Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Words: Rare, Medium and Overdone

Trends, fads, fashions—they can be seen in so many aspects of our lives. Not just hair and clothing, but we see trends in architecture, landscaping, foods, cars and speech. Yes. Speech.

Words come and go, and we’ve recognized that before here at FITNY. (No, that does not stand for Fitness-New York! Think about it!) But now I am not referring to the new additions to our dictionaries that are announced annually. I’m just talking about usage. Well, no—I’m talking about OVER-usage.

Since I tend to use this space as a forum for complaining and kvetching about things that irk me, I’ve tried to hold back on this topic, as it could be viewed as petty. Well, petty or not, here I go.

In the Rumsfeld days, the overused phrase of the day was “connect the dots.” You could not listen to a sound bite of a single politician or public leader without them connecting the dots on one issue or another. Previously, we all reached conclusions, but that became passe’ as we learned to connect the dots. That expression is still with us, but its use seems to have abated somewhat.

The first time I think I noticed this was in the 1970s when Richard Nixon used his “let me say this about that” and “let me make one thing perfectly clear.” Well, actually, I think those expressions became overused more as a way to mock Nixon than anything else, but still…

Recently we’ve adopted “at the end of the day” as the expression du jour. I don’t know who started it, but again—you can’t sit through a newscast (remember: I am the Uber-Nerd, I still watch tv news) without hearing this numerous times. People used to say things like “when all is said and done”, or “in the final analysis”, but no more! Now at the end of the day you’ve heard at the end of the day a zillion times. It’s boring.

My current peeve has been over the extreme overuse of “iconic”. No one calls anything ‘characteristic’, well-known or ‘representative’ any more. I think Brian Williams used “iconic” forty-seven times in last night’s broadcast alone. Well, not really. But he thinks everything is iconic apparently, and since he does at least one story a night about dogs, the dog lovers are iconic, the shrimpers on the Louisiana gulf coast are iconic, their boats are iconic, the storm damage is iconic, the Joplin hospital is “now iconic”, and the rescue shelters are iconic. Really.

But the real reason I bring up this topic at all is that I’m here to predict the next highly overused expression in our society. Ready? Here it is: full stop.


Yep, in England the period at the end of a sentence is called a full stop. It’s cute, it’s quaint (to me), and I like it when I hear a Brit use it.

But Sunday I heard David Gregory use it on Meet the Press. (There’s my nerdiness showing again.) David is not a Brit, hence it was not cute. The very next day I heard an American pundit use it on the radio. I’ve heard it twice since. I foresee a spate of “full stop” usage that’s going to grate on my nerves. I expect it will become epidemic within a short time.

I’m going to have to put on my eyeshades and armbands, whip out an adding machine (yes, I’m that old) and start tallying up the usage. It’s about to explode, and I’m just saying you heard it here first.

Don’t thank me. All I did was connect the dots.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Don't Leave Us, Skype!

So Microsoft wants to buy Skype. I guess they’ll call it MicroSkype.

Help me understand this: Skype is not exactly profitable. Its current owners paid $2 billion for Skype a few years ago. Now Bill Gates is paying those guys $8.5 billion. That’s a tidy little profit, according to my in-depth analysis. (See preceding paragraph.) Wish I had something Bill Gates wanted to buy…

Anyhoo, it sounds like they’ll start charging us for something we’ve been using for free for a long time. That’s going to p-, p--, perturb people off. But after all, they have to do something to recoup their $8.5 billion, I suppose.

Or perhaps they could just throw some ads on it, as so many of the popular websites have done. Isn’t that how we still manage to get online news from so many sources without actually paying for it? (Except for you, New York Times—you’ve dumped on us again.)

I mean, when my daughter connects with us through Skype, maybe she could hold up a can of tuna fish, or a tube of toothpaste, and it would be like product placement in the movies and tv. You know, like when you’re watching Modern Family and there’s a gallon of Minute Maid orange juice on the counter. You get the subtle message to buy Minute Maid, without anyone actually saying it.

When the grandkids come on to video-chat with us, they can show us their current favorite toys and books, and in this way, Lego, Toy Story 3, and Leap Frog get their own commercials, too. Yes, we’re a small audience, but we are the easy marks for those fresh-faced, adorable little kids who call us “Grandma” and “Grandpa”. That ought to be worth something.

If Zachary’s wearing a Nike tee shirt, or Kaitlyn’s in Izod, bingo! –instant ad!

My kids and I often exchange reading suggestions, and end up reading a lot of the same books. Maybe we could line up some of our favorite volumes on our desks when we Skype. So many possibilities…

I’m not sure how any of this would benefit Microsoft, but I have time to work that out. I’ll get back to you on that.

Since all those predictions of videophones that were so prevalent in the ‘60s never came true, and Skype came along to fulfill that empty promise, we’ve come to rely on the technology to allow us to see our loved ones, no matter how far away they are. The fact that it started out as a free service was totally unbelievable. If that now changes, it’s going to really upset a lot of the 170 million Skype users.

We’re likely to cause an uproar. We might even label it Gates-Gate.

But in the meantime, Mr. Gates, you wanna buy a blog?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Welcome to Nerdville

I’ve told you many times before that my husband, the Center of the Universe (CoTU) and I are nerds. And while I don’t like to brag—we’re world-class nerds. I mean, other nerds are embarrassed to know us. That’s just how ultra-nerdy we are.

Here’s what I’m saying.

We can’t just replace our dishwasher when it dies. We research it to death. Other people watch the ads in the newspaper (see? –non-nerds don’t even get a newspaper) to see where they can get the brand they like, get the best price, or free delivery. Us? No, we start with Consumer Reports (yep! –we have an online membership) and from there we move on to online chats, forums, even Amazon’s website to read user reviews. Nerdville.

Same thing with a cleaning service to do a “move-out” deep cleaning of my in-laws’ condo. Don’t just get a name from a neighbor—no, we go to Angie’s List, comb through their ratings and reviews, make the phone calls, ask the questions, and make an informed decision.

Last week it was the same thing when our freezer bit the dust. Research, research, research. Look at the ratings, the dimensions, the wattage, the energy efficiency, the reliability—have I left anything out? No. Then I scour the websites of the big local and national retailers to find the best deal on the make and model we identify as what we want.

So. Do you think I’m gloating about what a great job we do? Not even close.

1. Dishwasher: The compartment for the drying agent leaked from day one. Hello, repairman! Our glasses don’t fit well in the upper racks, so loading it is not pleasant to this day.

2. The cleaning service that was supposed to take four hours to clean the condo took EIGHT! And they didn’t even touch the oven! What? I hesitate to tell you that they turned off the refrigerator—a big no-no in a vacant condo.

3. Freezer: Can’t turn it off. The instruction book says to press the electronic pad’s ‘down’ button till you get to ‘0’. Sorry—it goes down to ‘1’ and no further. Repairman’s scheduled for Thursday. [I was turning it off to wash down the interior, per the book’s instructions, before loading it.]

Moral of the story? Quit the investigation, bag the inquiries and the research, and pick one you like the looks of.

At least you won’t feel cursed by the universe and doomed to make the wrong decision. Not to mention the time you’ll save.