The Retarding of Like Words or Something

sheep at griffithI’m a fairly young individual so I haven’t been around to really experience tremendous shifts in our culture. Sure there was 9/11, but nothing really changed. I suppose I was around for the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of communism, oh, and the end of the cold war. But none of that really affected me or the reality of my world. Did I really think it was all going to end with the press of a button. At that age I was a bit more optimistic; I probably assumed the Transformers would step in to save the day. I missed the really big ones like Vietnam and the nuclear holocaust when our music and films were shaken by the political times. I don’t think I’ve seen a culture more affected in their art by the devastating effect that the nuclear holocaust had on Hiroshima and then Nagasaki. All that aside I consider myself an observant young individual, taking note of the smaller things, like shifts in style and taste of music, film genres and fashion. Sitting here I imagine a time in which the blue period was the talk of the town and critics alike. Romantic comedies were big a year ago, the blue period was big two centuries ago. That shift is not a cyclical one, that’s a cultural upheaval. That’s not a fad, that’s a phenomenon. But this awareness also extends to the way people represent themselves through speech.

I’ve always been kind of pissed at the artists who through their writing or films add vocabulary to our language, i.e. “Catch 22”, “Lolita”, “Paparazzi” (La Dolce Vita), but thankfully while all of these artists were adding vocabulary to our language George Orwell was teaching us that too many words is bad and it’s better to keep it short and flowery, and praise be, a lot of the world listened. I remember in Old English poetry they would pronounce the “F” as if it was an “S”…in fact I don’t think there was an “S”…if I correctly remember the texts I’ve read then how annoying. It’s difficult for me to imagine people walking down the sandy streets spouting “thees” and “thous”. I suppose while they had their “shalts”, we in Los Angeles have our “likes”. Here even shifts in local colloquialisms occur…constantly. A decade ago there was “whatever“, but culture has abbreviated this to the much more accessible, laid back and half hearted “whatevs”. Because of having lived in various places as a youth my acute sense of perception has had the chance to manufacture a certain kind of sixth sense when dealing with colloquialisms and I’ve noticed over the last couple years here in LA a shift similar to words prefixed with “what”, but this time in a word that’s more commonly used and this new morphism has gone pretty much unnoticed by the general populace. It’s a word I hear every time I’m on the cell phone. In the beginning this word was “goodbye”. sheep in trafficNow “goodbye” is used to give the word “bye” a little more emphasis. When we want to let someone know we really mean the fact that we’re leaving or hanging up we exclaim “goodbye!”, over annunciating every syllable. It can be used very cleverly. It’s younger and thinner brother, the go to guy “bye”, is for casual affairs. It can be drawn out to show impatience, as in “I want to go already.” You see, there’s still enough room for emoting. Now in an effort to stay ahead of the rest of the world’s notion of popular, the slim “bye” has become no more than a sound, a groan or grunt. What the English dictionary describes as a “bleet”. The way in which people now say goodbye in LA is to make the sound “ba”…

Yes, “ba”. And there are only two ways to say “ba”. There’s the terse “ba” which means you’re in a hurry to get off the phone, and there’s the more drawn out, nasally “baaaaaaa” which means you’re too lazy to want to say goodbye, but you don’t really want to talk anymore and you don’t really know why you called in the first place. Which pretty much clearly marks the distinction between people in LA: the busy and the useless. Does this shift preclude a more national dialectical shift, as many clothing and music fads have begun in LA? It all depends on I suppose one of two things happening first: the people of LA stop giving the conservatives of the fly over states the silent treatment or the Midwest and deep South get better cell phone reception. With these facts in mind it might be awhile before the rest of the US picks up on this ever increasing in popularity send-off.

So, in the spirit of the times my screen writing partner leaves you with this fond Los Angeles farewell…

One Response to “The Retarding of Like Words or Something”

  1. Josh and Sherri Says:

    I’ve been noticing something similar, but it has less to do with language than how we convey it. Remember that oddly stiff and high-pitched tone that old-time radio hosts had? Not Orson Wells, but the advertisers and news anchors–you know, the ones who gave dispatches from the war.

    Well, I had the misfortune of listening to a radio announcer today and he sounded just as outmoded to me. I think that 50 years from now, maybe less, people will listen to our broadcasts and say, “Remember that purposefully weak and careful-not-to-offend-the-oversensitive-sheep voice that early-century radio hosts had? Not Ira Glass, but the advertisers and news anchors–and the ones who played “family” songs about Jesus and asked for pledges on public radio.

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