In August of 2011, we spent some time discussing the state of modern conversation in a post we called “A List of Words and Expressions Aspiring Adults Should Strive to Avoid.” Our mission? Help those of us — Henning and Steve included — oppressed by our juvenile speech patterns to OVERCOME, and enter the world of adult interaction. In one intense exercise we struck colloquialisms like “play” and “come at me bro” from our collective vernacular. We reconsidered our use of the word “brilliant” (which, we’ll remind ourselves, can never refer to a dog or latte). Then we went to cocktail parties and BBQs where we — for the first time in our lives — didn’t sound like f**king toddlers. It was an amazing afternoon of personal growth for everyone.
But the thing about language, and the English one in particular, is that it’s every changing. New words and expressions replace old ones all the time. Yesterday’s “as if” becomes tomorrow’s “child, please” becomes next week’s “scalped.” The way we spoke even seven months ago is now outdated. Then there’s the fact that there are simply TOO MANY words and expressions to avoid. You’ll never hit them all!
But that’s where Lifting Fog comes in. Seven months after our first weed-whacking, we’re back to keep up the work we started: identifying trouble words that, if not killed, will lose you respect and de-arouse your partner. We don’t want either one of those things for you.
1. “FML” (expression)
The very first time I saw “FML” used in print, some five years ago, I was convinced it was just a typo — that the writer meant “FNL,” as in Friday Night Lights, and was an all-around great person with good taste in entertainment. No such luck! “FML” we ALL know instead to mean “f**k my life.” Some examples:
- I just got a D on a paper when the class average was B+. FML.
- My aunt took me shopping today and the salesman at Macy’s told me I’d look good in a sundress. I’m a boy. FML.
- 7-11 ran out of Chunky Monkey just before I got there. FML.
The list goes on (and on, and on…) on official sites like fmylife.com or your Facebook Newsfeed, where you sometimes have the addition of pictures to flesh out the story. And sometimes, an FML is actually justified. Say your house burns down, or you’re enlisted in Kony’s child army — pretty clear FML moments! But the bulk of the time “FML” is really just shorthand for “I suck” (which isn’t as catchy to write). It was funny when the liquor store clerk said it in Superbad; five years later, when Jonah Hill is no longer THAT fat, it doesn’t have the same effect.
2. “The Fam” (noun)
Your fam. My fam. His fam. Her fam. It’s beautiful, really, to think we’re all universal brothers and sisters — one day! — but for now you’ve got a family that’s different from my family, both because a) they employ different surnames and b) one has a terrible history of drinking I wouldn’t wish on anyone else. Plus think of the confusion something like the Mafia faces when individual members, not all of whom are related, start with the “the fam” business. Just a simple substitution of articles — that’s all we need for a renewed sense of clarity (“oh, your family!”) and ownership.
3. “Silly” (adjective)
Try “foolish.” “Petty.” “Crazy.” “Trivial.” “Goofy.” “Frivolous.” Just please, please stop saying “silly.” We could be such good friends if you just stopped saying “silly.”
4. “Schwasted” (adjective)
This takes a root word, “wasted,” and adds the slurred “sch” to the front to emphasize the degree of wasted-ness. To be “schwasted” is to be more than wasted, less than blacked-out, and somewhere near dancing on the bar. Schwasted drinkers can go no longer than 45 seconds without loudly reminding their closest neighbor that they are, in fact, schwasted.
On some level I agree with the need to classify levels of drunkenness. If there’s nothing between “buzzed” and “drunk,” how are we supposed to talk about the second half hour of our night? You can’t just speed from 0 to 60 like that. It’s dangerous (conversationally)! So maybe the solution is counting off by drinks (“I’m 4 in,” “I’m 12”) — something that, taking into account height/weight/fratitude, everyone understands. We good?
5. “Dialogue” (verb)
Say what you will, Occupy Wall Street and its offshoot movements have made no small impact on the American consciousness. They’ve spoken to an increasingly frustrated and angry public (“the 99%”) who wonder when things will get better. The fact that they’re still around so many months after being forcefully evicted from Zuccotti Park speaks to their resilience and staying power.
…But some of that activism speech is just BEYOND up its own butt. Take “dialogue,” for example. As with the aforementioned “silly,” you have so many other words you could use in its place. Some real CLASSICS, too: “talk,” “converse,” “discuss.” They’ve been around forever and everyone knows them, ESPECIALLY the 99%. Go crazy with easy, populist communication!
6. Referring to anything as though it’s the title of a Friends episode
If you didn’t know, the title of every Friends episode began “The One with…” or “The One Where…” and finished with whatever string of words described the plot to follow. Many TV shows did and do this (Chuck was always “Chuck vs. the…”; every Cougar Town title is a Tom Petty song) but for whatever reason, Friends‘ nomenclature really caught fire.
Nearly a decade later, this legacy lives on in mutated form: the Facebook photo album. Whether spring break shots (“The One with the Suntan”) or Intro. Drawing project galleries (“The One with the India Ink”), there is no subject that can’t be given the “The One with…” treatment. “What about cancer treatments?” you say, haughtily. “The One with the Hair Loss” was created by someone, somewhere this morning and won’t be the only one to go up today.
Life should be fun and lighthearted and no one should stop you from experiencing or curating it in the way you so choose. But I mean come on.
SIDE NOTE: Though less prominent, you sometimes find the Friends naming convention sneaking its way into media studies papers (“The One with the Friends as Canterbury Tales for the 20th Century”). This is arguably much, much worse.
7. “That’s just like Inception or some shit!” (expression)
It’s unlikely that it’s just like Inception or some shit. Maybe it’s just like dreaming, which everyone does every night?
8. “I’m such a nerd!” (expression)
Because everyone wears glasses today and Twitter has taught us all what a TED talk is, you are unlikely to find any educated person who won’t, when pressed, self-identify as “such a nerd!” We’re nerds about EVERYTHING: movies, fashion, books, coffee, politics, food, babies, history, cars, vitamins, animals, oceonography, comedy, anime, computers, football, basketball, curling, dynamite, Christmas, Israel, bagel bites, fun, sledding, car alarms, dog shows, blimps, childbirth, aliens, wrestling, yoga, gluten, air hockey, bagels, and sex.
Once upon a time being a nerd meant accepting the abuse of the popular kids while cultivating a deep and unhealthy interest in something like Star Trek. You probably had nerd friends, and when you grew up you all became either billionaires or guys who hang out at Conte’s Card Castle in Haddonfield, NJ. But today’s “nerds” are all actresses and jocks. Who will dare make fun of them?
Allow me to NERD OUT for a second here and queue what’s probably the most succinct statement about Participation Trophy culture yet committed to film:
Yes, that’s the villain speaking (you thought we’d identify with the heroes?), but the point remains: if everyone is SUCH A NERD…what does it even mean to identify yourself as such? Nerds of old earned the right to their title through humiliation, intense research, and visits to the dermatologist’s office. Today’s nerds one time accidentally watched The Big Bang Theory.
9. “50 Shades of Grey” (noun)