Saturday, August 01, 2015


Words. Tricky little things.  Neil Young had a great song called "Words" that said words are between the lines of age.  For just a minute, let's examine what's between the words, why they change into euphemisms.  I warn you, if you read this, there's a chance you might start nitpicking words and how they're used.

Dr. Walter Palmer says he "took" Cecil the Lion.  He was "collecting a trophy."  Practicing the "pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion," Palmer said.  A euphemism is a word that softens the severity of what people do.  Taking something isn't as bad-sounding as skinning it and beheading a majestic species for fun. 

Abortion is a horrible thing.  The only way humans can stomach it is to use euphemisms as well.  "Fetus" or "tissue" isn't as bad sounding as killing a baby.  Female friends of mine who've had abortions refer to it as a "procedure."  That being said, I don't totally agree with the fundamentalist rhetoric linking the lion killing and abortions by saying "we shouldn't focus on Cecil, we should be outraged about killing human life through abortion."  I disagree with this all-or-nothing thinking because my conservative religious friends see everything in black and white, without nuances.  The two atrocities aren't identical exactly.  Dr. Palmer wasn't like some of the women I've known who were truly conflicted, in a relationship with a jerk who was abusively pressuring them to have an abortion because he didn't want to support the kid.  They didn't get the abortion because it was a fun sport for them to kill. 

I still think abortion is morally a devaluing of human life.  If we found living cells on Mars we'd say we discovered life on Mars.  But when we decide to take a baby's life, we tell ourselves it's not a life worthy of protection yet.  We have to say that to stomach it. 

By contrast, pregnant friends a couple months along say they "feel their baby kicking."  But if they didn't want the child, they wouldn't use the word "baby." So the words we use change, soften, tamper down life's value.  Dr. Palmer did it to kill Cecil.  Doctors do it to kill babies.  I'm not writing this as the moralistic judge of anyone, merely observing how I notice words change to defend the seemingly indefensible.

Slang words are part of our culture of euphemisms. Right now there's some strange buzzwords that spread like a virus.  Even hip-hop expressions spread to the suburbs and suddenly middle age white women are calling their friends "their peeps" and ending posts with "just sayin." 

Other current contenders for mindless slogan adopting are "it's all good" and "it is what it is." These sayings comfort us, help us accept things, and communicate some meaning to us. We all pick up on the popular patter to some extent.

I live in the Valley, the San Fernando Valley that gave rise to the term "Valley Girl."  Walking in our area, you'll overhear people using the word "like" every couple words instead of a conjunction or comma.  "I was like walking Runyan Canyon and he like texted me and I was like why are you waiting an hour to return my texts. That's like not acceptable," a woman walking by my wife and I said into her cellphone.

For some reason, my church friends use the word "just" a lot when they pray.  At prayer meetings, for example you'll hear "just" used to soften the request.  "God, we just ask that You would just be there," a sincere seeker prays.  And my mind goes off analyzing the words.  "We just ask that You would just be there," I repeat to myself. "That's it?" I ask myself.  "God's already here. Omnipresent.  So if that is "just" it, that's just not asking for much."

These slang words are also utilized as euphemisms or commas to soften the gravity of things.  "Just sayin" has it's roots in urban hip hop culture as a way of softening something harsh.  "If you don't pay me the money you owe me, I'm going to take it by force.  Just sayin." So when hip-hop language filters down to soccer Moms, it becomes a way of stating something, but then pulling it back a bit.  "Dr. Palmer should have done to him what was done to the lion, just sayin." That kind of pullback sarcastic takeaway. 

If you don't agree with what I wrote, like no hard feelings.  I just wanted to like make you like think and like observe how we like use words. 

It's all good.  It is what it is.  Just saying.


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