Wednesday, June 13, 2007

When Original Inspiration Is Defeated by Sameness

I suppose I like the English language well enough to be intellectually tickled when I happen upon a Web site like Urban Dictionary. For the uninitiated, Urban Dictionary is a bit of what it sounds like: a collection of words, phrases and even individual letters (under "A" there's a picture of Fonzie)created and submitted by individuals to describe people, places and events. The overall tenor of the site brings to mind what one might find spending a Saturday night cruising aimlessly with a bunch of teenagers: Sometimes you'll grasp the nature of their jokes, but mostly it's all insider talk, which is of course half the fun of it.

Perusing the Word of the Day archive, I came across some examples of what the site is about. (Entries include the date the word was added as well as a tally of user's votes of thumbs up or down: virtual slaps on the back for approval or bored, "whatever" eye-rolls of dissatisfaction.)

June 2 dick flick 1973 up, 180 down

The testosterone-driven opposite of a "chick flick". Generally contains lots of car chases, explosions, and boobs.

May 30 BOBFOC 1164 up, 517 down

Body Off Baywatch, Face Off Crimewatch. A person who possesses a killer body but has a face that only a mother could love.


I'll admit these examples are juvenille, but that's fine because there's more to it than that. What I appreciate is the fact that these words capture real-life examples of things I know and have seen, but have never identified. Wade through the many pages of immature banality on the site and you'll find similar instances of recognition, producing a knowing smile.

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What's wonderful about the English language of course is its maleability. We can stretch it, twist, turn and tweak it to fit our needs. Even better is a by-product of this act, whereby we create an insular family of friends speaking a language no one else understands. So it's the joy of creating this new, albeit limited language that appeals to me when I encounter a site like Urban Dictionary.

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And while I consider myself someone who is fairly unique, at least when it comes to creating stupid words, I was shocked to learn that two words I thought I had complete ownership of (gaysian and faggage) were in fact submitted to the site by two other like-minded folks over three years ago! So much for originality; so much for being clever. (It should be parenthetically stated here that one other of "my words," linguistist, is currently under consideration for inclusion by the UB Editors. I'll let you know it's fate as soon as I know.)

On one hand I was disappointed to learn my self-coined joke-words, previously shared only with my wife, had been stolen by an anonymous troglodyte (probably an acne-riddled 16 year-old boy who spends way too much time on the computer), the other hand holds a kind of lesson, I suppose. I mean, so what if my brand of humor is shared by some loser in Peoria? I should be happy that there are others out there willing to be silly, and are just as willing to broadcast it over the Internet for all of their friends--assuming they have friends--to enjoy. Because in the end, I'm laughing right along with them, even if I don't get the joke everytime.

3 comments:

General Ursus said...

B.K. I'm checkin' out the site right now. Let us know when "linguistisist" makes it in.

Reading your post made me think of one of those NPR pieces that someone reads on air. Try reading it out loud with that in mind. I think it sort of has that cadence.

Sarge said...

I was glad to see that "muffin-top" had already made it in.

I still swear that MILF was originated when Silvio, and perhaps the General, worked a summer at that country club with Brother Brooks.

Ray said...

The proverbial icing on the cake for all of this is that my word, linguistist, made it into the dictionary. I just found out here:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=linguistist

This, of course, means absolutely nothing.