Pop Culture
Nov 10, 2011, 06:54AM

Falling Off The Rhetorical Meme Wagon

It's time to find new ways to express your incredulity.

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Shit happens. Another driver cuts you off. A co-worker swipes your Shasta from the breakroom fridge. Your favorite new fall sitcom winds up on the scrapheap. Your fantasy football season totally collapses. Do everyone a favor, though. When the world doesn't seem to be living up to your dreams, try one or more of these euphemisms on for size:

1. "Fuck!"
2. "Why did that happen to me?
3. "Can you believe this?"
4. "No way."
5. "Curses!"
6. "Oh no you didn't."
7. "You've gotta be kidding."
8. "What?"
9. "Goddamn, no."
10. "Son of a bitch!"

Granted, these are not especially hip expressions of incredulity. A few of them will offend the sensibilities of others. Most of us have, in times of trouble, fallen back on several of these, in tandem as a sort of prerequisite to accepting that shit happened to us: not just shit but, like, bad shit, week-ruining shit, heavy shit. There's comfort there, in these exclamations, and admittedly in developing one's personal lexicon it can be as fun and distracting in a healthy way to pick and choose from decades of established slang as it is to semi-ironically buy into whatever far out, phat alt-lingo currently hot on the flippedy-flop. (Feel me?) It's very important that you think about this, because I am officially declaring a moratorium on the long-running, Saturday Night Live-spawned meme where "seriously?" or "really?" too easily becomes the punctuation mark that accents a rhetorical outburst of exasperation, of incredulity. Confined to SNL and a handful of commercials, this practice was cute, sure, but overtime—with almost viral swiftness—its evolved onto a neurotic tic, a linguistic menace, this inescapable conversational juggernaut that might as well be the unmentionable pre-cancerous wart on the visage of modern discourse. (Remember when grandma started saying "bling"?) I know this, because this has infected the speech of everyone—literally, everyone—I know, from my parents and in-laws to the people I work with to my neighbors to strangers who I happen to overhear, and then also has wormed it's way into the dialogue of television shows I watch and articles I read and Facebook posts I stumble across. I’m inundated by the cult of "seriously/really"; there is no escape. (And we thought the propensity of so many to turn "like" into punctuation was a scourge on language? Not even.) You've officially been put on notice: violators will be eliminated with extreme prejudice. Don't say I didn't warn you.


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