Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Bad Word

I have written a lot, lately, about the things going well in my life. It is now time for me to be honest about my biggest failure, my language. I don't curse, I don't use slurs, and I don't talk down to women. I talk like my teenage daughter.

She enjoys making fun of me. If she wasn't giving me the business, something would be wrong with our relationship. Yet, I realize that her disapproval of some of the words I use is not only rational, it's right. A few nights ago I was watching San Diego State play Navy in the Who Gives A Flip College Football Is Insanely Greedy For Sponsoring A Game Featuring These Teams Bowl. San Diego State has a running back who is excellent at football. He was scoring his second touchdown and my daughter, Tay, seen here:

was walking through the room and heard me say "that dude is beast", I saw her stare at me, roll her eyes, and then I said "or tight, legit, money, sick or whatever, you know". Suddenly, under the critical eye of an almost 15 year old, I was reduced to blather more suited to a cast member if the movie Clueless.

I have several friends, real and online, with kids in the same age range. They report similar issues with either trying to relate to their teen children through music, movie, or vocabulary. Twitter has become a great resource for antecdotal evidence that a lot of 40 year olds (my age) talk or at least tweet like, 15 year olds (my daughter's age, in 10 days). I see the words holla, aight, whatever, pshaw, k, lol, omg, viral, woot, like, you know, and countless others that probably shouldn't come from the mouths or keyboards of anyone over the age of 20.

Now it's time to show my age. Almost 30 years ago, Moon Unit Zappa, the then teenage daughter of alternative rock musician Frank Zappa, released the song Valley Girl, which spawned a memorable movie starring a teenage Nicolas Cage.

Moon Unit, with her dad's genius production, made a novelty song hilighting the verbal gymnastics Southern California teenage girl engaged in with words like, grody, to the max, gag me with a spoon, as if, like, ya, and many other words that would make English professors want to find a shotgun and lose their minds. I remember my parents thinking me, and my friends had lost our minds when we started mimicking the language. Funny this is, my parents didn't follow suit. Whereas, I have, and so has my wife and our friends.

I'm a word nerd. I used to study the dictionary and thesaurus in my room growing up. I wanted to go into sports broadcasting as a teenager. I had a southern accent, and wanted to lose it so badly that by my freshman year of college I sounded like I was from the Midwest or Northeast. My diction was unnaturally clean. I also did not use Valley Girl words or hip hop culture stables like holla, aight, yo, or bomb diggity.

I find it difficult writing my 100 word entries, my fiction, or even a friendly story review for a friend, without tossing in a non sequiter or some slang. My favorite song of 2010 was American Slang by The Gaslight Anthem. While the song was brilliant, I couldn't escape lazy verbiage. It's endemic, though. I work around men and women who are middle aged and they mix in slang and teenage talk without realizing they're doing it. This isn't me writing about how the world is headed to hell in a handbasket because we talk like Jay Z or Ke$ha. Music is headed to hell in handbasket because of it, but the world itself is ok. I am going to make it a goal of mine in 2011 to talk more my age. Act my age, absolutely not. I have a blog and a twitter account for goodness sakes. I will leave the young slang and the hip hop lingo to my daughter and the teenage kids of Chris/@DxPepper, Nee Cee/@DDubsLilDDub, C/ @onesmarmymama, Corrine/@Corrine224, @& Heather/@MrazFan19 (they all responded to my twitter poll on the subject). My wife is on the spot too. She's pretty and all but the woman talks like Vampire Diaries cast member.

It's funny, I learn more from my kids than I do from people my own age these days. The cooler I try to act around Tay, the less cool I am to her. She wants me to be the big goober dad type I sould be, which means seen, not heard. I'll continue to embarrass her as much as possible, but I'll make sure to say the latest Eminem record is well done hip hop as opposed to phat beat that blow up my speakers, dawg. See, that reads as stupid as it sounds.


I mean, the end. Good night.



  1. I have to totally re-read this because you lost me when I took a stroll down memory lane when you mentioned Vally Girl. That movie is BEAST! Fer Sure.

  2. You aren't helping Becky, like as if!

  3. Wait, I'm confused. you said your language was a failure of yours, yet you seem to be very proud of the fact that you don't use slurs or curse words or talk down to women.

    However, I too use "young" language - not to intentionally sound younger but maybe just as an afterthought. I think I do it to be funny, so my kids might raise an eyebrow like, "What did SHE just say???" Then it just becomes secondhand, using those words.

    Dang, now I'm all twitchy writing a comment, worried you're picking it apart for the improper verb tense and dangling participles! ha ha

  4. No, Tex, speak and write the way you wish, I am just saying that I personally will speak and write more suitable to my age. Having a teen in the house and being lazy with slang tends towards bad habits for me. You're great. Ha!

  5. Brother, I have no teens anywhere near me and my vocab and syntax are influenced just by being on Twitter and Facebook. Go easy on yourself - we aren't posing, we're just hipper than our parents were. :) That said, I don't speak any hip hop, so what do I know?

  6. Shall we bring you your pipe and slippers, father?
    YOU'RE 40! YOU'RE A MAN!

  7. I am notorious for trying to use my kids' vernacular... but I do it for affect, and to blatantly embarrass them. I do the same thing with songs they like. Best way for me to keep The Boy from listening to songs with questionable lyrics is to sing along when they come on the radio...he cannot turn the station fast enough.

    Embrace your inner Valley Girl, and always remember to use your powers for good.

  8. lol @ brick , who is OLDER than me

    Tara, Bobina and I do EVERYTHING to embarrass all of our children, esp the teenager. I sing along with some of her songs and she suddenly doesn;t like them anymore. We share a like of Eminem and I notice she doesn;t play Em around me for fear I'll ruin him for her. (i don;t let her have that CD in the house, i wrote about this months ago).

    You know me, Tara, I'm a word nerd/language snob. I have noticed my vocabulary has gotten very lazy lately. That being said, tay will continue to suffer the wrath of my sarcasm.


  9. Hilarious post. I totally appreciate everything you're saying and look forward to the day that Jack rolls his eyes at me for saying "That is so yogurt" or whatever cool phrase is floating through the halls when he's old enough to go to school.

    The wife and I have been watching a lot of movies lately and it hit me that nothing dates a movie like the music and score. Movies made in the 80s and set in the 50s still used synthesizers.

    I try to scrub all that 'of the minute' language from my writing, too, with varying levels of success.

    To do otherwise is just totally grody, IMO.


  10. I laughed out loud: "My wife--she's pretty and all but she talks like a cast member of Vampire Diaries". I'm not even sure how cast members of that show speak, but I love the line.