Humor columnist Dave Barry has an alter-ego he sometimes turns to so he can offer advice on grammar; he calls it Mr. Language Person.
Maybe I'll get another handle of my own, and call it Mr. Angry Word Guy. Of course, because I mean the guy is angry, not the words, the title itself is troublesome. But you get the idea.
Mr. Word Guy, these days, is angry about slippage in our language. Words that once had real meaning have become squishy and overused, like John Kerry's forehead when he's not on Botox. And because Mr. Word Guy is, well, a guy, these complaints are overwhelmingly guy-centered.
Heading up this list are descriptions adopted by women through marketing that caters to some overwrought image of pedastalhood that Women's Lib was supposed to erase.
Ladies, unless you are Jessie Norman or Bette Midler or Aretha Franklin, even, you are not a "diva" of anything. With apologies to my writer pal Karin Gillespie, there is no such thing as a "dollar store diva" (though my wife loved Gillespie's new book, by that oxymoronic name).
Likewise, you are not a princess.
And you are certainly not a "goddess."
For that matter, if you call yourself any of the above, you probably aren't even a lady; being a lady, after all, requires some degree of modesty.
We don't hear guys walking around calling themselves rock stars, or princes, or -- heaven forbid; really -- gods, do we? Of course not.
This silly stuff was supposed to create some sort of self-esteem boost, I suppose; instead, it's become the ironically funny script for slogans on too-tight trailer-park tank-tops. (My favorite: "Always A Lady" on a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking nitwit, who hasn't seen class since she flunked elementary school.)
That reminds me of a woman who cussed me out on the phone once: "You bleepity-bleep-bleep!" she said. "I'm too much of a lady to tell you what I really think." Thank goodness for that.
Women aren't the only culprits, of course. Another peeve of Mr. Word Guy isn't so much from misuse as overuse.
In broadcast political ads, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill requires candidates for federal office to record, in their voice, "I'm Joe Schmoe, and I approve this message." The idea behind this little gem is to keep candidates from running scurrilous attacks and keeping their distance; it's the opposite of a disclaimer, requiring them to affirm that it's their attack.
The problem? Now everyone thinks it's cute. Diane Ford put it in her own ads for county commission. Jim Whitehead left it at the end of a voice-mail message for me the other day. Even the gas company has its "Gas Guy" character on a billboard saying "I approved this message."
Well, Mr. Word Guy is tired of hearing it, and I bet he's not alone. If you're not required by law to say it, don't. It's as linguistically nutty as the comedian's criticism of "For Sale By Owner" signs: "Who the heck else would be selling it?"
There's still time to get in your questions for the Tuesday night debate of the four candidates running for Columbia County school board.
I've gotten a handful of questions in so far, but could use a few more. It's kind of a surprise that none of the candidates (yet) have tried to plant questions to needle their opponents (and I don't mean that as a hint).
Wayne Bridges, Donnie Porter, LouAnne Grove and Mike Sleeper meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Lakeside High.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.
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