Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Music's biggest letdown of the year

So there's this song called "Blank Space." You might have heard it—it gets played on the radio approximately every 5 minutes on every station. All the time that this song has been blowing up the airwaves, I've been convinced I was hearing something like, "Got a lonely Starbucks lovers, they'll tell you I'm insane...I got a blank space, baby, and I'll write your name!"

I thought this lyric was some kind of play on the phrase, "star-crossed" lovers, and I found it very clever. I envisioned a sad barista, leaning on a desolate counter, just waiting for her favorite customer to come in so she can write his name on his cup! Although my version didn't quite take the form of coherent sentences, I was convinced that I had the spirit of it right, and if I just listened harder and actually paid attention to the lyrics (something I rarely do), I would not only learn the correct words, but I would hear the entire story of a tragic coffee-shop love affair.

Alas, yesterday, a Buzzfeed article someone posted to Facebook set my starry-eyed mind straight. In this article, I learned that the verse I (and apparently lots of other people) thought referred to Starbucks lovers actually goes "Got a long list of ex-lovers"—a typical and played out Taylor-Swiftism. It was also through this article that I learned Taylor Swift was indeed the artist, but it's the first revelation that really hurts. Why is it that the real lyrics of a song never quite stand up to the lyrics I imagine in my selective deafness? Who else out there thinks this song would have been better if it were about doomed romance in a coffee shop?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Say it again, Sam (or don't)

Since my last (non-food) post was about stupid questions, it seems a reasonable progression to have my next post be about stupid phrases. Yes, today I'll be taking on the persona of Li'l Language Lady and sharing my thoughts on superfluous verbiage!

I am not at all a fan of saying the same thing twice (you should hear the hostile "nothing" I have perfected for when my boyfriend has asked "what?" too many times in a conversation!). And I get just slightly, almost imperceptibly, annoyed by sentences which could be several words shorter and still say the same thing (you'd think that someone who's so fond of rambling asides would have a little more tolerance for the inefficient sentences of the world, but life is full of inconsistencies, eh?).

Take, for example, double self-referencing. People love to stick the word self in front of other verbs as a way of indicating that the action is directed towards the actor—a prime example: self-diagnose, which is common in this age of Internet medical reference and accessible hypochondria. There's nothing wrong with using self- as a prefix, but I do take issue when it is also used as a suffix, as in, "Self-diagnose oneself." Almost as bad as the dreaded double negative, the second "self" in this phrase is just dead weight and should be jettisoned. Think of it as a practical impossibility—one can not have two selves. Unless, maybe, one is part of a sci-fi story.

One particular circumstance in which duplication of words seems to happen a lot is when using acronyms in a sentence. People don't always seem to know the words behind the letters they speak, resulting in superfluous meanings like "Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus gear" or "Automatic teller machine machine" or "Personal identification number number."

One of my favorite misused acronyms to rag on is RSVP. Commonly seen at the bottom of invitations, asking the recipient to note whether he or she will be coming, RSVP comes from the French "Répondez s'il vous plaît," or, "please reply." Somehow, in common English, RSVP became a verb for "tell us whether you're coming," and so gets commonly used in phrases like, "Please RSVP." Translated literally, this means, "Please, please, reply," which sounds just a bit desperate. When used as a noun meaning "an indication of whether you're coming," RSVP becomes even more weird—e.g. "Indicate your meal preference on your please reply." I try not to use this abbreviation in such a corrupted way, but I'll admit that even I have trouble avoiding it—there's just no good alternative word that packs in all that commonly accepted meaning in such short four letters!

Maybe we should just reduce the conclusion by using our own English language. From now on, maybe I'll start closing my invitations with TUWYC (Tell us whether you're coming.)