- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 4, 2009


With Americans busy celebrating the 233rd birthday of the United States this week, freedom of speech comes to mind. We Americans are big on speaking freely, but the words we use are quite another matter.

In fact, we are becoming a nation of braying sheep, using the same words and phrases over and over again. Benjamin Franklin, a wordsmith if there ever was one, would have some issues with that.

“Issues.” That is a word drastically overused to avoid the proper word: “problems.” “He has issues” sounds a lot better than “The guy is dramatically messed up.” So, my friend, issues, not problems, is the new polite.

“My friend.” Is it just me, or does calling someone you just met “my friend” sound a bit condescending? Friendship takes time and commitment. I don’t want somebody telling me I’m his or her friend. Alexander Hamilton, who could be a mean guy, would understand, and if he were still alive, he would give me a shout-out.

“Shout-out.” That cliche comes from the hip-hop world, which has done more to ruin the English language than Paris Hilton. But the rappers have won this lexicon battle. Millions of Americans now shout out to their friends and neighbors. What’s next, Dick Cheney giving a shout-out to Don Rumsfeld? Could happen, and if it does, it will be Mr. Cheney’s bad.

“My bad.” This may be the worst cliche to hit the country since “groovy.” Again, it comes from the hip-hop industry, where “they be chillin’ ” over using actual phrases like “That was my fault.” Why say four words when you can say two and rhyme at the same time? “My bad, I’m mad.” Awesome.

“Awesome.” Why? Why not “splendid”? Or “excellent”? Or “super”? Sorry, we had super a few years ago, and it almost drove me to learn Farsi. But, really, why awesome? Why is everybody saying that? And don’t tell me “It is what it is.”

I hate that. “It is what it is.” What does that mean? Should we go around saying stuff like “Hey, look at that alligator over there - it is what it is.” I know that. I know what I’m seeing and hearing. I don’t need someone to tell me “that refrigerator is what it is.” That is sooooo not cool.

“Sooooo.” Pleeeease. Stooooop.

And “cool.” When Marlon Brando said it in the 1950s, it sounded good. When Edd “Kookie” Byrnes said it on “77 Sunset Strip,” it was in context. When President Obama says it, I want to turn in my passport. Grown-ups should not be saying “cool” unless they are willing, like Brando, to ride big motorcycles very fast. Then it’s OK. “You go, girl!”

Yikes. “You go, girl!” Another expression from the ‘hood made popular by Oprah and other TV people. Now all the girls are going. But where? Where are the ladies heading? I don’t know.

Bill O’Reilly is host of the Fox News show “The O’Reilly Factor.”

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