Saturday, January 03, 2009


My parents thought it stupid to spend much money on clothes for us kids. Through eighth grade I wore uniforms to parochial school: corduroy pants (one pair per year), short sleeved collared shirts (two per year) and a cotton sweater.

But with high school and adolescence came standards of fashion to which my parents wouldn't let me aspire. In this sense I was different, almost like a poor kid.


More important to my parents than clothing was speech.  Speech, they told us, is the clothing of the personality, and is much more a factor in attractiveness than clothing.

Incorrect pronunciation, and incorrect usage were much more damaging to one's image, they thought, than fashion inadequacies. 

Consequently I'm not snobbish about clothes but I'm a terrible snob about speech.

Instances so abound it's hard to think of any in particular.

I once knew a guy who thought "cry-seas" was the correct (educated) pronunciation of the word crisis (singular),

or the guy who used the word penultimate to mean "more ultimate than ultimate," as if the prefix pen- were an intensifier,

or all the moron pundits who use the phrase begs the question to mean "raises the question."

These are instances of failed verbal overdressing.


That's just usage. Worse is the realm of cringe words and cringe utterances, things a person should simply never say.

I heard a guy in a business situation tell a near stranger, "I'm not a specialist, I'm a bright generalist." Cringe.

A fairly neurotic woman in a very affected voice once told me, "I'm genuine." Cringe.

Or when Barack Obama told Hillary Clinton, "You're likable enough." Cringe.

Or when our adulterous boy-mayor's team came up with the slogan, "Volunteering is Sexy," we knew to bring hand sanitizer on visits to Room 200. Cringe.

Now we have Obama saying he wants to "Make government cool again." Cringe.

These are examples of creepy self-vouching.


As Nobel laureate Paul Krugman opines, we don't need cool government, we need good government.

It's cool to spend a trillion dollars, supposedly to benefit average Americans, but the task of making sure the money is spent well and actually does benefit average Americans is not cool at all.

Good government (goo-goo) involves such uncool things as accounting, auditing, enforcement, and reporting.

Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could set a tone by axing San Francisco's planned Subway to Nowhere. It's in Pelosi's district.  Even our loyal sexy mayor says the subway doesn't address our City's actual transit needs.

"But," Newsom shares some inside-baseball, "the money has been approved in Congress for the subway and we can't just take the money and use it for other transit projects, and we can't just turn the money down."

When pressed about his non-change cabinet picks, whose expressed views differ from those he himself campaigned on, Obama said, "As president, I will set policy and they will carry it out." Cringe.

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