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Let's Clean Out Our Linguistic Closet.

Linguist Geoff Nunberg tells us what words he would like to see us get rid of for the year 2000.

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Other segments from the episode on December 20, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 20, 1999: Interview with Vicki Peterson, Peter Holsapple, and Susan Cowsill; Interview with Marshall Crenshaw; Commentary on vocabulary.

Transcript

Show: FRESH AIR
Date: DECEMBER 20, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 122003np.217
Type: FEATURE
Head: Words to Get Rid of in 2000
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:53

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Some people have been making big plans to go to faraway places on New Year's Eve, where they can be the first to greet the new millennium. But our linguist, Geoff Nunberg, is staying in the San Francisco Bay area, where he has some cleanup chores to do before he can ring in the new year.

GEOFF NUNBERG, LINGUIST: Before we start with the carousing
We plan to greet the year 2000,
Let's clean out our linguistic closets
Of their detritus and deposits:
The babble, balderdash, and bugs
That rankle underneath the rugs
With solecisms, slang, and slag,
And sweep it all into a bag.
Then, as the afternoon gets late,
Let's gather on the Golden Gate
To dump the whole lot in the water
And usher in a New Word Order--
And with one stroke, bold and defiant,
Make English Y2K-compliant.

Let's lighten our congested cargo
Of business cant and corporate argot.
We'll ditch "proactive," for a starter,
And "Don't work harder, just work smarter,"
Lose sight of "visions, goals, and missions,"
And pitch out "value propositions."
"Synergistic" or "synergetic"?
Either one gives me a headache.
And the concept of "convergence"
Is in need of some submergence.
Consign "restructure" to the void,
And "downsize" should be redeployed.
At least the next time we get canned,
We'll have an idea where we stand.

Let's lose "win-win," that favorite phrase
Of all the Harvard MBAs,
And cast on the outgoing tide
The "box" they like to think outside,
In hopes that in the coming age,
We'll all be on a different page.

It wasn't very long ago
The Internet was comme il faut,
And only the most avant-garde
Had @ signs on their business card.
But now that even Aunt Estelle
Has got herself a URL,
And Vinny at the barbershop
Made millions on his first-day pop,
We've reached the point where talking geekish
Is starting to sound so last-weekish.
"Emoticon" and "digerati"
Are not worth a wooden zloti.
To "portal," we can give the gate;
"Mindshare" can go for tuna bait.
And since you asked, IMHO,
Those chat-room acronyms can go.
And ere the sun sets, let us jettison
"Newbie," "netiquette," and "netizen."
Nor should we miss the opportunity
To deep-six "virtual community,"
E-this, I-that, and without qualm
Let's unplug everything.com.

On literary critics' patois
I think we must declare a fatwa.
It's hard to part with "hegemonic,"
But in the end you'll find it tonic.
And how much groovier texts are rendered
When they're just sexed instead of gendered!
And curling up at bedtime, who wants
` To be holding something nuanced?
Of that chic expression, "po-mo,"
I would just as soon hear no mo',
Nor any others of the host
Of vocables prefixed with "post."
We seem to be, for all our fears,
Still modern after all these years.
I'm sure that ages hence will honor us
If we stop cooking up new generas (ph).

Let's spare the coming centuries
"Prequels" and "rockumentaries,"
And pause not even for a comma
Before discarding "docudrama."

And ere the clock chimes, let us vow
That critics 20 years from now
Will earn themselves an instant wedgie
Whenever they use "taut" or "edgy."

Before we can put on our nightcaps,
We've other words to feed the whitecaps.
Let's leave off calling rumors "buzz"
And blow off anyone who does.
"Wakeup call" is getting thin;
Next year, we'll all be sleeping in.
And anything you feel like "sharing,"
Kindly offer to the herring.

And as we're chucking out the dross,
Make sure we don't neglect to toss
Those interjections coy and clever,
Like "Let's not go there" and "Whatever."
And while we're at it, do I gotta
Even mention "yada-yada"?
Arrivederci to "Excuse me,"
I fear you no longer amuse me.
Farewell to "Duh," and, a propos,
Let's say "Bye-bye, now" to "Hello?"

Now, as we watch the century go out,
There's only one more thing to throw out.
Let's cast onto the coastal shelf
The word "millennium" itself.
I'm glad to bid that one adieu.
The fact is that I never knew
If it should have one "n" or two.

And as night falls on the Presidio,
Let's go home and watch a video
To wait the century's final hour--
That is, assuming we've got power.

GROSS: Geoff Nunberg is a linguist at Stanford University and the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. You can read the complete text of Geoff's poem on our Web site, freshair.com.

FRESH AIR's interviews and reviews are produced by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, and Naomi Person, with Monique Nazareth and Patty Leswing. Research assistance from Brendan Noonam (ph). Anne Marie Baldonado directed the show.

I'm Terry Gross.

TO PURCHASE AN AUDIOTAPE OF THIS PIECE, PLEASE CALL 877-21FRESH
Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia, PA
Guest: Geoff Nunberg
High: Linguist Geoff Nunberg tells us what words he would like to see us get rid of for the year 2000.
Spec: Lifestyles; Humor; Linguistics

Please note, this is not the final feed of record

Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Words to Get Rid of in 2000
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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