Words, Language, Meaning, Meaningless Meanings

The problem with words, is that meaning is transmutable. Meanings change. And, also, words are open to interpretation. Different people can and often do interpret differently. It isn’t so easy to say what you mean, and you may not even have meant what it seems you have said. Words come into vogue, then are replaced by the latest trend. We probably mis-communicate more often than we communicate.

“Awesome” once was very popular, far more than it is today. It was hip (which once was hep, not hip) and happenin’ to say, “Awesome.” It means amazing, wonderful, exciting, totally fascinating.

Thirty years ago, talking like a Valley girl became popular. Valley refers to the San Fernando Valley, an affluent area in Southern California. Valley girls always said, “Totally” (and boys, too, I guess). It was Valley lingo. Valley girls were privileged and shallow but popular chicks. Oh, but “chicks” are now “dude”, which I believe started during that era of Valleyspeak. I hate it. I really do. To me, it sounds stoopid. A dude is a cat, er, a guy, a man, not a chick, aka a girl, or woman. Or, it used to be. Valley chicks, well, more accurately, Valley girls, irritated some people, amused others. Valley jargon and affectation became very popular and was imitated, like all over the world: “Gag me with a spoon”, “grody”, “gnarly”, “to the max”, “It’s like…and like…so, like…”.

Centuries ago, “awesome” meant something that induced fear or reverence, something that inspired awe. Something awesome was something that popped your eyesballs out of your head, 😯 dropped your jaw, made you go pale, and dropped you to your knees. But it don’t mean that no more.

These days, the hip and cool (or those who want to be hip and cool) like to say “up in heah”. At least, I seem to hear it a lot, in sitcoms and commercials. There’s a Capital One commercial with Jimmy Fallon, where he throws money up in the air and he says, “It’s gonna raiiiinnn up in heah.” Geeze, I so hate that.

When I say “hate”, I don’t mean that I feel animosity. Just annoyed. Very annoyed. Bugged. Put off. Oh, and when did “put off” turn into “off-putting”? I hear that a lot lately. Ew, I dislike how that sounds, and the rhythm is so clumsy.

I heard a little kid in the neighborhood the other day say something about “gansta”. A little white kid. His parents are young professionals, but professional what, I have no idea. I’ve never asked. There are a lot of so-called hipsters living here now. Hipster doesn’t even mean what it used to. These young people called hipsters are not like the sixties hippie flower child, or the fifties beatnick. That was when hipster truly meant cool. The current hipster-type is arrogant, privileged, and assumes a sense of entitlement. That ain’t so cool.

I don’t mind the hipsters moving into the Mission District. I’ve only lived here five years; I didn’t grow up here. I don’t feel any special attachment. Some people who have grown up here are resentful. No one likes “foreigners” moving in and taking over. The Mission these days is a happenin’ place. Oh, wait, ‘scuse me, the word is “trendy”. Hip and happenin’ dates me, don’t it? That’s late sixties, early seventies.

My son and some friends from college (San Francisco State University) who hated living in the dorms, pooled their money together and rented a place in the Mission. My son has lived here twenty-five years. My son has a professional job, a managerial position working for a phat corporation. The Mission has had a history of gang activity, but not every person of color has anything to do with that sort of life. I resent that assumption. But, then, I make assumptions about other people too. So, I need to chill on that. I ain’t perfect. It bothers me that this child from across the street, the new kid on the block, (he’s around ten, maybe eleven, a little kid who loves to skateboard) thinks “gangsta” is cool. That’s what happens when you have teen idols like that little Bieber boober dude. Ugh, I can’t stomach that little twerp. I read in Huff Post the other day about some shootings here in the Mission, in broad daylight. Presumably gang activity. Violence, murder, blood, drugs, guns isn’t Romantic; it isn’t cool; it’s ugly and tragic. I hate it. I dislike it intensely. But some people glorify it.

I’ve heard hipsters speak of “living in the hood”. Cuz it cool to “live in the hood”, or as they like to say, “da hood”, ripping off ghetto-ese. I was at the fabric store and I heard one hipster chick tell some hipster dude, “Hey, Chuck, did you get my email? How did you like my ‘hoodspeak’?” I didn’t want to hear that crap, meaningless meanings. I turned around and walked out, putting off my errand. It was too painful to hear that shit.

I love words. I love language. I like the sounds words make, the music and rhythms they create. I love their power. I find the mutation of meanings fascinating. It frustrates me in the manner some people interpret, though I get excited when an articulate individual eloquently expounds. I like playing with words and meaning. But I hate, hate, hate when words are, language is, bastardized.


About Poet Dressed In Black

Poet. Artist. Grammy of one, a granddaughter. Mom of three, son and two daughters, all grown. Individualist. Care-taker of Isabel, an agoraphobic, fear-aggressive, very nervous, delicate flower, Chihuahua mix.
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