Saturday, February 17, 2001

On Language

"There’s a fine line between clever and stupid.”

—This is Spinal Tap

Let’s talk about the naming of things.

Two examples of names for things which do a tightrope walk along the clever/stupid line.

The Band. The balls of it! A band names itself “the Band,” like they’re the only band in the whole fucking world. Not “a” band. “The” band. As if, whenever anybody asked “Where’s the band?” or said “I’m with the band” they were talking about them.

Clever ... or stupid?

Circus Circus

What a fucking stretch, eh?

I imagine a bunch of dim bulb cartoon mobsters around a conference table trying to come up with a name for their new casino.

BOSS: OK, boys, I got the theme. We’re gonna turn this whole place into a circus, see? You got your wholesome family entertainment for Mom and the kids, gambling, booze and whores for Dad. Something for everybody, know what I mean? Only problem is, I need a name...something classy. Something that says “this is a classy circus — you’re not gonna step in no elephant shit.”

MOBSTER #1: How about “the Classy Circus”...?

BOSS: No, they got one in New Jersey. Anyway, I want a name that says “circus.”

MOBSTER #2: Circus Circus?

BOSS: Nah. That ain’t classy enough. See, in Canada they got this fag circus where they put the name circus “Circus Sally Manella” or sumpin. It’s more classy when you put the names the other way around like that. (pause) Think about it...

MOBSTER #2: (starting to get it) So, instead of “Circus Circus”...

BOSS: Yeah...?

MOBSTER #2: We call it “Circus Circus”...!

BOSS: Yeah!

The MOBSTERS applaud.

BOSS: That’s what I call class!


* * *

And, speaking of gambling, noticed how the “Gambling Industry” has redefined itself as the “Gaming” Industry and redefined gambling as “wagering.”

Gambling makes me think of “Crime Story,” “Casino” and leatherskinned old ladies with big hats and tits down to their bellybuttons pumping styrofoam cups full of quarters into the slots. “Gaming” and “wagering” makes me think of a bunch of snuff-dipping 17th century fops putting wagers on the running of the hounds. “I say, a sporting wager, wot?” opposed to Joe Pesci getting buried alive.

Clever, clever, clever.

* * *

3 stupid language tricks:

* Speaking of fops, the reason we say “butterfly” instead of “flutterby” is: back in the 18th century, there was a fashion among said fops of saying words backwards (as in “bassackwards”) which is why we say “butterfly” (which makes no fucking sense) instead of “flutterby” (poetic and descriptive.) Goddamn fops.

* During the Elizabethan age, folks in London sounded more or less like the folks in Dublin do today. The “King’s English” arose because King George III — a Hapsburg monarch — i.e., a kraut — spke English with a thick German accent...and all the court hangers-on did their best to imitate hm because, by definition, the “King’s English” is, of course, good.

Goddamn fops ruin everything. Again.

* Factoid: Norman Mailer invented the word factoid to describe the spurious facts that everyone swallow whole-hog (We only use 10% of our brains!) — but dumbass newscasters started using it to mean “interesting nugget of trivia” and killed the poor man’s useful neologism while he yet lived. Goddamn newscasters. Almost as bad as those fops.

* * *
The phrase “Have your cake and eat it too” is stupid. Lotsa folks say it should be “Eat your cake and have it to” but that doesn’t sound right. How about “Eat your cake and keep it?” Everybody say “eat your cake and keep it” starting now. Because I say so.

It’s klever.

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