Does Word Crimes cross the line?

dictionary_grammarOne of my favourite words in the Spanish language is aguafiestas.  Its direct translation is “water parties” but it’s used to describe someone who ruins a good time.  In English, the closest equivalent would be “party pooper.”

I mention that because I’m about to be an aguafiestas.

I’ll tell you up front: if you’re an actual person who actually lives under an actual rock, what I’m about to say will make little sense.  But then again, you’ve chosen to set up shop with spiders and bats and pervasive dampness, and you’re willingly reading the dreck I shovel out, so I think we’ve established that sense isn’t your strong suit.

HOWEVER.  If you have managed to somehow hotwire your literal man cave into a wifi-enabled zone, perhaps you are familiar with the phenomenon that is Weird Al Yankovic‘s latest video, Word Crimes.  It was released yesterday and has taken the internet — by which I mean my personal Facebook feed — by storm.

It has its fans.  It has its detractors.  And it also has me, a Fourth Degree Pedant and Charter Member of Aguafiestas Internacional.  And here’s what I’m finding so irksome — one little word in a sea of many, one rhyme that is perfect (in the rhyming sense) and horrible (in the words-we-use-to-describe-other-humans sense).  Here is the section I’m talking about:

Saw your blog post
It’s really fantastic
That was sarcastic
‘Cause you write like a spastic

Really?  Spastic?  That’s the best you could do, Weird Al?

I have a lot of feeeeelings about the use of that word, but here’s the short version.  It’s akin to using — at least in North America — the word “retard.”  It’s an “othering” word, a pejorative, one used to mock and deride people with physical disabilities.  It wasn’t always so; its meaning derives from a word for “pulling” or “drawing in” which can be used to describe the muscular differences seen in some individuals.  In common usage, though, it’s … it’s not a good word to use.

Most commonly, it would be used to describe people living with cerebral palsy, a disorder that can have dramatic physiological effects but doesn’t necessarily have an impact on intellectual functioning (which is implied by the “write like a” line).

Don’t believe me on that last point?  Check out my friend Katie’s website.  Katie has cerebral palsy.  And she writes a blog.  And it really is fantastic.

I should probably leave it at that, but as a part-time editor, I feel duty-bound to offer up a few alternative word choices.  Here are some other words that Weird Al could have — should have — used:

That was sarcastic / ‘Cause your writing is bombastic
Bombastic is a great word.  It means inflated, pretentious.  Suits pretty much every blog post I’ve ever read.  Or written.

That was sarcastic / You think you’re so scholastic
The best part of using a word like scholastic is that you know you’re going to have listeners who only know it as a brand: “Scholastic? Like the book order people?”

That was sarcastic / No wonder you’re monastic
Okay, it’s a cheap shot to go after someone’s sex life.  But surely no cheaper a shot than perpetuating the myth that a body’s physical challenges also limit the mind’s ability to appreciate — and celebrate — language.

Anyway.  That feels like enough agua for one day.  Apparently my daughter’s cadre of Hello Kitty dolls are having some kind of birthday party, and I’ve been invited to attend the fiesta.  Bring on the cake.

This post brought to you by Kleenex

It’s Wednesday night, I’m feeling residually moist and windburned from an impromptu trip to Niagara Falls — oh, point of fact: totally forgot that my parents were dropping in, so there’s an experience to look forward to in my dotage — and am going to celebrate the fact that my daughter napped like a maniac and will be up well past midnight by bringing you … two things that made me cry this week.

Because I’m exhausted and if I’m up after midnight Lord knows I’ll be weepin’.

Join me, won’t you?

First up, a comment from the inimitable Mary-Ann of Not the Family Business, who had this to say about my recent post, The eye of the beholder:

When you are stooped, frail and old, your daughter will watch your every move and in her mind will run this exercise she has become accustomed to, and she will remember lovingly those days when every part of you was young, firm, clear, and perfect.

She left that comment nearly two weeks ago, and I haven’t responded to it yet, because … there’s just nothing else to say.  It’s so completely awesome and excellent and I just have to let it stand as such.  I did share it with some of my Facebook mama friends, though, and they agreed: Awesome. Excellent.  (Now here’s hoping Juno also remembers to be home when I visit.)

And the second thing I just saw a few hours ago, and I’ve already shared it with everyone else, so now it’s your turn.  If you’re having a lousy day, or even if you’re not, do yourself a favour and watch this video.  If you don’t, I’ll know, and I’ll fly to where you are and make you sit down and watch it, just for the hug you’ll give me when it’s done.

One Second: Pinky Laughs

I don’t have the time/patience/vision/sticktoitiveness to pull together a whole year of second-long videos (more info here), but I am unfocused/klutzy/distracted/clueless enough to accidentally run the video camera every time I intend to capture a still photo.

Which is pretty awesome, when it results in this:

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.

If you think I’m talking about you here, yeah, you’re probably right.