Sunday, August 21, 2011

Does my vocabulary suck?

The difference between the words I use when I talk and the words I use when I think is similar to the difference between a genteel talk show airing early in the morning on PBS and a reality show in which the grand prize is dating a Z-level celebrity on VH1.

While I give the words in my mouth a security check before I let them out of my mouth, my mind is far more spontaneous. For example, if I hear something as obvious as the I.Q. of someone who would wear a hat with teabags dangling from the brim (aside: what a waste of tea bags!), I think: No shit, Sherlock! I don’t think a day goes by without my synapses going, NS, S! – but I have never said it out loud. (I think.)

I also have the same relationship with the word sucks, as in something being notably subpar (not something engaged in the act of suction). The words That sucks! pop into my head like toaster pastries whenever I am in stuck in glue-speed traffic, listening to a stultifying lecture, or gazing down at a flat iron-less meat section at Ralphs. (If you live in California, Ralphs sells a great flat iron steak.)

I have to admit that I sometimes feel shame for my thoughts. Why? Because as an English major and a (for now) semi-professional writer, I should be able to form thoughts without the use of, um, “strong language”. At this point, my rational side will stand up and scold me for taking the cursing-is-a-sign-of-an-unimaginative-mind canard seriously. (I wrote an essay about cursing a few years ago – maybe that will be my next post.)

Just what is wrong in thinking, or even saying, the word sucks if it fits? As the T-shirt from the 80s said, poverty sucks. So does war, fundamentalist religion, abuse, and rotting shellfish. What is wrong in thinking or saying No shit, Sherlock! if someone on the radio says, “Consumers lack confidence due to uncertainty over the economy,” or, “Fried Twinkies are a uniquely American treat.”

If the word fits, use it!

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