Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Literally, The Best Language Book Ever and Mo' Urban Dictionary: Fularious Street Slang Defined

Summer's been here and done that, and all in a blink. Where were you? Me? Well, I was mostly trying to catch up with all the haze and craze that is summer—this sounds so familiar, I'm so sure I've been here grumbling like this before, and in July too, when I first reported that The Half-blood Prince was soon to come out of his closet in November. Then, Warner Brothers happened, if you know what I mean, who suddenly prohibited the prince from emerging from his cave, or closet, until next July, supposedly to prevent him from clashing with his rival's upcoming revelation on Broadway, which surely smells like a marketing ploy, which by the way I haven't come to terms with yet, so I'll talk about it more later; still, Umbridge must be behind all this and secretly runs Warner Bros with the other bigwigs like Chaney—when a chance to do book reviews for Society's Elite came up. It's a really lucky thing because I've always been fascinated by the ever-intriguing subjects of philosophy and language, and some of the writings that relate to these topics I still enjoy are Moliere's The Misanthrope, Thomas Cathcart's and Daniel Klein's Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar, and George Carlin's Napalm and Silly Putty. That I get to review two books on language, each with a very distinct approach in presenting what we use, at best, to express ourselves and communicate with one another, was indeed lucky. The books' vastly different perspectives on the current status of our language are both astonishing and amusing.

Got an opinion or two, or a peeve or three? Well, Paul Yeager is certainly not without his grumbles, as expressed by his book's title.
Literally, The Best Language Book Ever, Annoying Words and Abused Phrases You Should Never Use Again spells out society's blatant misuse of the English language—from grammatical blunders to redundant repetitions, to arbitrary lingoes and wordiness, to trite and dated phrases, as well as clumsy conversions of nouns into verbs, called "Verbification", of which I'm absolutely guilty of, since I doggedly google, instead of properly research just about everything on the internet. And you, meteorologists, aren't exempt either; you're condemned of prepositional glut, as in "showers are moving on over into a region". (Refer to pg. 10 for your vernacular crime). It's a shameful thing. We're just not a very articulate society. Eloquence simply evades us. I sympathize with Mr. Yeager's frustration about the abysmal deterioration of our language, a national affair so grim that one might just prefer to stay home and have tea alone than to suffer a dismal and bland conversation outside. Blame it on the administration at large, all the workplaces and schools included. Blame it on Bush too, as with everything else and as he single-handedly runs the nation. These officials should know better by teaching us the precise use of nouns, like "mentor", "leverage", "task", "transition", "partner", and "retail" which are strictly nouns, just like a "parent", and must never be used as verbs; therefore, to parent a child or acquire parenting skills is clearly unacceptable. (Refer to Verbification, Ch.3) However, while Mr. Yeager doesn't claim being "some great language dictator" and actually "[doubts] that you'll agree with [the book's entries]", he just doesn't allow inarticulacy in his house either, according to his Introduction on page XIII. There goes our chance for ever being invited to tea, or coffee, for my googling and a friend's gifting. Then again, the gathering for a satisfying conversation at his place might be awfully small, since most of us, if not all, are oftentimes guilty of flawed speech. In fact, Mr. Yeager's slip-up is quite obvious on page VIII, with his use of the phrase "my personal favorite" instead of the more succinct my favorite, or a personal favorite, or even a favorite of mine, since my, personal, or mine, per se, denotes ownership. Nevertheless, I appreciate having read his book. While a bit pedantic in some parts, it ardently reminds us to try our best to avoid inept language so that "we can better choose how we present ourselves" and "participate in, rather than glide through, our daily conversations". In other words, we need to stop being flippant about our English and start taking it seriously. In short, speak clear English already, people! It can get tricky though, especially when our grammar is highly dependent on the meanings of the words we use. Let's not forget that the world evolves. And so do we and our words. And since our perceptions and experiences dictate what we say, new words are created, existing words converted, and definitions adjusted. These modifications taking place inevitably affect our syntax, our expressions, and thus, our language. Change is inescapable. Otherwise, we wouldn't be here, where we can talk together and have a dialogue or a discourse, a speech, a discussion, or even a conversation; those words essentially mean the same, by the way. Who invented them, these synonyms? What about nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs? And what of articles, prepositions, and interjections? And gerunds? These are verbs converted to nouns by adding the suffix, ing. Does the principle ring familiar? It's verbification, only inverted, isn't it? But are gerunds more acceptable, as in thinking, than a verbification like parenting, because it's all right to convert the verb, think, into a noun, but isn't okay to turn the noun, parent, into a verb, merely out of convention? Who started this tradition? Who established what we've all now come to accept? Who uttered the first word? Was it the Anglos, the Saxons, or the Cro-Magnons? And what was it? Was it an emphatic, "Ah"? Ah, history certainly proves how far we've come since the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, to the Asians who can imitate most things. Well, maybe language isn't that easy, specifically English, much of which is borrowed, or to put it more gently, derived from other languages; hence, its inconsistent principles, such as the rules on pronunciation—i.e. the present tense, read, the past tense, read, and the color red; basically, the past tense, read cannot be read, or pronounced, like red. Still, society will surely continue to party until something else takes its place, like the more polished expression of to partake in revelry or "mild-mannered frivolity", as preferred by Professor McGonagall. Language is sentient, lest we forget. And lingoes will endure, as our communication changes with time. We may as well keep an open mind that we learn to appreciate this sort of evolution, or not. But keep an open mind anyway. Plus, it could be fun, like a musician's ad lib act. I call it play-speak, as in googling and gifting, though I choose giving a present rather than gifting or even presenting a gift. Yet, I commend Mr. Yeager for saying what he means, with neither a squirm nor a skirting the issue, as he strongly suggests, to all of you who don't speak his language, that you can learn to and should speak smartly; only, the choice is yours. And to those who talk his talk, more brevity and clarity to you. Written boldly, this is a sure read for the earnest student or any aficionado of the English language. This book left me both tickled and stunned with its sharp sarcasms and puns. And if this review is hogwash, drivel, nonsense, or claptrap, or rubbish, garbage, gabble, or twaddle, or hooey, humbug, gibberish, or bunkum, or even hokum and baloney, and gobbledygook, or whatever, for its length and/or content, the point is clear. It doesn't matter much who formed these combinations of sounds or syllables, called words, and who determines what's acceptable or not, unless you're doing a school project or engage with something of a very fussy nature, as long as we allow each other to express ourselves freely. We zip through life—with one hand on a cell phone, not a beeper or a payphone, and the other clutching a latte (thanks to Ms. Alanis Morissette's Hand In My Pocket for the concept)—and inadvertently affect or freak each other out, as it is. And about "freaking" (pg. 52), too much of it can and do get anal and unhealthy for us, like anything else; though I can't deny that it jumps out of my mouth every now and then. And, "Who'd've thunk it?" (pg. 58) is absolutely hilarious. Finally, "it goes without saying"...this concludes this review. Who'd've thunk that I'd "literally" finish it…

Now, switch your attention to Aaron Peckham's Mo' Urban Dictionary: Fularious Street Slang Defined. What else can I say, when the title clearly speaks for itself. Written to give people "a chance to explain how they use and change existing language to express their views of the world around them", this book is funny and hilarious highly enhanced. It's fluent urban speak, with its rich collection of words and a unique amalgam of expressions, submitted by the culturally receptive, a modern society who's an absolute antithesis to what could be an otherwise stringently erudite and austere culture. From the abc'ssuch as "abso-frickinlutely", which is "a reinforced expression of absolutely"; "abacadaba", to zip through a fill-in-the-bubble-and-get-it-over-and-done-with-fast-because-it's-just-so-ridiculously-hard-that-even-trying-to-score-high-is-made-impossible-and-pointless-multiple-choice test; and "air-biscuit", fart, plain and simple, as in, How dare you give me air biscuit I clearly didn't ask for?; "backne", simply back acne, of course; "bollocks", which could mean anything from rubbish, lies, great, or the best possible, to an exclamation made when one bungles, or even testicles; and "cankles", which are tubular legs where the calves and the ankles are indistinguishable from each other—to the xyz's of life, as in, literally, "xyz", short for "examine your zipper", or to remind someone to zip up the fly in the briefest and most discreet way—in addition to Peckham's droll examples, the Mo' Urban Dictionary definitely preserves and represents the language of today's subcultures and of everyone else in between and outside—[from the rebellious teens…tweens and thirtysomethings…to the 'rents, teachers…and even avid students of the English Language all over the world]. As Aaron Peckham aptly put, "Everyone deserves the opportunity to understand and be understood." Now, "chillax" and learn the lingo in this totally "fularious" book. Then, pick up its "ridonkulous" sequel, The Ridonkulous Street Slang Defined, lest you forget that language is fast paced and get left behind.

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