About 4blogssake

New Yorker that transplanted to Rome then to Brighton. Think I might've found home. I do funny stuff. Serious stuff, too. Bikram yoga. Break ribs. Ride my bike to get around.

I Hate the Word “Awesome” and Don’t Even Get Me Started on “Literally”

 

I f#cking hate the word awesome.

And “literally”? Don’t get me f#cking started.

I promise you, “it” is not awesome. Whatever “it” is, It’s not. Unless you are gazing at the Grand Canyon, the Aurora Borealis or Donald Trump’s hair on a windy day, it might be great, cool, excellent, very wow…

… but it is not awesome.

Using the “a” word  makes you sound like Crush, the surfer dude turtle from Finding Nemo; you can picture Crush holding in the pot smoke while squeaking out the word “awesome” to any of the following questions: 

  • How are you?
  • How was your weekend?
  • How was your father’s funeral? (Ok, so maybe the turtle would say, “Bogus” instead. But “bogus” is just the flip side of “awesome.”)

Please understand there are two kinds of people in the world:

I am a crust-eater myself who likes to hang with non crust-eaters because then I can eat theirs.

Ok, we are getting off track.

Let’s try this again. There are two kinds of people in the world: people who use the word “awesome” and those who refuse to. And our numbers seem to dwindling day by day.

I know very smart people — writers!! business types!! school principals!! — who throw around the word “awesome” like pepperoni on pizza. (I really like pizza.)

Do you know when this piece of crap expression got started? Jeff Spicoli, Sean Penn’s character in the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”

In fact, it was this stoner character, this happy-go-lucky slacker wearing Van sneakers (ok, “trainers”) that inspired teens to check out the film and made the movie a huge rental hit even though it bombed at the cinema.

LOOK HOW STUPID HIS FACE LOOKS. That’s how YOUR face looks when you say the “a” word. Really. Stop. Just stop.

It makes me want to rock my head in my hands and cry inside. Or do this:

I am not alone in the crusade against this horror.

(Marlon woulda been with me on this. He would never have said, “I coulda been an AWESOME contender.” Never.)

Back in 2012, John Tottenham a British poet who lives in Los Angles launched a campaign to stamp out the word awesome. He even created posters and bumper stickers for his movement. He once told the Los Angeles Times that hearing that word is like ‘waving a crucifix in a vampire’s face’. I couldn’t agree more.

Gripes: Poet John Tottenham, originally from England but living in Los Angeles, has taken offence at the overuse of the word 'awesome' and has started a campaign to ban it

He has since moved on to a procrastination project (“The Inertia Variations”) but I feel proud to stand on his shoulders.

And there are others. Type in “the f#cking overuse of the word awesome” and you will get lots of results. So we do have our heroes but we are a fighting a sea of lazy word users. 

I would like to offer an alternative: “staggering.” Try it.

  • How are you? Staggering.
  • How was your weekend? Staggering.
  • How was your father’s funeral? Staggering. (Works better than even “bogus.”)

Staggering. Just try it. Humor me. Oops, I mean, humour me. And take the poll.

 

 

 

 

See it, Say it, Snorted

NB. This garish front page doesn’t have much to do with the topic. But I like it.

The Brits absolutely love rhyming and / or alliteration. From Cockney slang to the ubiquitous “See it. Say it. Sorted.” campaign, the Brits excel in turn of phrases.

snort see it say it

If you haven’t seen this poster in London, you have to take your sleeping mask off.                     They are E V E R Y W H E R E.

 

Then one night coming back from visiting a hippie collective in a “warehouse community” (as you do, in London; seriously there are warehouse communities and they are pretty fabulous), I saw the following sign:

snort incident or crime

That’s catchy, right?  I can’t help but hear it as a song:

 

(I know. I need to find a real job.)

Oh and by the way, the Metropolitan Police (“The Met”)and Scotland Yard are one and the same. And the country of Scotland has nothing to do with it. The first police station was on a street called Scotland Yard.  (Ahhhhh, I can hear you say. )And did you know (bet you didn’t) they were the first uniformed, paid professional police force in the world? Founded by Robert Peel in 1839 when he was Home Secretary. (He later became Prime Minister under Queen Vic.) They are called Bobbies because the guy’s first name is Robert. Get it? Robert… Bobbie? They tried calling them Peelers but that didn’t stick.

 

snort 2bobby

A bobby; but his name was probably Conor.

 

And, of course there’s good old Keep Calm and Carry On. But did you know that it wasn’t terribly used during WWII? Nope. It was barely known and entirely forgotten about until a copy of a poster was found in a bookshop in a small town in Northumberland in 2000. Then we ALL heard about it.

snort Keep-calm-and-carry-on-scan

And heard about it and heard and heard. And heard different versions.

snort carionsnortbody-per-neonati-keep-calm-and-cook-meth-perche-e-sempre-tempo-per-un-po-di-crystal-blue-un-prodotto-ispirato-alla-serie-tv-breaking-bad-made-in-mondo-di-nerd

And more and more versions. On cups and then of course, tee shirts. Everyone, even entomologists, had their point of view:

snort antsimages

Until finally, the self-referential:

snort177367-153163

 

 

So, the lesson learned? Brits read trash newspapers as much as any American I’ve met and can copywrite as well as the next dude.

The Customer Has Not Always Been Right

Harry Gordon Selfridge. Ever hear of him? No, right? Well it’s his fault that Apple employees smile so damn much and that shopkeepers hover over you offering unwanted help with you having to repeat, “Really, I’m just browsing,” but thinking LEAVE ME THE FECK ALONE, MOTHER FECKERS. (Then again, maybe that’s just me.)

Because it was Harry Gordon Selfridge who didn’t simply coin the phrase, “The customer is always right” but he embodied it and threw it (up) on the world. Specifically, on London, on Oxford Street.

Before this man from Ripon, Wisconsin came along, you’d go to a store, tell the shopkeeper what you wanted and the shopkeeper would get an item that fit your description and you would either A) buy it or B) say No thanks and leave the store. End of story. There was no “browsing”, no “just looking.” In the clip below, look how this attitude plays out when the uptight Brit proprietor of the store scolds Selfridge, saying: “This is a shop, Sir, not an exhibition.”

 

Well, this brash and confident American basically said, Screw that, shopping should be fun! And boy did he make it fun. In 1909, he opened a store called Selfridges on the less popular (i.e. uglier) part of Oxford Street. And not just a dinky little store. He thought big and he built big. It is HUMUNGOUS and architecturally stunning.

Then in 1909

Now. Please note the whole building couldn’t fit in the photo! HUMUNGOUS.

Selfridge held nothing back for the advertising campaign for the store’s opening.  Thirty police officers were required at the grand opening to control the crowds. Rather than a chore, Selfridge wanted people to see shopping as a pleasure, even, dare we say, FUN. (Those damn Americans!)

Later that year, Selfridge convinced the first person to fly a plane across the channel, a Frenchman named Louis Bleriot, to exhibit his (rickety!) airplane on the shop floor itself,  drawing crowds of 150,000. And that was only the first of many (unusual and outrageous) educational and scientific exhibitions.

Inside the store itself, there was also (I couldn’t believe this when I first read this) a post office, a theatre booking office, a library and an information bureau. In a store! In 1909! He was mad! There were art galleries, a  “silence room” for resting (LOVE THAT), restaurants and a roof garden (yea, I know “old hat” now – but not then!). Language interpreters were provided when needed, and a trained nurse was employed to administer first aid should someone take ill or fall. So it wasn’t just the customer is always right but the customer is center stage and shall be catered to.

So I like this guy cuz he had guts. I mean balls to the wall.. Everyone said, No, you can’t do that! That’s… that’s scandalous! That is unseemly! You’ll never get away that it! And HE DID ANYWAY. I mean this dude believed in himself. Yes, he can, he’s AmeriCAN! Hahah. BUT he loved loved loved England and in the end, England loved him.

I’m gonna write more about him soon. I think he’s fascinating. In the meantime, watch the series, Mr Selfridge on PBS /itv /Netflix.

 

THE FUNNIEST VIDEO EVER IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD EVER EVER: “Unless Your Want to Park Your Horse in the Cupboard…”

 

You disagree, do you? G’head. Show us something funnier. Ged.(that’s the even shorter version of “G’head”.)

 

Piccadilly is Such a Cute British Word. (Question: Does it actually mean something?) (Answer: Yes.)

picc Cannabis-Shakespeare2

“High” collars, innit?

 

Piccadilly Circus. We’ve all heard of it — the London (much smaller) version of Times Square. But where does the word “piccadilly” come from?

When I was an English teacher in Rome, it was all about eliciting the answer from the student. So I’ll try to elicit the answer from you.

Is it:

  1. A stiff collar
  2. A small armadillo that “pecks”, called a peccadillo
  3. Someone who “picks” their nose
  4. A sort of cake or turnover
  5. A “peaked” hill (geography term)

 

Ok, here’s ANOTHER hint:

piccadill

 

Still think (or hope) it’s someone who picks their nose? OK, final hint:

picc with word in it

 

Yes, it’s one of those ruffled collars that were so impractical as to be indicative of class. Wearing one meant that you didn’t work with your hands (imagine trying to load up a ship with one of those things on! Or just pick up a box! Or even just have soup!). It also meant that you had servants to do all sorts of things including washing and starching these frilly chokers. Maintaining them was a lot of work; hundreds (hundreds!) of pins were needed for the ruff’s elaborate pattern. It’s fair to say then that wearing one also indicated that you “generally had more money than sense.”

There was a merchant named Robert Baker who in the 1600s made lots and lots and lots of money on this medieval fashion statement and so when he built a very ostentatious house, it was derisively nicknamed “Piccadilly.” Thus the street and circus were named.

Maybe one day, there’ll be a High-Heel Lane or Ripped Jeans Corner or I’m-With-Stupid-Teeshirt Avenue. Maybe even Piazza Socks with Crocs.

picc sub-buzz-18059-1495140757-19

 

****

 

 

Morecombe and Wise Having Breakfast.

Video

As an American Shewolf in London, I feel it is my duty to bring you some excellent British classics worth watching or even, for some of you, re-watching:

He Played with Her Hair

blonde
I was atop the bus guiding on the last tour of the day and there was a middle-aged guy who raised his hand and asked, “Hey, are we gonna go by that changing-of-the-guards place?”

I couldn’t stifle my giggle and said, “You mean Buckingham Palace,”

and he said, “Yea! That!”

I loved that he wasn’t the least bit embarrassed that he didn’t know the name of the most famous palace in the world. Why should he? He needed to know because he, his wife and daughter were staying at a hotel near there so wanted to be sure they could get off there at tour’s end.

They were from Long Island (“Lawn Gyland,”is how he said it). He was very attentive to my commentary and asked a question or two which is always encouraging for a tour guide. Toward the end of the tour when it got rather chilly, the three of them went into the covered part of the upper deck. We were driving on the north side of the River Thames, on Victoria Embankment heading towards Big Ben. The lights of the London Eye shone red, the Country Hall blue and the sky dark. October in London.

Then the guy leaned forward and started playing with his wife’s hair – she was seated right in front of him. He was still looking at the view and just playing with her hair. She leaned into his hand. They continued doing that for a while. It was so touchingly beautiful. And I thought, Why isn’t anyone playing with my hair? Why don’t I have someone to do that?

I don’t quite know how it happened — or didn’t happen — but I don’t have a partner and haven’t in a very long time. It’s like I forgot. Children,too. Just forgot. And when I see a man playing with his wife’s hair, I remember and I get a pang. And my mind takes a photo of the moment and it stays with me for a bit.

blonde i-forgot

You’re Quite the Wanker, Aren’t You?

I taught English in Italy for a long time. You don’t even know your language has structure until you teach it. Present tense vs present continuous, past vs present perfect blah blah blah. 

Well there’s something called a “question tag.” The idea being you think something’s a certain way but you wanna be sure. Or, you think something’s not a certain way and you want to be sure. In either case, you want to be sure — you want confirmation.

To teach the Italians the idea of confirmation, I use the example of checking in on what we’re having for dinner: if I think we’re making spaghetti tonight but I want to make sure, what do I say?

  • We’re having spaghetti tonight, no?

See that little “no” at the end — that is a “question tag”. It’s called a “tag” because it’s at the end.

In the States, if I am confirming that Trump still hasn’t been impeached I say,

  • The orange creature is still in the White House, right?

So in conversational language, Italians say no? at the end of the sentence and instead Americans say right?

But not the Brits. No, these are complicated people, our British friends. They are not interested in being direct, are they? They would say:

  • We’re having spaghetti tonight, aren’t we?
  • The orange creature is still in the White House, isn’t he?
  • You are quite the wanker, aren’t you?

Now, which is “correct” English? The British way of course. Hands down. I mean, c’mon, get real. We Americans say gonna, wanna and all that stuff. We cut to the chase whenever we can! The Brits instead have more reverence for the language, innit?

 

 

 

Hardcore

When I first moved to uk, being the cheapskate I am, I used websites where people want to offer stuff for free that they don’t need anymore. Websites like Freecyle and Freegle.

I remember the first time I saw an ad for “hardcore”. They were giving it away! And I thought, “Those quirky Brits! They’re supposedly so uptight and yet they are just letting the entire world know they’ve finished ‘reading’ their porn magazines and want TO GIVE THEM AWAY!” Then again, I thought, why should they discard two large black bags of the stuff when someone else might want it?  Who am I to judge? Two bags though. But you never know what’s going on with people. Lost his wife? Got fired? Horny bastard? None of my business.

Then i saw this ad:

And I was like… what? TEN BAGS? Jesus Christ!! What the fuck kind of country have I moved to? Then the telephone rang or I got hungry or the pope died and I got distracted and forgot all about it.

Then, later that week:

TWENTY????? WITH MORE TO FUCKING FOLLOW???? What the hell is going on? Is this like a porn sect? What the fuck with these people? Are you fucking kidding me?

Then the telephone rang or I got hungry or the pope died and I got distracted and forgot all about it.

A few weeks later, I saw the following and the the clouds cleared and I saw the goddamn “hardcore” flipping light:

“Hardcore” in this mothereffing drive-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road country can also mean RUBBLE.

As the Brits would say FOR FUCKS SAKE!

 

 

 

Everything’s a Roundabout

Note to reader. I don’t know how to put footnotes in so I used * and ** and ***. Footnotes at end of post.

+++

While studying for my driving theory test, I noticed that there’s lots of material about the darn roundabouts.* This is a very roundabout-oriented country.

Then I started to notice that in general Brits like round things. They love that London Eye thing. Lots of buildings in London are round.

“round building london” google search

And they go crazy over doughnuts.**

No hole brit donut

The busses have rounded edges, so do the taxis.

And because they drink a lot of beer, a number of British people have round bellies.

And of course they prefer the “s” to the “z”, i.e. organise not organize. Why? Because the “s” is rounder. They don’t like sharp corners. A “z” has not one, but TWO sharp corners.

Speaking of corners, even the streets tend to round. In London, that last bit of Regent Street heading into Piccadilly Circus is called The Quadrant because it’s like the quadrant of a circle, i.e. rounded. And there are so many streets that are “crescents”, i.e. in the shape of a crescent. I.e. round! Even the River Thames is curvy for crying out loud. These people like round stuff, folks, I’m telling ya.

And of course, there’s Spotted Dick Pudding.***  Not Striped or Paisley Dick Pudding. And I’ll tell you why: because SPOTS ARE ROUND.

They’ll go “roundabout” in their speaking, as well, if it’s necessary to criticise or even just make a request. They’ll get lots of extra words in there to soften the blow. They wouldn’t simply say “Move over” or even “Could you move over” but “Would you mind terribly just moving over .. just a bit? If that’s alright…?”

Even the floor of a building: they say it’s on the fifth storey of a building, rather than fifth story. They throw that “e” in there to delay getting to the “y”. (Ok, so maybe that’s going too far.)

So, why is there still a monarch in this modern country? Because it’s the Crown and a crown is ROUND.

 

HOWEVER, my sister came to visit and she found quite the exception in the hotel’s WC:

 

 

Footnotes:

*Getting your license here is a big deal. Lots of conversations about it, people spend lots of money of driving lesson.  Growing up in the states, everyone I knew was taught by their dad. We’d argue a lot but I learned to drive. Maybe American’s have a higher tolerance for arguments.

**But I think it’s weird that they don’t put a hole in the middle of their doughnut. I mean, isn’t the hole what makes it a doughnut?

***Yes, that really is the name of a dessert here.