I was struck today by a word that has suddenly entered the vocabulary of the working class. "Issues" has apparently replaced "problems" in NorCalSpeak.
When my laptop got disconnected from the coffee house's wireless service this morning, the manager went to fix it and said, "Tell me after you try it again if you still have any issues."
To my ear an issue is a chronic problem and a problem a more temporary difficulty. To make issues out of problems makes things worse, I think, as we have enough problems already without issues.
As an counter-example to this new usage, I miss a word that has left the common vocabulary, Weltanschauung, German for world view or life philosophy--it doesn't translate well, probably the reason some of us liked to use it, the same for SchadenFreude. Maybe people got tired of spelling German, just like I can never get Nietzsche right.
For another example of increased usage, take the word, "bloviation." Five years ago it was in the dictionary and no one was using it. I wrote two columns on the word, published over four years ago (I lack an exact date). Within six months to a year after my columns it began to appear in the work of syndicated columnists. Could I have possibly been the one that set that development in motion, or is that just a messianic delusion? Most likely the columnists subscribed to the same vocabulary listserv as I. But I'd never seen the word in print before I used it.
Now if you hear the words "gart" (garlic fart) or "schmegg" (messy mess, the detritus of abandoned activities, like breakfast plates dripping syrup all over the counter), my family and I can take credit for them. There's also "houchy," which means you're so hungry you're grouchy. And if kilorats and kilobunnies catch on, you know whom to credit (or blame).
Strange how new phrases insinuate themselves into the language, even when they are senseless, like "orientate" or "up to this point in time," or "basically" (but I think 'basically' already peaked.)
Language is infectious. It spreads like a virus. It may be true that my employment of 'bloviation' as a subject for two columns and my usage of it in everyday speech had a ripple effect, though this is unlikely, as the Devil wants to make sure I don't get credit for anything.
I like to say that the greatest achievement of a poet or writer is to enter the language:
"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."
"What beast slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?"
"a red wheelbarrow"
"Home is the place that when you have to go there, they have to take you in.?"
"crossing of the bar"
"Candy is dandy
but liquor is quicker"
"Lend me your ears"
(I could go on for pages and I would if I hadn't learned to curb my bloviations just a tad. When your wife is a lip-reader it impairs your ability to bloviate.)
All these snippets, now clichés, were once exotically fresh. But like "walking on eggshells," tropes enter the language because they are the most evocative and economic way of transmitting complex information. Today's breakthrough is tomorrow's cliché. Sometimes avoiding cliche's in a poem is like stepping through a minefield.
I can support most colorful additions to speech. Just today I told my wife that "I had to piss like a race horse." I used that one for years before I discovered that before races, horses get a powerful diuretic to prevent fluid build-up in their lungs.
Some colloquialisms eat at me. I think the one responsible for 70s smiley faces and "have a nice day" should be drawn and quartered.
First, I don't want a 'nice' day, I want a good day. And what the hell does a stranger care about my having a nice day? Pretensions to intimacy abound, possibly because modern living affords so little intimacy, save the superficial kind when you exchange life stories with a stranger on a long flight.
My bank has propaganda phrases wired into its employees' brains. They answer the phone with "Thanks for choosing B of A, my name is Darla, how may I provide you with excellent service today?"
Honey, I haven't seen excellent service anywhere in a long time unless you drop $100 for a dinner for two at a nice restaurant. Even then there's no guarantee.
(BTW, never ask 'Why?' of an institution. You will only be transferred to a different phone menu.)
After all this dancing around my central theme, bloviation, here's an excerpt from my first column on the matter, since de-published:
First, may I say I am honored to write this column, indeed, more than honored, I am extremely privileged, nay, positively exhilarated by the opportunity afforded me by my gracious editor, whose support I more than appreciate, in fact, may I say I am greatly indebted to him both as a writer and human being for the chance to display my meandering exhalations online. It goes without saying that without publication I would be writing nothing, nor would you be reading this elegant distillation of vapors, this monumental Aeolian blunderbuss of opinion that some mistake for meaningless logorrhea at their peril.
Further, to state the obvious, my meaning is obvious, though the obvious is not always the apparent. My statements must be understood in context, not subject to subjectivity in the miscalculation of my intent, which is not to mystify but de-mystify the process of communication by employing all means at my disposal, including Aristotle’s. I guarantee that nothing I say in this column is without merit, and if you but read between the lines I shall be exculpated from any accusation that maintains the obverse. And though my peregrinating perorations may try your patience, they shall not convict it, rather extend it to the next paragraph, where I continue this argument.
I will not give quarter or dime to those who disagree with my position; I have made my position abundantly clear, and any re-positioning on behalf of my central thesis will be avoided in the interest of unity. For what is an argument without unity? And what is unity without purpose? And what is purpose without intent? And what is intent without pre-meditation? And what is pre-meditation without calculation? And what is calculation but the supreme evidence of forethought as confirmed by my ongoing diatribe? I am not dithering in dithyrambic here, nor circumambulating the issue at hand, which is very near, in fact propinquitous and proximal to my primary consideration. Thus I think my opinion deserves equal consideration regardless of race, creed, color, party affiliation or preferment of style.
The plague of style without substance is upon us, and I aim to fight back like a man, true Homo Sapien, a seasoned veteran of vocalic divination, proclamation, extrapolation and salutation. Furthermore, I challenge anyone to dispute the fact that everything I have said thus far has gone no further than it ought, that I have not exaggerated my thesis for the sake of self-aggrandizement, nor should my flow of thought be interrupted by any unfounded, nugatory and unfledged calumnies that may rain upon my head in a storm of disputation, and any disappointment or dissatisfaction with my primary point, which, as I said before and repeat again ad nauseum, ad infinitum and non-adversarially, is pointless.
Have a Nice Day :-)!