I like words. Like everything about them—the way they sound, the way they feel when you say them, the way they congregate in sentences. I like their subtlety, their nuance. Their power. Yeah. I like the old semiotics game, too. You know, the old can you have a thought without words experiment. Go ahead, try it, I’ll wait…
Some words are better than others. Take serendipity, for instance. Sounds like a milk shake, doesn’t it? Or maybe a vacation package. Take the Serendipity Cruise, find what you’ve been looking for all these years! Or, how about malfeasance? You don’t even need to know what the word means to understand that it doesn’t mean anything good. Say it slowly. Mal…feeea..sance. Sounds like something an old guy in a seer-sucker (now there’s a word, and what the hell is a seer?) suit would say to a bunch of pre-teens: “you miscreants are up to some malfeasance, and I’ll not stand for it, you hear? Now get off my lawn!” One day, one day…
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a slip in the integrity of words, a decline in their elevated position, especially when it comes to new words. Like google, for instance. I looked it up in my trusty Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, circa 1976. Found gooey, googol, and gook, but no google. Naturally, I googled “definition of google.” Using Google. In the process, I learned that google has been added to the latest edition of Webster’s. I’m not fond of the word google. Nope, not a good word. But, you see what I’ve done here. If you repeat a word enough times in succession, you take away its power, rendering it cacophonic and therefore, virtually useless. We can try. But alas, one must have a wry sense of humor to appreciate such linguistic calisthenics. And no matter how many of us band together and chant google-google-google, I suppose “google” as a word has become the new normal.
The new normal—therein lies the problem…or, the rub… or, the crux of the biscuit. Everybody throws the phrase, “the new normal” around lately. Why, it’s become the new normal catch phrase du jour, hasn’t it? Has no one realized the term defies logic?
Take Ben Franklin and his kite. Once lightning struck the thing and he discovered the true nature of electricity, do you think Ben turned to Joseph Priestley and said, “Well, Joe, get used to it, electricity is the new normal.” I doubt it. If anything, he probably said, “holy excrement, that’s hot,” or something equally revolutionary.
When Philo Farnsworth invented television, I doubt he called up his buddy, Charles Jenkins (yes, called, because using the telephone had become the new normal by then), and said, “Yo,Chuck, this TV thing…it’s the new normal, tell everyone.” No, no, no. Philo, given the nature of his invention, was obviously a man of vision. Instead of opting for the lazy route, he may have uttered, “Hey Chuckie, what time’s Honey Boo Boo come on, and did you see last night’s Dancing With the Stars? It was fabulous.” Maybe, but the phrase “the new normal”? Nope, that didn’t soil Philo’s lips, you can bet on it.
And finally, when all the Twilight characters first saw The Walking Dead on Philo’s invention, did they throw up their hands, beat their chests and wail, “Zombie are the new normal, we must now slink silently away from public view”? Unfortunately, no. Instead, they put in another Justin Beiber CD and began planning yet another movie.
See, something’s either new or it’s normal, it can’t be both. So let’s put an end to it, right here, right now. Stop using “the new normal,” stop “googling” things. This is new, or this is normal—pick one. Look something up on the Internet. We can do better, we can return words to their proper stature. Once that happens, anything’s possible. Why, parents might even start naming their kids Philo again.
Until next time, Peace!