Sun Ra - Column for 8/5


So, I come back to California to get married (which, at the time of this writing, is a few hours away. Yes, that's right, my dedication to your amusement is such that I'm writing a Cant column about an hour and fifteen minutes before I have to show up in a tux for the first of a whole afternoon's battery of pictures. It cuts the tension, see) and I find that my sister and some of my friends out here are making use of a new turn of phrase. So I wanted to write it down in case it became a phenomenon, just to mark the time when I first noticed it.

Every now and then I pick up on a new popular usage of language. I recall from the eighties the spread of "that sucks", and its various permutations "sucks for" and "sucks to be". You won't find that now ubiquitous usage before the 1980s. Check on it. And now "sucks" is more common than "bummer". Well, except among surfers.

Of course, sometimes these new phrases fizzle. In fact, I would hypothesize that more often than not they never reach much beyond their Clique of Origin (COO), and then slowly die out within that. Sadly, I can't think of many examples, because a large chunk of my brain is repeating the mantra "holy shit I'm getting married today", so I'll leave coming up with examples of phrases that never went anywhere as an exercise to the reader.

I've always found how language mutates over time to be interesting. Read some old issues of Poor Richard's Almanac. It's English, yes, but so many of the little particulars are different. And then step back to Shakespeare. Shakespeare is great for all sorts of turns of phrase, puns, and linguistic in-jokes that haven't been used for hundreds of years.

To return to where I started, though, there's a new phrase on the street. Watch for it. Oh, what it is, right. Here's an example of it in use:

Me: "So are you still at work?"

Sister: "No, not so much, no."

Me: "Ah. So have you decided what you'll do for the summer?"

Sister: "No, not so much."

Me: "So why are you saying 'not so much' after each negation? It doesn't make any sense!"

Sister: "No, not so much."

- Sun Ra

Columns by Sun Ra