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Everything Bad Is Kind Of Still Bad, Again

I've reached the age where it's harder to keep up with the trendy lingo. I like to be familiar with what the kids are saying on the street -- but as that would involve being on the street and interacting with kids, it doesn't actually happen so much. There's only so far I'm willing to go in the name of an up-to-date slang vocabulary.

On the other hand, I don't want to fall behind the times.

(Do people still say that? "Fall behind the times"? That's old people talk, isn't it?


For a long time, my options have seemed not so good. I could fall out of touch completely, clinging desperately to the 'radical' and 'tubular' of my youth, and fall further into irrelevancy with each passing meme and catchphrase. Or I could try to keep up, self-consciously latching onto new words and hope to hell I'm using them in the right way at the right time to the right people, and I've got the hand motions or ironically-askew ball cap angle to match.

My mother went this route for a while, when I was growing up. Minus the ball cap. She just wanted to 'talk the talk' with me and my friends. So, bless her maternal little heart, she'd slang it up with us every once in a while.

I'm not sure it was so successful, though, because it's hard not to be self-conscious about such things. There was about an eight-year period where she kept using the word "cool", but always with a set of implied finger quotes around it. She didn't mean to put them there. They just were. So she'd ask:

"So, you think that new Thompson Twins album is pretty "*cool*", eh?"

And fifteen-year-old me would roll my eyes, as teenagers do, and grumble about parents and walk away. Which was not the most helpful thing I could have done, certainly.

Particularly since it made her believe I didn't like the Thompson Twins. And, I mean, shuh, they were, like, awesome, amirite? Totally... uh, radical. And tubular. And stuff.

"I might as well be tapping out Morse Code telegrams to Western Union.

I think I've made my dilemma clear.

So I've been in a quandary. How can I stay in touch and tuned in, with my finger on the pulse of the young people today?

(First answer? Don't actually try to take the pulse of young people today.

I can't tell you how many crossing guards have shooed me off school property. I almost had my sphygmometer confiscated. For true.)

Finally, I came up with a solution. There's no way a guy like me -- not into pop culture, on the wrong side of forty, barely committed to the effort in the first place -- can keep up with the vocabularial trends constantly popping up. No, the only way to stay current, I decided, is to get ahead of the curve. Figure out what's going to be trendy soon, practice it now, and then I'll be all set when it gets big and all the tweenyboppers are tweeting it to Tumblr for "Totes Terrific Tuesday".

(Yeah, the new media whatchajiggers? I'm a little out of touch on those, too.

I mean, I'm still blogging, for crissakes. I might as well be tapping out Morse Code telegrams to Western Union. One crippling old-person disease at a time, all right?)

So how to jump ahead of what's trending? Easy. It's all about pattern recognition. People like the mostly-familiar -- only in a little different packaging, or a gentle spin, or in a spiffy new outfit. That's why movie sequels always do so well, and everybody loved New Coke and Big Brother is totally fresh and new every time they find a fresh pack of idiots to unleash on each other.

See? The plan is foolproof.

And it didn't take long to put it into action. I thought for a while about what kind of lingo has trended among young people over the past few years, and it hit me: 'bad' is good. It's everywhere -- 'sick' is a compliment. A while back, 'gnarly' meant impressive. Even 'bad', which used to be bad, suddenly wasn't bad any longer.

(Though the guy who sang 'Bad', who was good at the time, sort of went bad himself.

At which point, maybe he should've done a song called 'Good', which would've balanced things out. But instead, he hung out with monkeys and bought the Elephant Man's carcass. There's really no song to come back from that, that I know of.)

The point is, not all of the 'bad' words have been used to mean 'good' yet. But they will be. Sooner or later, the kids will appropriate every negative word there is to mean something positive.

So why don't I just do it first? Then I'll be ready when it happens. I might even look like a trend-setter. Assuming my ironic ball cap is appropriately askew. Obviously.

I decided to start right away. The missus and I got invited -- by a couple a bit younger than us -- to their home for a Fourth of July cookout yesterday. We went, had a very nice time for a few hours, and eventually it was time to leave. We approached our host and hostess, and my wife thanked them for a wonderful afternoon.

But I -- I wanted to thank them properly. In a language they'd be sure to understand. So I smiled and said:

'Oh, yeah. This party is diseased, man! Diseased! Practically leprous.'

A blank stare from my wife. Which -- naturally, right? She's not that much younger than me. How would she know what I'm laying down? I turned back to rap with the younger generation.

'Your guacamole? Totally putrid. And this house... I mean, this house! You guys must be incontinent up in here!'

Sure, my wife hustled me out of there. And I got a good 'talking to' on the way home. Some people just aren't street, you know?

But man, come Labor Day, when those guys barbecue again? We're getting an invite. Oh, yeah -- I can feel it.

And baby, that party's gonna be dreadful. Straight up syphilitic!

I can hardly wait. Hope they have the guacamole again. That was nice.

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