Thursday, 17 July 2008


If you spend any time around Gareth, light of my life and champion eater of dairy produce, you'll have been subjected to his "devaluation of verbal emphasis" speech.

For example, he thinks that people should stop saying "like, awesome" when they actually mean "yes, quite good".

I always dredge up historical examples at this point - what class of 16-year-olds doesn't laugh when Shakespeare says of his villain, "This naughty man,"?

Gareth thinks it's a reflection of our culture - we have to prove to everyone, constantly, that our lives are meaningful and full of interest; especially while our preoccupations become more and more shallow in reality.

I don't really mind the devaluation of positive emphasis - heck, we might start to believe what we're saying, and an obsessive love of something quite mediocre isn't all that bad a trait (Gareth's love of dairy products comes to mind for the second time). Cheerfulness never killed nobody, nohow.

No, what I don't like is the devaluation of negative statements. In the past few years it seems to have become fashionable to say "GOSH, this place is like working in a concentration camp," - is it? Is it *really*?

Just so we don't get into a logical loop, I understand when people exaggerate with humorous intent. That's why I'm *not* upset by jokes, as long as those jokes don't dehumanise anybody.

My absolute least favourite of the negative statements that are thrown around inappropriately is...

Shock. As in "I was shocked," or "Don't shock anybody,".

Physically, a state of shock can be fatal. The body is shutting down - therefore, I'd interpret the emotional equivalent as a feeling of horror, of disgust, that is so great that the human mind can't cope - news of a murder, or a rape, or rhetoric that is truly inhuman; betrayal by someone close to you; cruelty to the innocent or defenceless; they are all things that might cause it. The realisation that people are starving, all over the world, and the average person can do very little to save them.

Those things are shocking.

One of my friends has recently been betrayed by a close relative - she doesn't appear to be shocked, just sad. THAT shocks me, because she ought to believe that she is worth treating well.

(Gareth's just told me that, like everyone else, he feels betrayed by Nu Labour. I pointed out that he's only ever voted Lib Dem*. I feel that lacks the essential qualification for a betrayal)

Nudity isn't shocking. Pornography isn't shocking - it might shock and frighten children, because they might interpret even the most vanilla scenario as painful, and they certainly won't understand that the more extreme varieties are fictional. That's why it should be kept out of their hands.

Some kinds of pornography are *surprising* - "Egad, how does that go in THERE? It's bigger than her head!" as is a lot of nudity - "Gosh, those are hirsute buttocks you've got there."

"Bad" language is *surprising* if you hear it in some situations - "Would sir like some fucking mixed vegetables?"

An unusual hairstyle, particularly one that defies gravity, is also *surprising*, as are some more unusual body modifications - "How does that go in THERE?" is often a relevant question concerning those, too, I suppose.

What I'm trying to say is that, if you tell me how *shocking* it is that your new microwave has broken, or how *shocking* it is that that young man had his tie undone, I will be less than impressed.

In a few of these cases, the individuals concerned just have a dry sense of humour (people don't understand mine a lot of the time, so I get that). However, in the case of most of those people - they're being deadly, deadly serious.

As I probably said when ranting about Kim's bullies, why don't they just stand up and say "My life is so perfect! It's so perfect that I have the luxury of shock and horror whenever I encounter a new situation! Your life is terrible by comparison, because mine, you see, is perfect. Just thought I'd tell you that, in case I don't seem important enough."

They could say it repeatedly. We could allocate them certain times of the day, and the whole brouhaha would become a lot easier.

*Yes, from time to time he's eaten the ballot paper as an alternative, or stuffed it up the bum of a nearby hippopotamus - he obviously believes in his vote making a difference.


Gareth said...

I agree. Unfortunately there ARE some people who find it nearly beyond their mental capabilites to cope with sexual images, and, as you say, some people just like to say that they have have the "breeding" to feel shocked.

But yes you may at some point be subjected to a rant about where to go after you've been through SUPERmarket, HYPERmarket and MEGAmarket, what you call the concept of a man being put on the moon in little more than a tin can, if your new coat is "absolutely unbeieveably awesome".

One thing that I like about Stephen is that if he is eating in a nice restaraunt and you ask him how his food is, he will smile and say "It's fine" in a satisfied manner that means that it is truely "fine" and not merely satisfactory. If the food is especilly good, he may even answer "Very good indeed".

I could go on like this all night.

Daphne said...

I'm shocked that there's only half a pint of milk left in the fridge when this morning there was - - well - - lots.
Have you noticed how cunningly I tie up the various elements of your blog?