The catchphrase of the decade.

Scrutinizing culture.
Dec. 29 2009 7:27 PM

The Catchphrase of the Decade

And those that have had their 15 minutes of fame.

(Continued from Page 2)

Game-changer: I liked this when I first heard it. I'm an inveterate watcher of pro-football-highlights shows that air nothing but game-changers, so the gestalt of game-changer resonates for me. It's not only the play that does something great; it's the blow to the morale, to the momentum of the other side. It's a rare catchphrase with a psychologically complex dynamic embedded in it. It's dramatic! I think it's going to be with us for a while. Up in the Air may have given it classic status.

Note how The New Yorker picked it up in its "World Changers" issue, though their usage has too much of a rah-rah, goody-goody thing going on. Game-changer contains within it a winner and a loser. World-changer has all the tragic sense of life of a petrochemical company's "green" ad.

And how about push-back? It's kind of a counterpart to take-away, right? Although maybe after something's been taken, away there's nothing around to push back against. It's become a kind of macho politico catchphrase, but I like it because I see a kind of existential dimension to it. Pushing back against fate, the irrationality and injustice of the universe. Job-like. With a capital J.

Doubling down: It's hard for Politico or any of those beltway Web sites to go through the day without somebody doubling down on some political maneuver or other. It's a kind of response to push-back. Or a redoubling of push-back.

That's how I roll.I roll deep:Sure, dude, you're totes awesome (another two words ready for the death panel). You're using a word first mainstreamed in a certain particularly well-named 1995 film, Clueless, which satirized the phrase even then. (Remember "Rollin' with my Homies"? By the way, I wrote this just hours before learning about the death of poor Brittany Murphy, who sang the song in the film. Freaky.) I don't use it, but some people can get away with it, sort of ironically. The only mainstream media guy to get away with "roll" these days has to be David "strong for [my] posse" Carr, as I think Gawker called him. But he's put in the time. Dude rolls deep. (On the other hand, I think he should drop the overused catchphrase on steroids.)

And your point is?: I almost always find this funny still.

Oh, snap!: First used on me by a certain zeitgeisty MTV executive when I'd corrected a pop culture reference. It's an unconvincing way to say "you haven't gotten to me" when you maybe have. Another variation: the melodramatic ouch.


Typographical catch devices: There's a good one that's catching on: "/sarc." or sometimes just "/s".

Rock the X; rocking the Y: Yeah, you rock is what you're saying. You rawk. But if you say you rock, you don't rock. And if someone tells you that you rock, it's likely he or she and you don't rock.

Curating: Oh, please. What a phony stay classy kind of euphemism. Curating is a new-media term for selective swiping and rearranging other people's stuff. My friend Jeff Jarvis, master of jargon, actually had a headline: "Content farms v. [writers as] curating farmers." Yes massa J!

Polite-sounding pre-negs: Don't take this the wrong way, or, as Larry David has it, Having said that followed by the intended insult or unwanted critique. Not that there's anything wrong with that (C.P.), but, actually, there is: the pretense at politeness and civility in a futile attempt to hide the hostility.

I could go on, but after great deliberation, I have decided that the catchphrase of the decade is:


Because, really, isn't this decade about the things that have been taken away from us? The "holiday from history" after the end of the Cold War. Being able to focus on whether it makes a difference what " 'is' is." (It is what it is!) All that frivolity taken away by 9/11.

Physical security gone, economic security gone, all remaining security about the future of the planet—they've all been taken away.

I know; it's commonly used in a different sense: a take-away is what you get out of something, a Power Point bullet-point representation of reality. The skeleton of the full-bodied reality.

But all that's left after the final take-away is … the ask.



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