How To Talk American -- bushlips, rigs, and thunder thighs
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 97 17:16:59 -0700
Subject: How To Talk American -- bushlips, rigs, and thunder thighs
Forwarded-by: Cal Herrmann <email@example.com>
Forwarded-by: firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Sep 25 06:26:13 1997
Forwarded-by: email@example.com (Kristine Lynn Rabberman)
LOS ANGELES (Reuter) - It's not English, it's American.
This is the land of ``psychobabble'' and ``bushlips,'' the home of
the ``Clinton'' and the ``Michael Jackson.'' In the United States of America
they speak American, not English.
Jim Crotty has spent more than a decade traveling from state to
state in his motor home publishing his alternative travel guide, ``Monk
Magazine.'' His book, ``How To Talk American,'' published this month by
Mariner Books, has insight into everything from Vegas vernacular to redneck
``This is where we are linguistically in America, for better or
worse. Take what you like and leave the rest,'' Crotty said in an interview
Saying goodbye in Los Angeles is a perfect example. In the City
of Angels there are three basic ways to bid farewell: ''I'll call you''
means get lost, you'll never hear from me again. ``Let's do lunch'' means
I like you but you're a loser. ''Let's do sushi'' signals the start of a
But California's biggest contribution to the American language is
the use of the most versatile word ever -- you guessed it, ``like.'' Like,
a word preceding every, like, noun and, like, verb, is almost the only
description needed in a world where adjectives are, like, becoming a dying
``There is a definite decline of people's ability to express
themselves in a very specific way,'' Crotty said of the ever more pervasive
use of slang across America.
STARLETS WITH A RIG?
Hollywood gave us Pamela Anderson Lee, Demi Moore and more
breast implants than any other city on Earth, but don't call them fake
breasts, call them a ``rig.'' And while we're talking about surgery, a
``Michael Jackson'' is plastic surgery that went horribly wrong. But the
pop star denies he ever had his nose and cheeks done, which leads nicely to
Some of the president's detractors on Capitol Hill have given
new meaning to his name. A ``Clinton,'' they say, is a complete policy
reversal. Naturally there is more than one kind: a ``half Clinton'' is a
regular policy reversal, a ``full Clinton'' is a policy reversal with
feeling, while a ``double Clinton'' is a reversal followed by a denial of
But language with a political bite is bipartisan. Clinton's
supporters had already coined the word ``bushlips,'' meaning a disingenuous
political statement. The expression came about after George Bush's infamous
1988 presidential campaign proclamation ``Read my lips: no new taxes.''
And, while we're talking politics, a ``grassy knoll theory'' is a
cock-eyed conspiracy scenario, such as third party presidential candidate
Ross Perot's claim that the Republican Party attempted to sabotage his
daughter's wedding. The term comes from the never-ending debate over the
1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Crotty worries that the fragmentation of language ``is a real
danger to democracy.''
``There is a danger with the Balkanization of language that you
will have enclaves of people living within America completely separate from
the rest of America and completely self sufficient,'' he said.
BEWARE 'ROCKY MT. OYSTERS' ON MENU
His linguistic concerns do not focus only on politics. No book
on American life would be complete without food.
When in the Midwest, beware if you see ``Rocky Mountain oysters''
on the menu. They are actually the fried testicles of a young bull. Want to
wash them down with coffee? How about a ''double no fun'' (a double decaf
latte) or ``thunder thighs'' (a double tall mocha with full-fat milk and
extra whipped cream)?
In the world of crime, an ``Alaska divorce'' is murdering one's
spouse. The expression was coined by locals who joke about the effects of
depression during the long dark winters. And the ``Almond Joy theory'' is
when a suspect's behavior cannot be explained. It was inspired by the slogan
for the popular candy bar, ``Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you
And when in America you simply must talk psychobabble.
``I honor that'' is the most annoying expression, Crotty said.
It means I respect what you're saying, I'm at one with your feelings and
opinions, your essence. Use it with a hushed, earnest tone for maximum
``Rebirthing'' is just pricey hyperventilation, while a ''safe
space'' is a workshop where you are free to explore your inner self. ``Use
your words'' is good advice for wife-beaters, who obviously have been using
their fists to ``connect.''
If someone tells you ``I have a problem with that'' you probably
have said something deemed politically incorrect. Your ``baggage'' is your
issues -- also know as ``dysfunctions'' -- which may stem from ``hidden
anger'' toward your family. So express your rage and find your ``inner
child.'' You deserve it!
And remember when you go to work not to dip your pen in the company
ink, or fish off the company pier, or get your meat and bread in the same
store. In other words, don't date your fellow workers.
Happy trails, dude, I'll call you.
© 1997 Peter Langston