Putting the power of words back in the mouths of the people.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
New members continue to trickle in, as evidenced by the gradually lengthening blogroll, but the VRP is a fairly intimate community. Most likely, it will remain so for two reasons: 1) I haven’t had time to publicize it, and 2) our mission is decidedly counter-cultural.
However, as long as you’re small, you may as well enjoy it.
I’ve explored the VRP blogroll briefly, but as time allows I intend to become better acquainted with each of your sites. My ulterior motive is to discover the secret quality that compels people to join up. Besides the obvious prerequisites of good taste, humor, etc.
But as an aid to “exploring,” I invite each of you to post a quick bio-comment here; tell us what you blog about, why you write; link a favorite post or two; mention your favorite book, locale, or type of coffee—whatever. (Anything but your favorite rap song, as this might necessitate expulsion.)
You don’t have to be profound, but along with whatever else you say, give us an idea of what we might find at your blog. If there are enough takers, I may post a permanent “bio” page.
It’s a common misconception that “speaking well” means cramming five-dollar words into every sentence, and the longer the words, the better.
We at the VRP are not fooled.
Clearly, the English language is full of classy words that are also short. Therefore, to speak well, one doesn’t have to go from saying, “He writes really good” to declaiming, “He writes with superlative cognizance.” A simple “He writes with verve” will do.
The VRP recognizes the beauty of one-syllable flair.
We could understand "empty words" to be those which have been brutally stripped of meaning by cultural over-use or misuse. As established earlier this week, "interesting" is one. I can think of others offhand: "awesome," "basically," "nice"...
No doubt we each have our anti-favorites. Or, more essentially, words we would like to use but can’t—because whatever we say will be assessed in a clichéd context.
The challenge, as I see it, is two-fold.
Identity the empty words that litter our conversations.
Move actively to “reinvent” and reincorporate them in conversation.
As martin suggested earlier, restoring meaning to a denatured word is a worthwhile act (i.e., "You interest me strangely") and, I must add, a very revolutionary one. Not to mention a goal that requires considerable ingenuity and tact. In short, a goal worthy of the VRP.
People have responded with variety to assorted things I've written, their tones ranging from I'm-all-with-you-man to amused to dubious to downright bitter.
However, there’s a one-word “comment” that never fails to make my blood boil.
Ubiquitous and ambiguous, it always feels like an insult, regardless of what was intended. Perhaps for some, "interesting" is a rare tribute paid to crowning achievement. I doubt it, but you never know. And that's just it. Some one browses by, drops a breezy "i********g," and who can tell what they're actually saying?
I'll take an acidic "arrogant" or a snide "sentimental" over an insipid "interesting" - and I mean every time. Maybe you're feeling smug? Dismissive? Thoughtful? - but don't want to spell it out? Well, if you drop the i-bomb, in my book you're scoring nothing but "lazy."
No doubt many of you feel the same. But here's the dilemma: Are there legit uses for the adjective? If so, what are they?
I feel it in my bones that a bunch of you are grinning as you read this, poised to leave one-word comments. Don't do it.
A couple days ago, in a fawning comment re: the VRP, Lynn S brought up a cogent question. In a subsequent post, she treacherously dissed the Project, which called her sincerity into question—but if Lynn is a disingenuous fan, she is still a perceptive commentator, and we grant her that. As she queried, “You don't mind emoticons, do you?”
The mere question, I think, could raise a firestorm. Here is a topic on which the VRP must formulate a stance, and early in the blog’s young life. To that end, here’s a list of extenuating circumstances under which emoticons may be used without guilt. Feel free to disagree or add further conditions of your own.
When Emoticons Are Allowed
1. The writer does not speak English as a native language. Under these circumstances, any means of communication, however crude, may be justified.
2. The writer intends to soften a verbal jab which should not really be taken seriously.
Example: Man, that post came out of nowhere. It was good. Incredibly good. Too good. Who are you and what have you done with the guy who normally posts here? ;)
3. The writer is intentionally aiming for melodrama.
Example: I can’t believe you criticized my wardrobe. How dare you? I feel hurt and very silly. :P
4. The writer needs to clarify dry humor that someone might otherwise be deeply offended by.
5. The writer cannot, for the life of him, think of a better way to communicate congeniality. He is sincere and well-meaning, but not overly creative.
6. The writer’s spirits are unusually high and she feels compelled to share her good humor with the world!!! :D
7. The writer, as a writer, really stinks. As a human, he may have other redeeming qualities.
Maybe so, but we’re all in varying states of verbal transition. (And in reality, comic book adjectives aren't too shabby... Vigilant? Invincible?) What matters is that you’re on the escalator. The upstart Project is giving you a chance to do what your culture would never encourage—add to your verbal arsenal.
Go on, do it. Then try out your new weapons. The VRP’s got your back.
If you’re like most people, you’re probably not sure quite how to place the VRP. Clearly, it’s too suave to be purely nerdy. And while it has that attractive upstart flair, the site doesn’t fall in the category of skin deep mainstream hip. It’s too profound.
In a nutshell, the VRP is 21st century Shakespeare chic. It’s playground smack on ice, a real-time word game for the emotionally mature.
What does this mean for you?
Time to stop being a mere follower and lead out, my friend. To be VRP material is to take class into your hands and mold it like wet clay. Maybe it’s time to redefine “cool” in more eloquent terms.