1/23/09

A Post as Boring as Using Yesterday's Newspaper to Clean Vanilla Ice Cream Off the Cloth Seats of a Beige Minivan

I just love hyperbolic colloquialisms. The more colorful and unnecessarily lengthy, the better. In fact, I'll dispense due credit here to one my mom says was authored by my dad, which reportedly went as follows: "As useless as a pregnant hippopotamus in a snowstorm with four trick knees."

That's pretty good.

In fact, before I go on here with what I was going to talk about in this historically boring post (which for some reason you're reading anyway), I have to toss in one more doozy, courtesy of Ernie the Pressman, who my friend Aaron knew a while back. Ernie would deploy this gem of wordsmithery in describing any difficult assignment which nonetheless had to be completed. Aaron never forgot it, and neither have I: "It's gonna be like putting a wet noodle up a wildcat's ass."

Oh man.

See what I mean about the necessity of the word "ass" in any unpleasant simile? But like I was saying. I think the reason I like these things so much is this: Fecundity. The quality of "producing or [being] capable of producing an abundance of offspring or new growth; fertile"

It's in these funny and unforgettable sayings that we see the richness of our language. It's cold; it's hot; it's boring; it's useless -- these are incredibly run of the mill complaints people make, in all places, in all times. And despite this commonality of sentiment, or more likely *because* of it, there always seems to be somebody around who can find a new and spectacular way to say it.

They say the Inuit people have 27 words for snow? I say a modern-day office drone has 27 synonyms for "unnecessary meeting" ("Time Vortex" being my current favorite).

It truly seems that the more universal and unremarkable an emotion is, the more innovative and ingenious our phrases for it.

Do you watch Sportscenter much? Me neither, but in college I had a roommate who seemingly could not get enough sports information into his brain at any given moment. Dave could have been reading the Sports section in the bleachers of Yankee Stadium during the World Series, with a live television feed of the NFL draft going directly into his medulla, and the guy would still have been asking if you saw last night's hockey game.

I used to watch a lot of Sportscenter.

Fortunately, it was easy for a non-sporty dude to get into: it's pretty much just the highlights. Every morning and night, the Sportscenter anchors would sit behind their desks and replay for you all the notable plays and moves and hits and bogeys from the previous day's games. And Dave and I would sit and soak it all in. I didn't know half of what was going on for the first several weeks, of course, but I liked it anyway. One of the first things I noticed was the anchorman lingo.

You see, the show had to go on, despite the fact that each feat of sporting excellence (or ineptitude; they showed bloopers too) was strikingly similar to whatever dunks and threes and touchdown boogying they had broadcast the day before. There are only so many ways to say Michael Jordan is good, right?

Wrong. The Sportscenter anchors seemed to have an inexhaustible well of alternative phrases for athletic excellence, and I had reason to believe the guys were making them up themselves. Now, some were almost too easy, like Trey Wingo's remark when a goalie made an especially skillful save: "None shall pass!" ...Or Stuart Scott's trademark capper on almost any player's highlight-worthy performance: "Cool as the other side of the pillow."

But here are a few more favorites, just to give you a taste of what you were missing if you didn't have the good judgment to room with Dave yourself:

[when somebody does something good]
You can't stop him; you can only hope to contain him.
He eyes it. He tries it. He buys it!
And he takes the ball and does that nifty little shot where he forces it through the rim.
Right into the clown's mouth. [golfing highlight]
And with that you get eggroll.
He hit it over some fencing they had set up in the outfield.
He/she hit it into a hole in the ground. [ditto]
We're gonna show it again, cause we have editing equipment.

[when somebody does something not so good]
Only Barnes and Noble lets someone stand around longer doing nothing. [when a baseball player strikes out looking]
I can read his lips, and he is not praying.
He will drool the drool of regret into the pillow of remorse.

[either way]
Mister Dictionary has failed us yet again.

The thing was (Is? Do they still play Sportscenter on TV? Sorry, I graduated a few years back and all...), Mister Dictionary never failed them. No matter how many times you watched it happen, there was always some new way to say Shaquille O'Neal scored a slam dunk. (My favorite? Kenny Mayne's: "He's tall.")

It's kind of like my favorite comic strip, Dinosaur Comics. The same characters, the same props, the *same* *exact* *panels* every day, and still Ryan North seems to manage an infinite variety of possibilities for the strip.

Not too much in the way of colorful and regionally specific sayings, but it's got everything else I look for in a website: philosophy, linguistics, incisive exploration of the dynamics of interpersonal (or dinosaural) relationships, and tiny elephants affected by island dwarfism.

And it goes without saying how much I love "Yo' Momma" jokes. (Personal favorite there: My friend Lamont's coup de grace, which ended the showdown between him and a lesser Yo-Momma slinger. He had to stew on this one for a moment, but then masterfully blurted, "Your mom is so big... we're inside her right now."

So whether it's sports highlights or constrained comics or implausibly novel parental insults, I'm a fan. (I also go in for endless covers of the same song, but I've stopped making whole albums of, say, "Hey Jude" or "Time After Time" in their various iterations, mainly because it drives Penny completely bonkers.)

It probably tells you a lot about the way my brain works, I suppose. I may be the only ad writer alive who, when coming up with a new campaign, starts with the billboard: How many different ways can we say this in seven words?

I like boundaries. I like rules. But only because I love thinking up ways to break them. And I love seeing how other people have broken them just as much. I'll close here with an inspired simile from another comic, recommended by Ryan North and which I also enjoy on occasion: Achewood.

"The man is so old school he drives a yellow bus with gothic arch windows!"

3 comments:

Valarie said...

I used to work with a guy that was from Missouri where is parents were cotton farmers. He had quite a few select phrases that I always found amusing...

In the winter at work, a forklift would get stuck on the ice and another forklift would try to help unstick it. When the "helper" forklift would try to unstick the first one, it would get stuck. Chad would say, "looks like a monkey fucking a football".

He used to use, "it's more fucked up than a pile of hangers.

You see there is a common word in the above phrases. He didn't sensor himself much, but he sure was funny!

Maybe you will like these. You can sensor them and they would still work just fine.

Colin said...

Oh man, Val, thanks for reminding me about that guy.

Those stories are funny as, well, his common word.

Hello, I'm Ryan Noel. said...

I am embarrassed to say that I have read several of the dinosaur comics, mostly prompted by you, and I never noticed it was the exact same art every time.

I'm a neanderthal, or a really dumb Cro-Magnon.

--

I think you were watching SC in the golden age. Kenny Mayne was the most compelling reason for watching SC, in my opinion.