Freaking Out Squares

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Language Arts 101: Professor Karla’s Word Allergies

Welcome back, class! I hope you all had a lovely summer. Actually, I don’t, since I spent mine working two dead-end jobs and didn’t even get to hop the Q train out to Brighton Beach. So I am going to vent my broke, spinsterly spleen on you young’uns and slap you with a thousand-word theme on The Scarlet Letter, which I told you was mandatory if you wanted to come into my Honors English class, but which you probably didn’t read when you were summering at Mummy’s mummy’s house in the Hamptons, did you? Oh, paybacks are hell! Mwoohoohahahahahahaha!

Ahem. You know, it occurs to me that I was supposed to have read The Scarlet Letter for an Honors English class, but I think I just skimmed the Cliff’s Notes. Pity, that, because it might well have been a good read. I’ve just never liked doing what I was told (spoiled brat), especially by English teachers who refuse to believe that Tennessee Williams died in the Hotel Elysee with a pill bottle lodged in his throat. Oh, well, perhaps when I’m in the iron lung.

Anyway. Today’s lesson is on word allergies. You have ‘em; I have ‘em in spades. So here are a few words and phrases that set my teeth on edge. Pay attention; I expect a six-hundred-word theme on this topic by the end of the week.

Leadership. The most offensive word I can think of. Every time we use it in therapy, I am so tempted to ask if we can use another, like “splunge.” (Extra credit if you can tell me where “splunge” came from!) It reminds me of high school band camp and the National Honor Society, the latter from which I was excluded by a fraction of a percentage point and the former which gave me a bone spur from roll-stepping in the ninety-degree heat for five days on end. “What the fuck is so goddamn important about leadership?” I screeched to my dad. “Why can’t I just go off and do my thing and they go off and do theirs and we just leave each other alone?” My dad basically told me I was preaching to the choir and don’t worry about it. Plus, it’s jargon, and Glomer no like jargon, Punky friend.

Take Responsibility For. Again, whuzzah? Many would disagree, but I’m not entirely opposed to the concept. I think we need to take more responsibility for our actions (like, by actually thinking about whom we elect President and not just going, yipe! 9/11!) and yes, our feelings (“When you do A, I feel B. Would you mind trying C?”). But like accepting Jesus as your savior, it’s at once vague and oppressively specific. Plus, I’ve been held solely responsible for too many things that weren’t my fault at all or in which I played only the smallest part whilst the responsible party got away with murder that I refuse to trust anyone who uses the phrase with me. (Spoiled brat?)

Where the Rubber Hits the Road. So male go-getter. Puke.

Stocks and Assets. Fine if used when conversing about the stock market, dehumanizing when talking about, uh, humans. I’ve never forgotten the guy from college who told me I didn’t have enough “assets” to make “investing” in me worth it. Not a day goes by that I wonder if he wasn’t right.

Principled. Too self-righteous. I prefer “Ethics.” Like “responsibility,” I’ve had this one used against me, usually by someone behaving completely unethically.

Moral Values. Gee, wonder why.

Decent People. See above.

Not to Be Rude, But…Ohhhhh, maaaaan, if I had a nickel for every time I heard this slime out of the mouth of some chick in junior high/high school. You know the one I mean. She’s so beautiful and charming and she plays field hockey and she’s going to Villanova! How on earth could you doubt her veracity? One of these days, I’m going to make a T-shirt that says “Not to Be Rude, But…” and go up to someone and tell her she’s a fat bitch and see how well it works. Probably not very, since I’m none of the above and I sneak cigarettes behind the band room.

Disrespectful. I’m not entirely sure why this one gets my goat, because I sure as hell think we need to learn to treat each other with a hell of a lot more respect than we currently do. I think it sounds too much like a Marine barking at me. (“Don’t you dare be disrespectful to that cop! He’s got a right to crack your hippie skull open if he wants!”)

Choices. They talk about “choices” a lot in therapy. Maybe that’s why it gets me. “You have choices.” “You made your choices.” “Good choices.” “Bad choices.” Oh, my fingernails!

You’ll Never Amount to Anything. How often does this go pounding through my brain? It sounds like something India Wilkes would say to Scarlett O’Hara. (Sorry—I know at least one of y’all has a massive GWTW allergy.) Here I have to confess, I feel bad for India Wilkes. I actually think in a different time and place, if finding a husband weren’t the celebrity death match it was in the antebellum South, India and Scarlett would have decided this boy-chasing stuff was absurd and gone off and been punks together and started a ‘zine and taught the Tarleton twins how to give them orgasms. And did you ever notice that the actress who played India, Alicia Rhett, was actually very pretty? And that Scarlett O’Hara, according to Margaret Mitchell, “was not beautiful”? No, India definitely got the short end of the Confederate stick, but she insisted on hoisting that little nub into the air. I can relate.

We have five minutes until the bell rings, so why don’t YOU tell ME what words make you want to punch something and why? You can post them here or email me. I’d like to share some of the more creative ones, so if you’re emailing me and you’d like to remain anonymous, please let me know and include a pseudonym (along with your real name, of course, which I won’t publish.)

Okay, class dismissed! And don’t run in the halls, and stop stuffing poor Jimmy into his locker. He can’t help it he hasn’t hit puberty yet!


Anonymous Marcia said...

I personally hate the term "well-rounded." Hate it. It just evokes the whole American guidance counselor philosophy on how to get into college by adding as much self-involved, superficial crap as possible such as 'Participated in "Pep Club" and "Cheerleading Squad" and "Student Council" (which evinces one of your favorite qualities: "leadership")' to applications. Oh and it also usually involves volunteering at your church. You know what I'm talking about: "Service" is one of the 4 candles we had to light during the National Honors Society induction ceremony. I think it was purple. Maybe that's why you didn't get into it. I shall pray for you.

11:25 AM

Blogger Karla said...

Actually, I didn't get in to NHS because I had an 84.75% average, and you needed an 85%. But I was informed by some of our esteemed educators that volunteering at one's church was VERY important for admission to this hallowed secret society, even though technically they couldn't penalize you for that, because, hello, separation of church and state?!

11:46 AM

Anonymous Marcia said...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure I lied about volunteering for the Lord. Is that wrong?

11:47 AM

Blogger Karla said...

Yeah, it's unethical, but setting it up so that kids are more or less forced to lie about their, um, spiritual involvement is totally unconstitutional. But the most important thing is that you Take Responsibility For your actions!

12:12 PM

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