Stupid Tuesday questions, ironic irony edition

I do not trouble myself with the delusion that I am cool.

Indeed, if there is one thing with which I am wholly comfortable, it is the vast gulf that separates me from coolness.  The truth is that I have never been cool, will never be cool, and will almost certainly get daily tutorials from my children regarding the depths of my uncoolness when they reach the age when they would rather contract a wasting disease than be seen in public with me.  The closest I ever got to being cool is when I lived in New York City, which contributed just enough of its glamour by mere association that I sometimes fooled people when I visited my hometown in Missouri.

One of the amusing things about being at peace with one’s utter lack of cool is to highlight this deficit.  I like to do this on occasion by picking up bits of slang or youthful phraseology that sound silly coming from a fogey of my years.  It serves to signal in a jocular way that I am out of touch with today’s young people, but am able to joke about it rather than becoming depressed at the passage of time.

A recent example was my occasionally saying “For serious?” rather than “Really?” or “Seriously?” to express surprised bemusement.  Since “for serious?” is not the kind of phrase that one might expect me to use in my regular conversation, my doing so elicited the kind of mildly ironic smile from listeners that I was shooting for.  (It is these trivial diversions that get me through my day.)

Except then, to my horror, I found I couldn’t stop the phrase from slipping out unbidden when I intended to use the more formal alternatives listed above.  I started to use it… for serious!  It had infected my vernacular like a poisonous little worm, and one I had moreover invited to burrow right in and make itself at home.  Even now, despite concentrated effort to avoid doing so, every so often that noisome little two-word phrase will pop out when I mean to say something else.

But did I learn my lesson?  No, friends, I did not.  Because then I decided to pick up “totes” for a laugh.  (“Totes” being text/Twitter-speak for “totally,” if I understand correctly.)  I thought it would be totes amusing to drop that mindless little term into conversation from time to time in an attempt at drollery.

Except then I found myself accidentally using it when I totes didn’t mean to, which was totes infuriating and totes made me want to put my head in an oven.  Totes.

So that’s my Question this week — have any of you found yourself infected with slang?  Am I the only moron this has happened to (albeit compounded by my own idiotic choice to use the words in the first place)?  Is anyone else’s vocabulary suddenly home to words and phrases that you’d just as soon evict?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. It’s possible that what you’re doing here is being a dad, which means making the transition from “I once had it!” to “Aww, screw it, I’ll have it if I want to have it, even if having it means ruining it for everybody else.” When I engage in this sort of behavior, my daughter looks at me as if I’m a stranger who has wandered into her house.

    As for usage: I’ve gone in on totes. I like that one. I also like to use HAM* to add emphasis in completely inappropriate scenarios. As in, “I’m going HAM on this Prince of Wales tea.”

    *Hard As A Motherf—er

    • Living for a while in England, and then being around a lot of Brit ex-pats that I played rugby with, it was hard not to pick up some slang there that just became ingrained. “Wanker” is just such a wonderfully useful word.

  2. The Google. The Facebook. The Amazon.

    Once you start, you realize that it just sounds better. “I looked up Lionel Ritchie on the Google then I listened to him All Night Long. All Night.”

  3. “All-righty then.”

    Turns out, this came from Sex and the City when Kristen Davis’ character was dating Kyle McLachlan. I didn’t even realize I’d picked it up from my then-law partner as she was using the phrase around the office. Then I started using it, quite unconsciously. Then I saw the episode where Kristen Davis was horrified nearly to the point of breaking up with Kyle McLachlan when she realized that he used the phrase “All-righty then” for serious. And I realized I’d been using it too. And the very next day a client used it back at me.

    There was no hope at that point.

  4. I loath when people say OMG, LOL, or BTW instead of the actual words. Why I can’t I stop them from coming out of my mouth?

    You have officially ruined for serious for me. Thanks, I’m cured.

  5. I have just one piece of ‘New England’ slang. Wicked.

    Wicked pissah.

    My Danish friends all ask, “Can you actually use wicked like that?” I usually reply, “I’m from New England. It’s wicked like that.”

  6. The only time in my life I was ever cool was when I lived in Salt Lake City, and then only by comparison.

    For a while I did, influenced by The Wire [1], try replacing my fake British “No worries” with “Ain’t no thang”. Not a success.

    1. During the same period, I just managed to stop myself asking the person who was taking minutes at a work meeting “Is you taking notes on a criminal f***ing conspiracy”?

    • When I was looking for a research advisor, I referred to my search as “finding a rabbi”.

  7. I say “y’all” a lot, primarily because, back when I was a camp counselor, I had a camper who was up from the south and he said it and I thought it was the funniest thing and I sort of said it in a mocking way but then it just became part of my vocab. But I like it.

    I am also very cool. I don’t even know why I hang out with you nerds.

    • I think “y’all” was my first word. Around here I use it or hear roughly 2,000 times per day.

      • There is no non-Southern equivalent I’ve found that is nearly as effective of it. It is a great word with no Northern equal.

        • I’m with Kazzy on this. I originally hated y’all, as it struck me (sorry, Mike) as the epitome of southern backward redneck ignorance. Then I realized its usefulness and it stuck. So either I was wrong or I am the epitome of southern backward redneck ignorance. I prefer to think I was wrong.

          • Not only do I use “y’all,” I also will occasionally employ “all y’all.” As in “when are all y’all coming over?”

            I get away with it by telling people it’s a lingering trace of Missouri. This is not true, and I have no idea when or why I started. But I like it, so it’s staying.

      • My mother, on her first trip driving down south, said she wondered why everybody kept asking about her oil.

        But up here downeast, ‘you guys,’ is a gender-neutral pronoun.

        • *snort* I’ve got a story about a young lad looking to pick up his date where she worked. He spent all night searching around for the “Piggy Inn” (she had actually said “Peggy Ann”)…

    • I grew up in the South, but I specifically avoiding using “y’all,” because I was “better” than that. I also didn’t say “ain’t.”

      Then I started learning French in 9th grade, and I realized that “y’all” was extremely useful; “y’all” is the 2nd person plural, like vous. I then began using “y’all” forcefully in my speech. Later, I took this further by adopting less common, more provincial 2nd person plurals: “yous” from Pittsburgh, “you’uns” (pronounced “yuns”) which is great, because it’s a 2nd person diminuitive pronoun, “youz guyz” from the Mafia.

      After hearing Irish types saying “amn’t,” I realized “ain’t” is totes OK as long as it’s reserved for 1st person. I still haven’t been able to incorporate it in my speech, though.

      So, I guess I have a natural immunity to accidentally adopting slang I don’t want. I seem only to be able to do it to amuse myself, and it goes away when I stop paying attention. This also means, however, that I’m fairly incorrigible on the slang or mispronunciations that my mother allowed me to grow up with.

      I promise to come back here and ‘fess up when I discover myself doing what you describe over the next few days.

      • The “you” in that last sentence should have been directed at the Good Doctor, not Your Coolness, Kazzy.

    • I fought “y’all” for the longest time, and then we moved to Texas for 18 horrible months when I was in 5th grade. That sealed it for me.

  8. I picked up totes too. It’s awesome especially when you combine it with expressing concepts. I. E. If you owned a lot of castles you could say you had “totes moats”.

        • if you have a lot of bags, you have totes totes.

          also if you throw a party and all your croatian neighbors come over, you might have totes croats.

          • My farmer friends who have totes goats.
            Sailers totes boats to keep afloat.
            And the TV store totes remotes.
            Musicians totes notes, as do students and writers
            on why the federal budget totes bloat.
            Video games totes smote.
            And on that note,
            totes emote she wrote.

          • exactly! i have no idea why people hate on totes. it sounds stupid, but so does a lot of stuff.

  9. Not slang, but the internet is largely responsible for my becoming more comfortable with/used to swear words and thus surprising people like my family when I start using them in everyday life.

    • See below on how I startle people by using curse words infrequently. 🙂

  10. Nope.

    I have the opposite sort of speech pattern. My friends often note how slang and curse free my speech is. Some people consider the way I speak to be too formal, others just think I speak standard English. I curse so infrequently that it startles people when I do curse.

    This is the way it should be. Words should have meaning and power. Overuse of a word like fuck dilutes said power. When I hear people who curse with every other word, I imagine that they are upper-middle class suburban kids with a sense of shame and that their upbringing somehow renders them less “authentic”. So they resort to sounding like a parody of an imitation of a Mamet character.

  11. Four plus years in Northern California and “Hella” still gets on my nerves though. I don’t know why but I dislike the term very much. It sounds like people who have not grown up from being 12 year old suburban punk rockers.

    • The middle school version of that is “hecka”, which sounds very Leave it to Beaver.

    • “Hella” is actually SoCal. San Diego. Angelenos and NoCal-ers may have adopted it, but it’s a San Diego thing.

  12. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE slang and I have tried to use it as much as possible for most of my life. When I was in grade school a lot of us were skater kids so it was a lot of ‘dude’ and ‘rad’ and ‘like, like, like’.

    It would take paragraphs for me to cover all the slang I have used over the years. As of late I mostly get everything from my kids. I say cray-cray a lot lately just to embarrass my 14 year-old. I also sign my text messages to my kids ‘deuces’. Apparently that is the same as ‘peace-out’.

    My oldest taught me a phrase which I love but haven’t gotten good at using yet. When they don’t like something they will say, “I’m not about that (blank) life.” For example, I hate brocolli. If I wanted to covery that I would say, “I’m not about that brocolli life.” You’re also supposed to say it very deadpan, which is the part I can’t pull off.

    • You’re also supposed to say it very deadpan, which is the part I can’t pull off.

      I fear that phrase would be impossible for me to utter without giggling.

      • Exactly. And they intentionally use it for very mundane things because it makes it more funny. I asked her a few weeks ago why she didn’t wear heels to a job interview and she said, “Dad, I’m not about that high-heel life anymore.” Totally serious look on her face.

    • I totes do too much Buffy-speak. Personal favorite is “sad now”.

  13. I say “like” entirely way too much. The problem is, I can’t always discern between the times I’m using it as a useless placeholder and the times I’m simply over reliant on the appropriate usage of the word and when I’m using it to add a weird kind of emphasis.

    For instance, I might say, “Like, it’s like that time we were golfing. I looked like a total ass, like, every time I hit the ball.”

    I don’t even know how to begin parsing out which of those “likes” are appropriate, which should be eliminated entirely, and which can be substituted with a better word choice.

    Zazzy has made me conscious of it, so I try to be mindful when I’m actually thinking before I speak (rare) but I just end up getting confused.

    • Oh the dreaded “like”problem. It has taken me years to try to rid myself of this word as being part of my regular vernacular and yet it still comes out on occasion to embarrass me. One phrase I probably held on too long to was “honked off” as it was one that gets James’s goat. Maybe it is time to use it again.

  14. Probably an embarrassing number of words and phrases. ‘Dude’ and ‘awesome’ both started out ironically for me years ago. So did ‘mainstream media,’ which is a phrase I use even though I think it’s really funny. “Howdy.”

    Side note: years ago I found that if I really, really want my kids to do something like take out the trash when their friends are here and they act all recalcitrant, it doesn’t help to play the mean, angry, hard-ass dad because they like looking cool in front of other teens. However, they do live in actual terror of my being Cool Dad in front of people their own age. So now if I see my son hasn’t taken out the trash like he was told, I walk into the room where they play X-Box and say something like, “Hey, Dudes! Are you boys playing a dope game?” and my son leaps up to take out the trash at an almost inhuman speed to get me to stop.

  15. I’m not sure whether it was from living in Southern California or marrying a southern Californian, but I picked up the habit of referring to highways as “the” 5, “the” 101, and so on. Growing up in Indiana, we frequently drove on I69; now I drive on the 69. It still bugs me, but I’m sure after 20 years it’s permanent.

    • I thought that would be permanent, but it’s not.

      When I’m in NoCal, it’s “take 280 to 580”. It’s only down here I say, “take the 405 to the 105.”

      • I’m originally from NoCal, but I still say “the 116” or “the 12” (which totes places where I grew up!). But I **ALWAYS** refer to the 405 as the “San Diego Parking Lot”[1]

        [1] I love the fact that the “san Diego Freeway” doesn’t go anywhere NEAR San Diego!

  16. Dude. Awesome. Sweet. Yo.

    Shiznit (yes, I still say “shiznit”). I also use a ton of old slang. Hannah thinks, “For the LOVE OF PETE” is hilarious. Flibberdegibbit. A lot of words I make up myself… goofmungous. Fantabulous.

    Plus, the whole movie tourette’s thing.

  17. One of my funnier moments as a teacher was when I said to a class, “that’s the cat’s pajamas.” Now that’s not a phrase I normally use, just one I pull out once in a while to be silly. My students had never heard of it and went nuts–the funniest thing they’d ever heard. The next day I found my office door covered with pictures they’d snipped from the internet of, you guessed it, the cat’s pajamas. They thought I’d be mad, but I thought it was hilarious, and left the pictures up for the rest of the year.

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