Recently, a single word, vogue affectation has emerged in vocal and written commentary, in particular reflecting the perceived need to express sarcastic bemusement in commenting on current events in politics with a wink and a slant. This oft abused interjection is cropping up more and more in the media and in the blogosphere. Moreover, it is slithering into casual conversation, as any annoying vogue word is wont to do. It goes without saying that its condescending tone of ironic incredulity mixed with moral superiority, along with its exponentially grown ubiquity is beginning to piss this Turkey off. That’s nothing new. After all, this old curmudgeon gets pissed off when the last drop winds up hitting the water after the flush is complete. And thanks to a benignly overgrown prostate, it frequently does so, but I digress. (TMI. Really?) Anyhow, someone needs to turn off the spiggot.
“What is this word, already?” you ask.
That’s what it is.
“What’s what it is?”
OK, so you can’t glean in from the headline and I hand it to you and you still don’t get it? Really?
The vogue word today, much as it was in the 1970s, is really. Only the punctuation and inflection have changed to protect the no longer innocent.
Back in the 1970s, the word was used as a semi-disinterested, declarative interjection to convey vacuous agreement. Sometimes it was pronounced to rhyme with “Philly”, especially among the Valley Girl demographic. Here’s a conversation from the 1970s, taking place in a fern bar. (If you have to ask what a fern bar is, you weren’t of age in the 1970s.)
She: I’m like totally into the Bee Gees. They make me feel like dancing.
She: So, like what’s your sign? I’m a Libra.
He: Rilly. Like, I’m a Aquarius.
She: Rilly. You wanna get out of here and have some fun at my place?
He: REALLY?! We’re outta here!
That was the 1970s, and this is now. We’re a less kind, more sarcastic genre of humanity a generation later. Now, we use the word to express condescension and derision in a unilateral conversation, as if we were commenting on something someone else said, only we said it. It works for both mocking agreement and mocking dismissal — you have to guess, but it’s usually directed at a knowing audience, so you’re supposed to know. This “Really?” thing has all but replaced the ridiculous, “Well, duh!” Here are some examples.
- In The Weekly Standard: Cheney’s heart transplant won’t change his approach to work. Really? (Meaning: Wow! This guy is one tough cookie who is purporting to be able to handle a full schedule. It’s going to be impossible and we don’t really think he can do it but it’s great that he thinks so.)
- In the Daily Kos: Cheney’s heart transplant won’t change his approach to work. Really? (Meaning: Yeah, right. This guy’s heart was black to begin with and he’s a warmonger and that’s never going to change. His “work” is grabbing money and killing people.)
It plays equally well (???) in prosaically spoken prose, particularly on those 15 second sound bite laden news programs we no longer watch.
- Channel 9 Eyewitness News: The Magic won’t be going deep into the playoffs without Dwight Howard. Really? Marla will have the story after the break…
I suppose that we’re stuck with the “Really?” crap for a while. Flare-ups of this kind usually die a slow smoldering death, smothered by overuse, but fanned by the minions of heartlanders to whom it remains a new thing for a while longer because it took a while longer to get there. Inevitably, however, it will be replaced eventually by something even lamer.
The Turkey has done written enough. Really?