I English Good or; Crazy Wendigo Doctors Suffering From The Economic Downturn

Posted: March 5, 2009 in Culture, Media
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We no longer need dictionaries.

And since I, at age 11, sat down one week and tried to read one because a)I was socially ostracized because I read books and b)I hadn’t read one yet, this makes me mad.

No, this isn’t going to be about the rise of text speak, although I personally think that anyone who uses that crap should have their cellphone taken away from them and then be subsequently bludgeoned to death with their keyboard

What this is actually about, is how the laziness with which we use language is starting to cover all manner of sins and is ultimately dumbing us down to a point where, very soon, we’ll need to travel back in time to about 10000 BC to find a decent conversation.

There are three phrases that came up in the last 24 hours that I want to talk about (and since this is my blog, I damn well get to talk about whatever I want.)

1)The economic downturn
2)Not guilty by reason of insanity
3)Dr. Phil

So.

1) Once upon a time someone told President Bush (this was about 2 years ago so in the interests of specificity I should add the modifier, “then”) that the economy…maybe wasn’t doing so hot. So he got in front of a bunch of cameras and, instead using the very serviceable word, “recession”, which we’ve been using to describe crappy economic times that aren’t wildly catastrophic for years now, he told everyone, “Don’t worry, we’re just going into a little bit of an economic downturn.” And there was much snickering in the land of America.

Fox news rolled with it of course; by the end of the day every talking head on the network was parroting the term as if it were the most ingenious thing they’d ever heard, but then what do you expect from the official network of the Republican party; if Daddy says it, it has to be good. But everyone else just kind of scratched their heads and said, “Do you think he means recession?” (A note; if your new and nifty catch phrase requires more time to discuss it then to say it, then it probably isn’t doing it’s job very well.)

Over the next days, weeks and months, Bush dropped this phrase over and over; it became the new, “If we don’t do it, the terrorists have won.” Soon, the only talking head still waxing bemusement over it was John Stewart, ever the chronicler of the wildly amusing Bushism lexicon. (God I love that man) Time went by and things got worse, and still, no one was saying recession.

Then all hell broke loose and I thought for sure, now, we’re going to start hearing some non-jingo speak.

Nope.

To his last day in office Bush was radiating that slightly confused smile of his and saying the economic equivalent of, “What, me worry?”

I figured that once Obama took office, we’d start to regain some sanity and, sure enough, a little bit of realism came back to the world. We acknowledged that, hey, when the stock market is at it’s lowest point since 1933, when we’re losing jobs left and right and bankers are sewing up great honking golden parachutes with tax payer’s dollars, maybe we’re in a recession after all. Downturn implies that things are kind of gradually getting worse; you can’t really call it that when you’ve never seen worse conditions in your lifetime.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

And then, yesterday.

I was watching Gordon Brown, PM of the UK, addressing Congress and, I shit you not, he used the phrase “economic downturn” no less than 30 times. In fact, once he accidentally said recession and then made a point of fucking correcting himself!

What. The. Fuck?

The man is…he’s fucking English! The country the bloody language was named for, and even he’s been infected by this crap. It’s like a virus only, instead of getting it by opening a bad email, you get it by listening to daffy elected officials. I’m coining a new term; PTI, Politically Transmitted Infection. I wonder if they make condoms for it yet.

The thing that makes me laugh the most about all this, even as I’m crying a bit into my bowl of dripping rage-snot, is the origin of the word, “downturn.” It first entered the English language in 1925, four years before the Great Depression, and was used to describe patterns of mild corporate distress. When you consider the timing it’s not all that placating, is it? I wonder if Bush’s speech writer is snickering somewhere.

2) For those of you unaware, in July of 2008, a man from my city got on a Greyhound bus bound for Winnipeg, sat around on it for awhile, and then hacked the person sitting next to him to pieces with a machete, cut off his head and stuffed his ears and various other bits into a sandwich bag to be snacked on later. (Not a joke, he actually ate part of his victim while he held the other passengers hostage, I just can’t remember which part) I should mention that I was on that same bus route for 52 hours a couple of weeks prior. Not for any particular reason, it’s just my closest brush with death in years.

The next couple of days were filled with newspaper stories about how normal he was, how he was generally a nice guy who’d just gone through hard times with his wife and how shocked people who knew him were. You know, the usual Ted Bundy stuff.

And then the weird happened.

The front page of the Edmonton Journal (not a tabloid) ran a page one story about the killer, interviewing, of all people, an expert on the Wendigo. For those not initiated, the Wendigo is a possessing spirit that inhabits a person and forces them to eat human flesh. So being an expert on the Wendigo is kind of like being an expert on the Easter Bunny. (I’d like to point out however, that being an expert on Superman is not at all the same thing. Superman is real and I’ll stab you in the fucking eye with a chunk of Kryptonite if you say different. Grr.)

Wendigo expert went into great detail about the similarities between Inapprop-riately Hungry Bus Maniac and the mythical, Sudden Case of the Demonic Hungries. I laughed, shook my head in disbelief and set the paper on fire with my urine. I had a nasty case of PTI that week. (The cure, as it turns out, is large doses of Pirates of the Caribbean, the farthest thing on earth from politics.)

The reason I’m telling you the story about Wendigo expert (from hereon known as Douchebagwhoshouldhavegotabetterjob) is I now believe that his explanation is more reasonable then the one posited in a Winnipeg courtroom yesterday.

Inappropriately Hungry Bus Maniac is, predictably, pleading not guilty by reason of insanity. ‘Cause, of course we didn’t know that hacking off someone’s head and squirreling away their ears for a late snack was a sign of barking lunacy. (Or shared genes with the Royal Family)

I have a problem with this. I’m not going to go on record as saying I don’t buy insanity pleas; I genuinely believe that, under certain heightened conditions, it is possible for an otherwise normal, rational person to just snap, do something terrible and completely lack any control or understanding of their actions, I really do. But for me to believe that temporary insanity was at play, certain things have to be lacking. One of those things is self control. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the act of putting body parts in your pockets for later consumption smack of a certain degree of self fucking awareness?

The twist here of course is that he’s saying God told him to do it. That religious fervor was the source of his insanity. And here’s where the joy of inappropriate definitions comes into play. If he’s acquitted, there will be a legal precedent for declaring religious faith a mental disorder; if he’s convicted, then, under the law, he wasn’t actually insane. That would mean that, while it’s possible god did in fact tell him to do it, we as a society find that kind of thing unacceptable and televangelists will start declaring Canada “the nation that told god to fuck off.” Just wait, you heard it here first.

If we can’t adequately define important terms like insanity and hold them to a universal standard, we’re in serious fucking trouble, people. Either seeing things that aren’t there and acting on their advice is always nuts, or it’s never nuts; we need to solve this soon or there will be more very hungry people roaming the bus system with impunity.

Personally, I’m more comfortable with Douchebagwhoshouldhavegotabetterjob’s theory. I think Wendigo told him to do it.

3)I’ve got nothing. I was going to go on a tirade about the misuse of the word doctor
and how, since Phil has a PhD and not an MD and therefore can’t see patients clinically, he probably shouldn’t be allowed to pose as a psychiatrist on t.v. (fuck I’ve got to learn to get away from run-ons) and see them nationally.

Really though, I’m just tired of seeing him on the tube every morning, being interviewed about Octo-Mom. You know who should be being interviewed about Octo-Mom? No one. We’re having the worst recession in over half a century, that, officially, makes Nadya Suleman not-news. Dear “Dr.” Phil, I’m putting you on notice. Unless you’re banging the crap out of Nadya Suleman in a desperate attempt to father her next litter, I don’t want to hear one more freakin’ word from you on the subject. Pack up your white trash carnival and go peddle it in Louisiana, we’re done buying sensationalist stupidity here. (I hope)

Folks, here’s the thing. Language is what we use to communicate with each other. Words help us to understand that what I call a chair is the same thing you call a chair. In short, precision is fucking crucial; without it we might as well all be standing at the base of the Tower of Babel, screaming impotently at a mischievous deity who likes to see us utterly confounded.

After all, if we can’t decide what words mean, how can we ever decide if Inappropriately Hungry Bus Maniac was following god’s instructions properly or if he was just being asked to pass the salt? Crazy just becomes a matter of interpretation.

Misused words, give ’em to me.

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Comments
  1. That was a very excellent post and I’m glad you directed me to it. I’m in agreement with you. I’m seeing a trend. 🙂

  2. I actually kind of address that issue in one of the first posts on this blog;Here’s the link: http://thingsthatmakemyheadexplode.blogspot.com/2007/05/poor-excuse-for-justice.htmlIt's not a rant, just my thoughts on capital punishment and the idea of the social compact. Some antisocial behavior, while we can deem it legally insane, poses such a clear and present danger to the well being of all that the “Not guilty by reason of insanity,” ideal should not be applied. Ted Bundy is a perfect example; his actions were clearly not those of a well man, but he was still fundamentally aware and in control of his actions, therefore his illness didn’t trump his culpability. In my opinion 😀

  3. You know Albert Fish was convicted of murder (for killing and eating an eight year old girl and then, years later, writing a letter to her parents to describe what he did; and there was plenty more) and plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Although, with gillions of broken off needles in his own grown (he had his children insert them) and many other freakish perverted practices, he was clearly not sane, he was sentenced to death. When asked, one of the jurors said, “Yeah, we knew he was crazy. We just thought he should die anyway.”

  4. It could be, by some people (not me)argued that scientific progress IS a miracle unto itself. But I think that people who think that way are double plus ungood :p

  5. Thanks much sir :DI post about twice a week usually, sometimes more.

  6. Pearl says:

    I agree with you. Words are used to ensure that we all agree that THIS thing is called THIS. How many years are we from calling something double-plus ungood because no one can be bothered with “horrendous” or “catastrophic”.Which reminds me: not all deaths are “tragedies” and not all lucky turn of events are “miracles”. The Octuplets are NOT miracles! It was science, people! A miracle had nothing to do with it!

  7. Venom says:

    Holy Cow! You’ve got the art of ranting DOWN, man. I’ll be back. 😎

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