Modern Language: Talking The Talk That Others Talk
Modern Language: Talking The Talk That Others Talk

Modern Language: Talking The Talk That Others Talk

Our language is the reflection of ourselves. A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers. -Cesar Chavez

One of the ways one knows they’re getting old is when they no longer have a clue what other people are saying and it’s not because everyone else started speaking Mandarin. Language changes as society moves through various phases, reflecting changes in who we are and what concerns us. Words and phrases common to one generation are replaced or modified by the next. Often, words sound familiar but the meaning has changed.

As disconcerting and sometimes frustrating as it is to experience, this disconnect in verbiage, we have to realize that our grandparents experienced the same feeling when we introduced them to words like disco, far out, jammin’, reefer, brick house, Funkadelic, right on, book it, dream on, groovy, and fried. Use of those words now dates one as an old geezer but at one point they effectively made everyone over 50 wonder if we’d lost our minds.

I’m not crazy enough to suggest that we learn to talk like millennials or Gen Z. Remember how horrible it sounded when your parents said something was groovy when it obviously wasn’t. You don’t want to make the same mistake. Let the kids have their words and we’ll keep ours.

What’s important is that we maintain lines of communication with this generation that has the ability to commit us to the old folks home. We have a responsibility to listen to what they are saying, not mimic their speech patterns. When we genuinely listen to what younger people are saying, we’re likely to find they’re facing fears and challenges we never imagined. We’re also likely to discover that they have a much tighter grip on handling those challenges than we did at that age.

As those under 40 are facing a different world than we did, it helps us to segment their words into these areas: Gender and sexuality, slang, geek, technology, and political jargon. We’re obviously not going to list all the words one might encounter in any of those categories and in political jargon especially the terms are not limited to those younger than us. Language is a living and mobile entity and there are words breathed into existence on a daily if not hourly basis. Keeping up with all of them is impossible.

One also should remember that not all words are used across all geographies and populations. Ethnic peoples are likely to have a very different set of words that make perfect sense within the context of their culture but sound obtuse and strange to anyone else. Geography plays a big role in how slang is used, so what is common to New York City is foreign to Mobile, AL.

There is a lot to consider, but remember that the primary goal is understanding and relating to our younger counterparts. My experience working with people increasingly younger than myself tells me they understand us better than we realize. The next step is ours.

Slinging A LIttle Slang

Language - Old Man Talking

Slang is one of those dangerous areas of language because much of it is culture and location specific. Slang is also the most rapidly changing element of language, so the words that I list here are likely to either change their meaning, usage or become completely irrelevant within the next year or so. That makes this list of limited value, but at least we’ll be caught up for a moment and perhaps, as the slang evolves, we can sort of keep up.

Goals. For our generation, goals are something we try to achieve within a certain aspect of our lives. The under 40 crowd isn’t that far off our definition, but they also use the word to express an idea, whether they have any plans of pursuing that ideal or not. For example, when observing a couple doing something perfectly sweet a younger person might snap a picture and add the hashtag #relationshipgoals when they post it to Instagram. They might also refer to life goals, vacation goals, kid goals, or job goals. At no point are they likely to have a plan for actually achieving any of those goals. In fact, their “job goals” are likely to include things such as playing with puppies or getting paid to play video games, both of which are real jobs but don’t have a high demand. Goals are sometimes nothing more than wishful thinking. With this modern definition of the word, it is possible to have “goals” and still have absolutely no direction in one’s life at all.

Tight. The use of this word, at least as I’m typing, has nothing to do with how something fits. Even among those under 40, there are two active definitions of this word. One is to be upset about something. Let’s say one’s best mate dumps them and then hooks up with their girlfriend. The person getting dumped is likely to be rather tight about the whole thing. Or one’s parents embarrass them at dinner in a trendy restaurant; that can certainly make one tight. At the same time, though, tight can also be used to describe someone who looks like they might an exciting sexual partner, as in, “That dude is so tight.” While there is some potential for confusion between the two uses, listen to the context and especially the person’s vocal inflections. Just know that if the person being referred to as “tight” looks big and mean, one might want to check their proximity to the exits.

FOMO. “Fear Of Missing Out” is the meaning of the acronym. I’m not hearing this one quite as much as I did back last summer, but it is an apt description of many people between the ages of 21-35. These are people who generally are looking to accumulate all the experiences they can while they are still young for fear that when they are older those experiences may not be available to them. One can hardly blame them given the rate at which endangered species are dying off and climate change is affecting many of the world’s most unique geographies. When someone uses the term FOMO, listen to how it’s used. They’re likely expressing both a fear and a desire. Respond appropriately.

Ghosting. There are variations on this one. One can be “ghosted.” Someone might be referred to as having “gone totally ghost.” However it is used, it refers to someone suddenly, without any explanation, cutting off all communication with a person. A lover might suddenly ghost their mate. An employee might ghost their employer. Most troubling is when a person suddenly ghosts their entire social group. The reason for going ghost is often because a situation has become so overwhelming they cannot or no longer want to deal with it so they simply walk away and do something else, typically with someone else. What makes ghosting dangerous, however, is that those being ghosted often have no idea whether the person doing the ghosting is safe. In a society where accidental overdose from opioids is rampant, ghosting can set off alarms regarding a person’s health or mental state. Ghosting may seem irresponsible from an elder perspective but for young people who are emotionally and psychologically ill-equipped for dealing with life’s challenges is may be the only way they know to survive.

Slay. This has nothing to do with anyone dying. Rather, as is often common with slang, the term is currently used to refer to doing something very well. Examples might be “That queen is absolutely slaying that outfit,” or “I was totally slaying at work today.” There is no bloodshed, only fabulousness. Within a certain segment of society, being told that one slays is quite the compliment. However, this is one of those slang words that we old folks need to leave alone. Should someone with gray hair say that they’re slaying, someone’s likely to call the police and a lot of question are going to be asked and not all of us can be certain how those answers are going to come out. Let’s just leave the slaying to the kids.

RBF. This is one of those slang acronyms most frequently used in text messages. In person, people are more likely to state the full term: resting bitch face. We’ve known people like this our entire lives. The only difference is that the kids have finally put a name to the expression and we all have to admit that it fits certain people whose mouths naturally turn down to give them an expression of frustration, extreme seriousness or impatience even if that’s not really what they’re feeling at that moment. What’s troubling about this term is that as we get older almost all of us are likely to have it used against us. Already, Kat looks at me of the morning and asks, “What has you so upset this morning?” as though she actually has the multiple hours it would take for me to answer the question. The weight of the world removes the sparkle from our eyes, the spring from our step, and gives us resting bitch face in return. And some are proud of it.

Lit. No, they’re not talking about light bulbs but you already knew that, didn’t you? You knew that because the first time you heard one of the kids say something was lit you looked and whatever had their attention wasn’t connected to any form of illumination. Perhaps, one might figure out on their own that something is “lit” when it is awesome, incredible, or fantastic. In this text-centered world of theirs, though, lit is fewer letters and can, therefore, be communicated much more quickly than any of those longer words. Opinion comes heavily into play when determining whether something is lit. Music is often lit unless its country which is only lit for this strange group of people who think adding a banjo to a pop song makes it country. Banjos are lit. Pop country isn’t.

GOAT. This one is especially difficult for us old-timers because we have a radically different definition of the word than do the kids. We hear someone being called a goat and we think they’re being derided as being fussy and difficult to get along with. For us, being called a goat is not a compliment. For the kids, though, GOAT (all caps) is an acronym for Greatest of all Time. When looked at through that definition, we’re not nearly as offended when a grandchild says we’re the goat. Then we call that grandchild the goat. I’ve also heard someone referred to as the “original GOAT,” when talking about someone who is legendary in their field. As long as no one puts the word “old” in front of goat, I think we’re safe and should accept the compliment graciously.

Woke. If you’ve not heard this one you’re living under a rock or you need your hearing aid battery replaced (probably the latter). It seems as though everyone and everything is woke these days, or at least we’re supposed to be. I’m finding it interesting that the term has not managed to make its way into my grammar checking software resulting in it being flagged every time I type it. Still, when the kids want to say that they’re aware of what’s going on in a situation or around the world, they say they’re woke. Interestingly enough, if one is not woke it doesn’t seem to mean that they’re asleep, which is what would make sense. No, woke is a binary term; either one is or one isn’t. I should also probably mention that there is a rather liberal bias to the term woke. Woke implies one is concerned about global warming and overfishing and all the various forms of inequality and every other horrible thing going on around the planet and thinks that government is the place to start fixing those problems. That’s right, being woke comes with a hook. Let the kids use this one. We needed a nap, anyway.

There Are More Sex & Gender Terms Than You Thought

Language - old man talking

Those of us over 50 typically grew up thinking that there were only two genders: male and female. Some of you are still having problems getting past the fact that our education on the matter was lacking and our views naive. There are a number of sex and gender terms that have come into play now, though, and keeping them all straight (no pun intended) can be challenging. Most bothersome is knowing that some don’t bother learning the correct terms because of their biases against this broadening of sexual understanding and definition. Get over yourself. Many people our own age are rejoicing at the freedom to finally identify appropriately. Many of those people are your friends. There’ no room for sex and gender bias anymore, so get used to these terms.

CISgender. This is the majority of us old folks; people whose gender identity matches what is on their birth certificate. The other operable word here is straight but straight defines sexuality while CISgender defines gender. Trying to not confuse the two might seem a bit challenging, but remember that one does not necessarily preclude the other. One can be trans and straight. One can be CISgender and bi.  Knowing which term to use in a given situation can be important especially when talking with a grandchild who is neither CISgender nor straight.

LGBTQ+. Chances are you remember when the term was just LGBT. Then it became LGBTQ. Then someone added a plus sign. What do they all mean and why do they keep changing it? First, let’s start with the acronym. L = lesbian, G = gay, B = bi, T = trans, Q = queer, + = every other non-CISgender and non-straight identity. Why does the acronym keep changing? Because the more we study sexuality and gender the more we find a spectrum of complex identities that are not easily defined by the terms currently in use. At the same time, there is a reluctance to add new terms because of the difficulty the general public already has in accepting the existing terms. The + represents an umbrella under which everyone who is not comfortable with the previous definitions can reside.

GNC. Nope, this is not in reference to the brand of supplements you’ve seen at the mall. When used in the context of gender studies, it stands for Gender Non-Conforming. This is used when one’s gender identity or expression does not directly match the social expectations of the gender assigned at birth. There is a tremendous amount of nuance to this term, though, and one should realize that not everyone uses it in exactly the same way. Some people use it in reference to transgender people, which is easy enough to understand. However, it can also be used for someone who is not identified as trans but displays traits different from their genders, such as an effeminate male or masculine female.

MSM is the acronym used specifically in medical and scientific circles for men who have sex with men. There is a careful distinction here between MSM and being gay, however. MSM does not specify one’s sexual identity. What we’ve come to realize is that one can be CISgender and still be MSM. I realize that blows some minds, but this is a perfect example of how the more we study the more we discover the subtle nuances to gender and sexuality and the fluidity of one’s identity.

Non-Binary is becoming an especially important term to understand. At its root definition, non-binary is someone whose gender identity is neither specifically male or female. From there, though, it can get complicated. Non-binary persons may feel that they are a mix of both male and female or may identify with having no gender at all. There is no rule that there has to be more of one than the other or any specific gender identity at all. One may, in some setting, here the terms genderqueer or bigender used as well, but those don’t necessarily mean the same thing. What’s important to realize is that people who are non-binary is not the same as intersex (a biological situation), and are not necessarily bisexual or transgender as some often believe. They’re human and they’d appreciate it if you’d use genderless pronouns when referring to them.

MAAB/FAAB/UAAB all take us back to medical terminology which is not necessarily important in terms of social interaction but at the current moment, they can make a tremendous difference in legal situations. Specifically, the terms are Male-assigned at birth, female-assigned at birth, and unassigned at birth. All three are used by doctors when recording a live birth based upon the observation of the infant’s genitalia. This is the sort of label that tends to stick with a person. However, in states that recognize that gender is not binary, doctors are given more freedom to use the UAAB label, providing the child greater freedom in determining that identity for themselves. So, when you see your grandchild’s birth certificate with a UAAB designation, you’ll understand why.

CAMAB/CAFAB is an increasingly important designation for coercively assigned male/female at birth. There are generally two ways this might be used. One is when an intersex person—anyone with incompatible inner and outer genitalia—were misidentified at birth or given corrective surgery against their will (typically shortly after birth). The other use is when GNC individuals want to address that they did not have a choice in the sexual assignment given them at birth. One of the things we’re learning as we go along here is that birth is probably not the best time to be making gender assumptions, which means we should probably stop having all those stupid gender reveal parties. Hint, hint.

QUILTBAG is one of those terms one needs to exercise care in using. No, this is not referring to the satchel of quilting materials one carries to their weekly quilting bee. It’s yet another acronym. This one means (hold on, it’s a long one) Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual, Gay/Genderqueer. If someone over 50 is hearing this term, chances are pretty high one is in the presence of multiple GNC persons. QUILTBAG tends to be an “insider” term and when it comes from the mouth of a CISgendered person ridicule may follow.   Some GNC people prefer the term to LGBTQ+ because it’s more inclusive and hasn’t been minimalized by the media.

SSM takes us back to legal definitions and the seemingly insane hair-splitting that politicians and attorneys like to do. The term means Same-sex Marriage which is an important distinction from gay marriage. Legally, gay marriage has always been permissible in the sense that a gay man could marry a woman. In those days where identifying as gay was dangerous, this happened a lot, resulting in a high number of divorces years after the fact. SSM makes the important distinction that two people with the same sexual identification are marrying each other. This applies not only to gay couples, but lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, and any other identity the couple may take.

Geeking Out On Cyberpunk Slang

Language - Old Man Talking

Sociologist tells us that every subculture develops its own insider language full of terms that people outside the group don’t understand. Sometimes this is a matter of group security and self-preservation, other times it has to do with one’s occupation. What’s happened, however, is that more than any other subgroup in modern society, geek slang, aka cyberpunk, has increasingly made its way into the mainstream, leaving many of us old-timers scratching our heads wondering what these kids are talking about. Here are a few hints.

Adhocracy. Any type of group that is non-corporate, non-governmental, and anti-bureaucracy. The group of guys who play a game of pick-up basketball at the gym each Thursday is an adhocracy. The software developers who volunteer their time to help individually-owned businesses make the most of technology is another good example. Adhocracies are increasing as young people rebel against older business models and look for alternatives to capitalistic greed.

Gig economy. The state of employment where one works a series of short-term jobs rather than traditional full-time employment. Drivers for Lyft and Uber are a good example of the gig economy. One of the benefits of a gig economy is that one is generally free to travel and take their skills on the road. The downfall is a complete lack of long-term financial security, health insurance, and other benefits. While we tend to think of the gig economy as primarily involving younger people, folks our age are finding it is also a good way to supplement retirement income as well.

Crumbly. Yes, we are. The term is of British origin and refers to old geezers like you and me. If one doesn’t quite get the reference, think of how we viewed anyone over 30 when we were teens. There’s not necessarily any intent of disrespect meant with the term. One’s not likely to hear a grandchild refer to them directly in such a manner. More often than not, it’s used among peers, as in, “I’m having dinner with some crumblies tonight,” or “I’ll have to catch up with you later. We’re going to visit my Pops over in Crumblyville (a retirement or senior-dominated community).”

Nerf Herder. This is not a phrase one wants to have attached to them. Nerf Herder is a derogatory term for someone who manages unskilled and, by inference, less-than-intelligent workers. The term first became popular among tech workers who would use the term in reference to department heads managing mind-numbing data entry personnel. It has since grown to include pretty much any position over unskilled labor. The purpose is to take a person down a notch. Managing people who keep doing the most simple of tasks in repetition is not exactly a challenging task itself. Being called a Nerf Herder is a pretty good sign one’s career is on a dead-end path.

Fluid. A person who is “exploring their options,” not settling down or making any commitments. If that sounds like one of your own adult children, be concerned. This one can be a bit tricky, though, because it can also refer to someone whose sexual identity is in motion. For we older folks, it is probably good enough to know that anyone who is fluid is likely experiencing some changes in their life and can probably use a friend with a gracious ear.

Ping. Any form of digital notification on any device. Chances are yours and mine are somewhat out of control. One of the FOMO aspects of getting older is that we’re afraid of missing something important in the news. So we turn on alerts for the newspaper and local TV stations and major news websites, all of whom notify us when something new has happened. Each notification makes a sound on our devices and that sound, most often, is a ping. People who get a lot of notifications might be referred to as being Ping heavy. People who turn off their devices are ping silent.

Fanboy/Fangirl/Fandom. Pick something with a cult following, which is almost every television show and every sci-fi/fantasy movie ever made. The people who are obsessed with that media are referred to as fanboys/girls and their collective community is referred to as the fandom. Large communities of fans exist around the Marvel universe, the Star Trek franchise, Dr. Who, and the Harry Potter franchise, but even small cable shows have a fandom. All these fanboys and fangirls enjoy congregating at Cons which is short for conventions and has nothing to do with conmen stealing all your retirement, though grandchildren have a certain ability to do that anyway.

Cosplay. When members of a fandom dress up as their favorite characters. This can range from the fun to the ridiculous. Cosplayers typically make their own costumes and some of them get extremely elaborate. People who play certain board games such as Dungeon and Dragons may dress up every time they play the game. Others only dress up for Cons, which can become entertaining when one sees an army of Spidermen or stormtroopers show up, en masse, at a particular restaurant.  

Nerdrage. As one might expect, this term refers to a geek losing their temper, particularly over some piece of trivia. Geeks are really big into trivia. Don’t believe me, check any number of bars on a Thursday night, the universal trivia night. Why Thursday I’m not sure, that’s just when the majority of them happen. Every once in a while, the official answer to a trivia question will be wrong on some technical issue and the geek who lost points is likely to go into a full-on nerdrage that not only embarrasses their team but is likely to spill over onto social media as well. Why does nerdrage happen? Because they can’t believe everyone doesn’t know that obscure fact about a 30-year-old B movie as well as they do.

Drool-proof. Anything that has been excessively dumbed down to the point a three-year-old can understand is said to be drool-proof. Surprised? That’s okay. We won’t tell anyone you were hoping it was a pillow that keeps your drool in your mouth at night. There are a lot of things that are considered drool-proof, such as the instruction to not take a medication if one is allergic to that medication. While some may look down on things that are drool-proof, for many of us older folks it’s the only way we can keep up.

Lunatic fringe. Aka, early adopters. When one passes by an Apple store and sees dozens of people camping outside to be the first to buy the next over-priced cell phone, you’ll now know that’s the lunatic fringe. People who are part of “the fringe” will buy almost anything a company puts on the market whether they actually need them or not. Companies rely on “the fringe” to help create hype over a product’s release and sometimes reward them with branded swag—which can range from stress balls to t-shirts and other low-cost items.

Deciphering The Tech Speak

Language - charles i. letbetter

While there are a lot of common terms between geeks and those in technical/digital professions, what I’m focusing on here are the words and phrases one is likely to encounter in media or conversations with someone under the age of 40. Technology is such a large part of modern society that there’s tech speak everywhere.

Personal assistant. Surprise, it’s not an actual person who has come to assist you. We all wish it was and we secretly (or not) wish they were cute. Instead, we’re stuck with these devices that have to be plugged in, never understand what we’re saying, and probably are selling all our personal information to the highest bidder. If one has appliances such as lamps plugged into the same system, the assistant can turn them off or on according to your wishes, but they’re not going to draw you a warm bath or separate out your medicine by day (though it can remind you to take them). Most assistants are also connected to your phone and can call emergency services when you’ve fallen and can’t get up. They can read a recipe to you if it’s on the Internet somewhere, but they can’t actually fix a sandwich for you.

Engagement. Here’s disappointment number two. No, this has nothing to do with your grandchild getting married. Engagement is a social media term referring to any response one makes to any social media entry. If one likes, loves, hates, or blocks anything on social media, you are engaging with the person or entity that created that entry. Companies count the number of engagements something receives and markets products and services to you accordingly. If you engage with a picture of flowers, for example, expect to see ads for florists.

Influencers. This is what your grandchild hopes to be in place of having an actual job (refer to “gig economy” above). Influencers are people who have large followings on any form of social media, thereby influencing their actions. The more people one has following, the more influence they allegedly have and the more money companies are willing to pay for that person to hawk their products. Be aware that influencers are not always nice people. They tend to be extremely materialistic, focus obsessively on name brands, and have a reputation for being bullies toward companies. So, when that child mentions they want to be an influencer, maybe you want to hook them up with some time volunteering at a homeless shelter to help keep them grounded.

Organic. Just when you thought you knew one, this word throws you a curveball. In tech circles, organic has nothing to do with vegetables and everything to do with why that cat video on YouTube went viral. Specifically, when something gets a large number of engagements without its source paying to have it promoted, it is said to be organic. An organic response is more valuable that response from a targeted, promoted piece because it occurred without any post manipulation. Companies put a lot of effort into creating things that will grow organically because it’s inherently cheaper than having to pay ad rates.

Retina Display. Let’s make this real easy: if you don’t have an Apple product, you don’t have one. Trademarked by the company also referred to as “the fruit,” retina displays have such an incredibly high density that one cannot see individual pixels, bringing one closer to a real-world feel, especially with images. On one hand, retina displays are great for people with vision problems and as we get older who among us doesn’t have vision problems. However, the displays are really only effective if the source material is also high resolution and since high resolution images take up a lot of space on someone’s server, few of the people/companies putting images on the Internet use high resolution. For example, we try hard to keep the images on this page below 5 MB in size which keeps any of them from being high resolution. So, paying extra for a retina display doesn’t really matter, does it?

Sitemap. This is pretty much what it says: a map of everything on a website. Almost every website has one but not all of them are publicly visible. If they are, the link tends to be at the very bottom of the web page. Search engines use sitemaps to help them determine where specific content is located. If one is looking for something on a large website, looking for the sitemap might make the search a little more efficient. The challenge comes when a website is updated and no one updates the sitemap. This happens a lot more often than anyone cares to admit. That’s when one clicks a link and gets that stupid 404 Error page. Someone needs to update the sitemap.

The Cloud. I know, it sounds ridiculous when someone says something is  “out on the cloud,” especially on days when there’s not a cloud in the sky. What they’re inherently referring to is a network of Internet-connected servers whose job it is to store and provide information on demand. Companies such as Apple and Amazon have mind-bogglingly huge facilities consisting of nothing but these servers. This is what allows one to save a picture on their home PC and then access it on their phone while vacationing in Pamploma. The term comes from the flowchart symbol used to represent a computer network. The purpose is to make information available all the time from wherever one might be.

5G. Let’s see if I can drool-proof this for you (see what I did there?). Imagine having an Internet speed so fast that there is no difference between talking to someone in your living room or someone in France. That’s the potential that 5G holds. The name refers to the amount of information transfered per second. When it’s finally ubiquitous, it should make real-time global communication possible. The catch? It means replacing ALL your connected devices, starting with your phone. 5G does no good if the device isn’t capable of communicating at that speed. As a result, it’s going to be years before we start seeing the full benefit of the service, and by then who knows where the next step will be?

IoT (Internet of Things). Remember at the start of this section when we talked about personal assistants? For them to work well they rely on other things in your home and around the world to be connected to the Internet. Now, consider how many different things, from satellites to airplaces to manufacturing equipment that is all connected to the Internet. That’s the IoT. Probably the most dramatic everyday example of the IoT in action is services that allow one to pay for items such as a meal at a fancy restaurant from their phone without pulling out their credit card. The phone, the restaurant’s payment system, and the banks are all connected and communicate with each other. Add 5G on top of that and your payment can be processed before you have time to order dessert.  

When The Devil Opens His Mouth

Language - Old Man Talking

Politicians, like any other subculture, have a peculiar way of speaking that mixes legal jargon with their frightening ignorance of the real world and how it works. Unfortunately, too many politicians try to use that language to keep us from knowing exactly what it is they’re saying. This tactic has been used from the founding of democracy and is a large part of the reason Plato said a representative democracy would only work if the Senate was appointed to include only the most intelligent and deepest-thinking philosophers. Yes, Plato would be disappointed. Meanwhile, we’re trying to figure out what the idiots are saying. Here are a few helpful hints.

Mainstream Media. Any news source with journalistic ethics and available to large groups of people. Ostensibly, the mainstream media is supposed to be neutral in their reporting, and more often than not, they are. However, neutral does not mean covering shit up and many politicians respond to this truth-telling by claiming the source is biased. This is a smokescreen on the part of the politician and almost always means that what the media is reporting is true. Remember, the media is specifically protected by the First Amendment because the founders knew that politicians couldn’t be trusted. What was true then still hold true today.

Taco Bowl.  AKA, how to completely alienate an entire voting block by going to lunch. The term refers to the effect of a certain presidential candidate talking about how much he “loved the Mexicans” while seated in front of a fast-food taco bowl that has absolutely no relationship to anything Mexican. Politicians are notoriously tone deaf when it comes to any culture outside their own white privilege. With each election cycle, a disappointing number of candidates alienate people with their own taco bowl moments. Unfortunately, this rarely prevents them from winning.

Democratic Socialism. Read carefully because chances are what every politician has told you about Democratic Socialism is wrong. The Democratic Socialists of America defines Democratic Socialism thusly:

Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet the public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

Please note: this is NOT socialism, nor communism and the number of times a politician says differently doesn’t change that fact.

Winning. Losing with flair and flamboyance. Every political candidate is going to say they are winning right up until the moment they don’t. Therefore, “winning” now includes things such as having a less than 50% approval rating, overseeing the largest deficits in history, denying the civil rights of millions, alienating everyone who is not old and white, and creating one of the worst immigration disasters since Europeans first set foot on North America. To be quite precise, if a politician says they’re winning, chances are pretty high they’re not.

Radical. Anyone who disagrees with a politicians point of view. The politician always considers themselves correct and genuinely hate anyone who dares to challenge that point of view. Therefore, in hopes of minimizing any damage from an intellectual person who actually knows what they’re talking about, politicians label them as radicals. Therefore, scientists are radicals. Doctors are radicals. Economists are radicals. There’s the radical right taking on the radical left. Then, there are free radicals, which are defined as unstable atoms. Using that definition, every politician on the planet is a free radical.

Locker room. A place where good ol’ boys of the white patriarchy say stupid things without thinking anyone is going to hold them accountable. Locker room talk is, in theory, so far off the record that even pure stupidity is excused as long as it takes place inside a locker room. The other thing about locker rooms is that there aren’t supposed to be press or pictures. There’s no record of anything said in a locker room so any allegation of wrong doing based on locker room conversations is nothing more than heresay. In theory.

Dumpster fire. Every presidential election this country has ever held. Seriously. I’ve looked over every last one of them and, in the context of society at that particular period in time, and they’ve all been nasty, lie-filled, character demeaning exercises in attempts to dupe the voting public. Say what you will about any given president’s legacy, none of them have gotten to that top office without pulling off some shady dealings of one kind or another. That doesn’t mean that the continued lighting of the dumpster fire in contemporary politics is excused. I think the American people would heartedly enjoy an election that didn’t involve personal attacks and endless issue-dodging on the part of the candidates. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s a politician alive capable of not being consumed by the fire.

Shithole country. According to one shithole president, Haiti, El Salvador, and the entire African continent are shithole countries. Use of this term implies a racial heirarchy that is inherently unfair, inacurrate, and based upon a belief in incorrect stereotypes. Not only is the term blatantly racist but it also implies that developing countries are beyond help and that continuing to provide them aid is a waste of money. In reality, the country that calls another one by this term is itself a shithole country and others would do well to distance themselves from it.

Illegal Immigrant. We keep hearing a lot about these people but there seems to be some disagreement over who they actually are. Technically, a person is an illegal immigrant if they attempt to enter this country somewhere other than a designated entry point or if they overstay their visas. The vast majority of illegal immigrants are from the latter group and typically go undetected unless they committ a crime, which fewer than five percent do. They are not anyone coming to this country and requesting asylum. Ever. Anywhere. Migrants who are fleeing hardship and persecution elsewhere are quite literally the basis for disease-ridden Europeans showing up here in the first place. Turning away asylum seekers from some countries and not others stinks of racism and is immoral and illegal. Again, this is the law and is not subject to the perpetually insolent opinion of a billionare politician.

Fake News. Any media source that deliberately and with malicious intent misreports news events, or makes up stories that never happened, is guilty of being fake news. The war against these sources has been extensive and it seems as soon as one is taken down three others pop up in their place. Some exist solely on Facebook. Others keep changing their name in an effort to not get caught. Among the most infamous are:

  • Breitbart
  • InfoWars
  • Underground News Report
  • The Gateway Pundit
  • Conservative Frontline
  • Denver Guardian
  • Celebtricity
  • Before It’s News
  • StopFake

No, I’m not providing links to any of these organizations because they don’t deserve your attention. Just know that when they show up in your newsfeed somewhere that whatever they’re saying is not true.

At the same time, it is important to realize that a media source is noti distributing fake news simply because they report something a politician doesn’t like. We are not a communist country where state-run media is forced to support the dictator. Unfortunately, the overwhelming amount of bullshit coming from politicians at the very top can make it sound as though the media is a source of dissent when all they’re doing is contrasting lies with truth.

At the end of the day, everything a politician says should be questioned both in terms of accuracy and motive. None of them should be trusted based on what comes out of their mouths. The devil controls them all.

This concludes my lesson in attempting to understand what other people are saying. Now, feel free to put your headphones on and listen to music for a while, perhaps something soft without words. That’s easier to understand.

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