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The Five Things You Say That Make You Sound Stupid

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Listen, Bunkie, I know you're not stupid. I've seen your SAT scores; it's hard not to, because you enlarged them to poster size and framed them and hung them on your front door. (The spotlights added a nice subtle touch.) But sometimes you say things that make you sound like Dr. Moniz mistook your brain for his morning cup of coffee and stuck his spoon up in there and just started stirring.

Aw, c'mon, admit it: you say some crap. Because everybody says some crap. I want to help you stop; I'm not trying to mock you but to support you. Well, and mock you; they're not mutually exclusive. I mock because I love. (Mostly I love to mock.) Also it makes me feel better about my shattered dreams of becoming a prize-winning CPA.

So listen, Pookie: if ever again you find one of these expressions about to cross your lips, bite your tongue. Hard. Maybe even off. Trust me: it'll hurt for a little while, but bear up; it's the right way to go.

5) "Literally" to mean anything other than literally "literally." Some months ago, I heard one 20-something say to another on the Halsted bus in Chicago, "Dude, it's literally right there." So, it's not figuratively right there, I take it? Its being right there is not some kind of metaphor for the despair we experience at the alienation engendered by an impersonal technological society, or perhaps for the insane comfort and cuteness of kitten slippers? (Because you know what? They have kitty-whiskers!) "Literally" does not intensify a verb or adjective, like "truly" or "greatly"; it means exactly, precisely, according to the strictest definition. The opposite of "literally" is "figuratively", so if you use "literally" and you're not trying to distinguish what you just said from a figure of speech, an image or a simile, you sound like you spent the afternoon huffing gold-fleck paint. (My apologies if you literally spent the afternoon huffing gold-fleck paint; it does explain your sparkly lips and mouth.) Rest assured: people laugh at you when you say that, and if they don't, I will make them.

4) "Anxious" to mean "eager." Oh, you're anxious to meet, are you? I understand your anxiety, because I plan to spend much of our meeting mocking your ignorance of the difference between anxious and eager. (Which will no doubt make you less eager to meet again, so I'll go home early to spend more time on my hobbies, notably drinking and masturbation.) To be anxious means to be nervous about an uncertain future, possibly even to have an anxiety disorder. (Our meeting might then be about your reality show, which would make me anxious.) If you're anxious to meet with me (or more correctly, about meeting with me), the thought of that meeting makes you nervous and tense, probably because of my habit of randomly flailing about with a machete in meetings. (It sounds awful, but it's really quite endearing, if I don't gut you like a mackerel.) If you're eager to meet with me, you look forward with great anticipation to our meeting, probably because you hid my machete.

3) "Drink the Kool-Aid." You hear this phrase in business all the time: "We really need your whole team to drink the Kool-Aid...", meaning to agree to eat eagerly whatever shit they're selling you, whether they are actually salespeople or your bosses. And you (if you are me, and for all practical purposes you are) say to yourself, "Self, does that guy know he just made a reference to a cult whose leader, Jim Jones, urged all of his followers to drink poisoned fruit drink, shortly before 900 of them did just that and died?" And if your self is like my self, it will reply, "No, no, he doesn't know that, because he is a dipshit." (Also, I have taken it upon myself to mention whenever possible that the Jonestown cult committed suicide with Flavor Aid, not Kool-Aid; you're welcome, Kraft Foods, makers of Kool-Aid and other fine food-like products, and should you wish to compensate me for my work in clearing your fine product's name, I would not take it amiss. Small bills, nonconsecutive, the way I prefer all payments.) Do you know what you sound like when you urge others to "drink the Kool-Aid"? You sound like you want them to kill themselves for you. You sound like Jim Jones. You sound like a narcissistic murderous idiot. But, no, don't stop; on you it looks good.

I do sometimes wonder if they say "drink the Kool-Aid" at the Kool-Aid division of Kraft Foods.

2) "Quite unique," "very unique" or "completely unique." Go look up unique. No, really. Go ahead. I'll wait.

Oh, good, you're back. What did it say? One of a kind, right? So how can something be very one of a kind, hmmmm? That's okay, I'll wait some more. You take your time. I know it's a lot to take in.

All set? Great. Some dictionaries defend this usage, but the defense usually follows the lines of "Well, a lot of people say it. It doesn't make sense, but sure, go ahead." Indeed. Go ahead. If you want us to mistake you for a Kardashian, and not the Star Trek kind.

1) "It is what it is". Oh, is it? So it's not what's it's not, then? This content-free tautology (as opposed to all those tautologies that are chock-full of content, and I am indeed opposed to them) raises every hackle that I have, and sometimes I have to borrow hackles from my local hackle bank to raise enough hackles. In use, it represents a cynical faux-knowing attempt to suggest that the status quo can and will never change. Your corporate overlords love it when you use that phrase, because it obliterates even the thought of reforming the corrupt system that makes them rich and you miserable, much less overthrowing it. Every time you use that phrase, a Goldman Sachs trader gets his (leathery bat-)wings. "It is what it is" creates the impression that the horrid way we live is the way we have always and will always live. It demoralizes; it mocks the very idea that change for the better can take place; it is Sarah Palin asking in that childish singsong "How's that hopey-changey stuff working out?" It is a cheap and pathetic attempt to assume an air of world-weariness while in fact betraying a wholesale ignorance of the world, of the fact that change never ends and everything we now take for granted will be in time utterly obliterated and replaced. (Except for the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Obviously.) When you say this stupid thing, I envision a digital readout counting down like an electric meter in reverse (Not mine, Commonwealth Edison! I took that thing off!), ticking off a rapidly-decreasing estimate of your intelligence. Also, you look a little like Sarah Palin, just around the mouth there.

"It is what it is" is the motto of Hell, where everyone's abandoned hope, and everyone's kind of an asshole.