• Monthly Archives: February 2020

Humor Is Not Necessarily Leavening: Platitudes and Causerie

February 28, 2020

One pervasive feature of contemporary American culture as it involves language is
the constant resort to what passes for humor, no matter who is conversing and what the subject of the exchange. This can be observed in the most ordinary situations, e.g. among adults of both sexes in a gym while exercising or diners sitting together at the bar of a restaurant. No topic, no matter how seemingly immune to hilarity, is nowadays discussed without the intervention of jokes and wan attempts at humor. This kind of typical repartee comes with a debasement of whatever linguistic material is being exchanged.

Americans in the twenty-first century seem to treat their speech as merely a vehicle for humor whenver they find themselves speaking to each other in informal contexts. There is thus a fundamental undermining of what constitutes seriousness as distinct from humor.

Language, being the main instrument of both thought and intentionality, now tends to serve only one primary purpose: the purveying of platitutudes masquerading as ideas.


Linguistic Fads

February 13, 2020

Just as fashion in all of culture, language is subject to fads and faddish uses of words. As with all such phenomena, they are often short-lived (pronounced [ʃɔrtlʌɪvd]).

A recent word in American English that has become faddish is negative instead of the traditional minus to designate the temperature below zero degrees. Why this has happened has mainly to do with the powerful tendency in contemporary American speech toward hypertrophy. The faddish word has three syllables, whereas the traditional one has two. Also, negative sounds more “scientific,” which is license enough for many contemporary speakers, who elevate science to a religion. One can only hope that this faddish usage will go the way of all such fashions.