradually flooding and bouncers trying to persuade drowning drunks to put their clothes back on….
The (especially American) delicacy of avoiding the ancient and serviceable labels – lavatory, toilet, loo, gents, ladies, W.C., public conveniences, urinal,- is strange.
Restroom has almost disappeared( a trades description fault?) and powder room has gone (thanks, feminists.)I always imagined a powder room to be just that – you opened the door and a blast of facepowder greeted you. Magically it only adhered to the face and a woman could then return to the dance /table with a brand-new face.

Blown away – This would be feasible (well, that’s stretching it rather) if it happened only once in a lifetime. But people who are susceptible to being blown away are often lifted, rapture-like, several times a year. One poem, a book, a film and they’re off, past any space rocket, zooming into outer space. They need firm tethering to keep them on the ground (see ‘floor’ above) and sympathetic,well-earthed friends.

Like – “It was, like, raining, and he was, like, late and Louise was, like cross, and like…” This would be no use to someone who does not know what kind of rain, how you judge late -five minutes or five hours, or how angry Louise was. The speaker is expecting the hearer to complete each image in their own head without any help. Plus the speaker is not completing the information and merely piling on half-described events,rapidly, one after another, a breathless incoherence.It is a direct descendant of ‘you know.’

Awesome – The latest favourite. A descendant of ‘fabulous.’It can mean anything from mild approval to wild enthusiasm, though it implies something off the scale of ordinary human endeavour. Not to be confused with ‘shock and awe,’ but coming from the same stable.

Lastly, the upswinging sentences that each sound like a question? It is as if the speaker is trying to avoid being hit or countermanded, so they avoid making a firm statement and present every sentence in a hazy, non-confrontational way? How do you answer them, that is the real question? (Answer -full stop; downward, normal inflection?)

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2 Responses to It’s Like, Basically Awesome?

  1. Valerie says:

    I like your observations about ‘invisible fences’ and ‘nuance of distance’ in the first two. I always wondered about that powder room too 🙂

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