Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I hate it when people say....

This post some armchair discourse analysis which arises from my own bitterness.

I like water. Often, water is what I want. At a restaurant, I hate saying "water's fine" or "just water," as if I have to apologize for not ordering a "real" beverage. I order it. "I'll have a glass of ice water, please."

Also, when the server comes and asks if s/he can take the plate away, I don't like the expression "still working." As if it's a chore. As if I've been slacking off. "I'm not finished yet, thanks."

I know people like to say "been there, done that," but why do they act like it's still clever? That bit is as old as the hills.

One of my dad's tricks is to say 'help me.' For example, when he says, "help me unload the groceries," as if we were going to do the job together. What he means is "unload the groceries yourself." My response now is "don't say help me if you're not going to help." He's been speaking English for longer than I have, he knows how to say "Could you please unload the groceries." I always do.

Another of his tricks is to say 'because your mama's back is hurting.' As in "will you do the dishes because your mama's back is hurting." When I was in junior high, I didn't know how to respond to this; it was like he was taking my mother hostage every day, and her ransom was the dishes.

He tried to pull this one on me again, when I was an adult, and I said, dad, people don't like it when you manipulate their feelings. He looked at me like I was stupid, stared saying "I don't manipulate other people's feelings..." So I interrupted, saying , dad, I don't like it when you try to exploit my sympathy for my mother.... He said yah, yah, whatever. So then I raised my voice. Dad! Don't tell me to do things because my mother is in pain. I hate it.

Ok, ok, just do the dishes, he said.

I did the dishes. Next time, there might be a monster headbutt to the sternum.

Why, in 2006 am I still hearing about half people? As in, 'She's half Mexican and half Vietnamese.' As if you could quantify ethnicity with fractions. Which half is which? The government sanctions fractions for Native Americans (i.e., you have to be 1/4 native to live on the rez)... but remember, the government hates the Native Americans. Anyway, people aren't half and half anymore, they are both. "She is Mexican and Vietnamese."

What about media who refuse to use the word undocumented. The arguement is that these people may or may not have documents on their person... STUPID. When NASA or the physics department theorize about undocumented phenomena, is it because the phenomena do not have documents? No, children, it's because the institution has not documented them yet. People should stop trying to hide their bigotry with adjective morphology.

What else?

Downbeat. People on the news think that because "upbeat" means happy, that "downbeat" means sad. The mood in New Orleans was downbeat today. "Upbeat" means happy because it evokes music that emphasizes beats two and four; e.g., "I'm so Excited" (Pointer Sisters); "Uptown Girl" (Billy Joel). The downbeat is beat one, the strongest beat. People that say "downbeat" to mean 'morose, melancholie' must not know a thing about music.

Meantime. In my dialect, this is a noun. In the meantime, people kept working. For some reason, there is one local tv station where journalists use meantime as a stand-alone conjunction, and it bugs me. Record temperatures today. Meantime, local kids played in the sprinklers. To me, this sounds like a second-language error. For me, it's either in the meantime, or meanwhile.


Orange said...

Half people are passé. You need to break the fractions down more. For example, my son is 5/32 Irish, 4/32 Polish, 2/32 Lithuanian, 3/32 German, 1/32 English, 1/32 Scottish, and 1/2 unquantifiable Filipino/Chinese/Spanish blend—let's pretend that breaks down to, say, 9/32 Filipino blend, 6/32 Chinese, and 1/32 Spanish.

Which box do I check for that?

john patrick said...

Fractions are a part of Race Theory, which is has (poor) descriptive power, not explanatory.

Ethnic identity is not genetically transmitted; it's culturally transmitted. The people that invented the boxes don't know that, which is why their boxes suck. If you have to check a box, check "other" and then write in whatever he self-identifies as!

Changeseeker said...

I really liked this post. This is often how I think (and interact), as well. Thanks largely to a daughter who is also a word person. And pretty unapologetic about expressing herself to me. Thank goodness.

Particularly appreciate your mentioning the use of "half-and-half." What a ludicrous process when you consider that most European-Americans couldn't tell you their true and complete lineage if their lives literally depended on it.

And don't even get me started on "undocumented." I live in Florida and we're going to be dead in the water economically if this whole immigration "crisis" is pushed much farther. They're already reporting that the oranges are rotting on the trees for want of pickers who are afraid to show up. Now, whose best interest in this in again? (Don't get me wrong. I'm for just documenting everybody and getting on with our lives. But noo-ooo! Can't do that! Sigh.)

Professor Zero said...

Great post. I am starting to learn, finally, what manipulation is and how it works, and this on vocabulary and language is really helpful! Your parents are so like mine. I'll start using some of your responses, when I come up with responses like that, it stops them in their tracks.

On restaurants: I hate it when at a nice restaurant, the server acts as though it's Denny's or something, trying to rush you. I also hate it when they are at you to order another glass of wine, or whatever it is, when you are barely halfway through your first. It seems to me that these phenomena are relatively new; perhaps they are not.