Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

Shibboleth, I Hear You Calling But I Can’t Come Home Right Now

Words are important. Without them, newspapers would look odd and ordering Chinese food would be virtually impossible. If there were no words, then poets would make even less money than they currently do. What would Cameo have sung about? What would we deliver to our mothers, courtesy of Vanilla Ice? What would the buh-buh-buh-buh-bird be?

The power of a word has little relationship to its size; in fact, the most necessary words are often the smallest. Try getting through a workday without “is.” Hell, try getting through a complete thought without “is.” That tiny little phoneme is a monstrously large concept: “is” (and obviously I’m talking about all the conjugations of “to be” here) is a transformative. “Is” changes one thing into another.

Judy is a punk.

Look what you just did to Judy with one sibilant syllable. Judy went from one state to another, like water freezing into ice.

“A” is important, but nowhere near as kingly as “I,” with its demanded capitalization. Don’t think “a” is meaningful? Then you must not think there’s a difference between being in a band in high school, and being in the band in high school.

Now, I love a good “tintinnabulation” or “boviscopophobia” or “arteriosclerotic” as much as the next man, but give me “run” any day. “Run” has somewhere around 400 definitions; “catafalque” only has one, and it’s very specific. “Run” is a rat, or a cockroach, or a human: it adapts and evolves and can live anywhere; “catafalque” is a panda.

Some words’ utility–and I’m getting to my point here, I swear–lies not in the word itself, not in the information contained within, but in what their use says about the speaker. Some words (or phrases) are like the flashy colors on poisonous frogs or the ass-castanets on a rattlesnake: clear and unmistakable warning to stay well the fuck back.

I suppose we should thank these words. So often, it takes forever to realize that you’re dealing with an unstable nincompoop, but certain words speed up the process.

This is an incomplete list, and feel free to chime in.

Words That Let You Know A Person Isn’t To Be Taken Seriously:

  • SJW. (If you use this term, I immediately assume you were angerbating as you typed it.)
  • Cuck. (Have you heard this one? It’s wonderful. Cuck is short for “cuckservative,” which is a fairly new term for establishment Republicans. The word derives from “cuckold,” which is Old French in origin and referred to the cuckoo bird’s sly habit of laying its eggs in another bird’s nest, and has historically meant “a guy whose wife is fucking around on him.” Lately, though, the word’s acquired a lovely racial component, too, because America and the internet make everything better.)
  • Problematic. (We’ve gone over this before. Opinions, arguments, art, entertainment: the problem does not emanate from within these things. Now, you might have a problem with them. I have many problems with many things. Slapping the label of PROBLEMATIC on ideas or statements short-circuits thought and strips any criticism of agency.)
  • Mr. Trump. (His supporters call him that. Swear to God. I understand that the assholes that work for him call him that, because they are assholes, and he forces them to, but people who aren’t contractually obligated to, call him that. Grown-ups. People want a strongman. They always have.)
  • Shrillary. (Or any similar sobriquet for Mrs. Clinton. There’s so much to find fault with: her arrogance, her withered husk of a soul, her boundless enthusiasm for bombing brown people, the fact that she murdered Vince Foster with her bare hands; you choose to attack her appearance and performance? Her appearance might be the most acceptable thing about her: she actually combs her fucking hair, unlike some doomed Commies I could mention.)
  • Bernie Bro. (Only SJW’s say Bernie Bro.)
  • Mansplaining. (This one’s tricky: I agree with the spirit of the word. Men often speak to women as though women were particularly dim foreign children. In men’s defense, many women are scatter-brained, flighty, and emotional; on occasion, one will even become hysterical. It’s the literal word I don’t like: it’s ugly-sounding and fake, like a fictional brand from a movie. I propose this: men stop condescending to women so the word disappears from use. Two problems solved with one action: that’s American efficiency.)
  • Toxin. (Sarin gas is a toxin. Are you warning me that a chemical attack is taking place? If so: thank you very much. If not, stop saying toxin at me. Because I translate that word in my head to “ill humours” and wonder if you’re going to suggest a strenuous bleeding and a donkey-urine bath.)
  • Racebaiting. (Sometimes, a black guy will have the temerity to point out racism, but–and this is amazing–it turns out that it’s his fault for bringing it up. Weird how that happens.)
  • Hater. (Please. Please. I beg the world on my hands and knees: stop with the “hater” nonsense. The word sends screwballs of rage and terror through my brain like some horrible prionic ailment: Furious Cow Disease. Nazis were haters. The whole Balkan region excels at hating. People who think you’re an asshole aren’t haters, they’re usually just observant.)

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program of imagined conversations with dead rock stars.


  1. SWAGGIE maggie

    March 3, 2016 at 12:46 am

    “I’m getting rid of toxic people”

    SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. When I first heard of mainsplaining I realized I know someone who mansplains a lot. My Sister.

    Mr Whitey can be rude for sure, but Ms Whitey and Mr and Mrs not-so-whitey can be jerks as well. Making new synonyms for asshole gender specific makes no sense.

  3. NoThoughtsOnDead

    March 3, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Single Jewish Warlock?
    Single Jewish Writer.
    I surprise myself with how much I agree, and this as someone who’s known some fairly-specific facts around toxicity for quite some time. I will note that Mr. Tor’s point is slightly undermined by how much utility writers and speakers have found for the gender-specific synonym “bitch” over the years. “Mr. Charlie” is not our only problem, to be sure.

  4. if you haven’t heard of E-Prime check it out. it’s the best kind of nonsense: the kind that can actually teach your brain new tricks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.