Don't tase me, bro

The year in would-be catch phrases
December 21, 2007 5:11:37 PM


In 2007, they gave a monkey a typewriter, and he typed only two words: Chuck Norris. HA HA HA! Dear me . . . (dries eyes).

You’re aware of that particular joke-strand or “meme,” right? The Chuck Norris Fact? Started online? It got turned into a book (The Truth About Chuck Norris, by Ian Spector)? Even Mike Huckabee, that huge Christian square, is in on that one — he used it in one of his god-awful campaign ads. Yes, 2007 was the year that viral humor hit critical mass: from office to office and screen to screen, we all partook of the same wriggling hysterium of clips, gaffes, obscenities, atrocities, YouTuberies, and fragments of folk wisdom.

Was this good for America? Absolutely not. It cannot be a healthy development that the entire country is now tittering or sucking its teeth in unison. For me, it was Tay Zonday, accidental YouTube sensation (12 million viewings!), who best captured the phenomenon in his prophetically downbeat electro-ballad “Chocolate Rain”: “Choco-late RRRRAAAINNN!/Cross the world and back it’s all the same/Choco-late RRRRAAAINNN!/Angels cry and shake their heads in shame.”

In a dark-brown downpour such as this, language has a hard time: it goes into survival mode, contracting itself into bombproof little nodes of meaning and association that we in the media like to call “catch phrases.” It’s a difficult concept, I know, so I’ve prepared a list of 10 of these catch phrases, along with some suggestions as to how you might use them in everyday life. Whether you found 2007 to be prime or sub-prime; whether it was spa-grade botanicals or more of a trans-fats type of experience; whether your stance was wide or narrow, sit back and watch the chocolate rain come down.

CATCH PHRASE “My view is, we ought to double Guantánamo.”
ORIGINAL CONTEXT Mitt Romney’s absurdist punch line during the GOP candidates' debate scored a direct hit on the brainstem of the Republican base: approval rumbled through the seats like flatulence, and soft pink hands flew together in eager applause. If anything, the line was too good: so smoothly did it breach the bounds of sanity, one was left wondering why the Mormonator chose to stop there. Double Guantánamo? Why not triple it? Why not quadruple it? Why not build a waterboard the size of New Hampshire and float it out into the Gulf of Mexico? Why not clip electrodes to the gonads of every man in America right now, today, just in case? Doesn’t anybody round here have any vision, for Christ’s sake?
USE IN EVERYDAY LIFE AS a vote for monstrous excess. A variation on “go for broke.”
EXAMPLE “I’m really glad you agreed to get high with me tonight, Roger. But what do you think we should use: this big pile of cocaine or these bags of heroin?”
“My view is, we ought to double Guantánamo.”

CATCH PHRASE “It’s Britney, bitch.”
ORIGINAL CONTEXT There’s an argument to be made that it was Chris Crocker’s sobbing, streaky-eyed cri de coeur, “Leave Britney alone!” — surely you saw it as it banged around YouTube for the next month? — that was the real catch phrase. That argument, however, I reject. If she is to be allowed nothing else, La Spears must at least have the privilege of speaking for herself, and this line — the lip-sync intro to her dazed, unsteady but nonetheless powerfully erotic performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards — was her testament. A million shitty magazines have not destroyed her. Ten thousand whores with microphones have failed to bring her down. Let the dogs of fame slaver at her door: Britney will survive.
USE IN EVERYDAY LIFE AS a defiant, against-the-odds affirmation of identity and endurance.
EXAMPLE “Wow, Dave, I can’t believe that bouncer broke your jaw. You must be pretty down about that. More soup?”
“Iff Brrrt-nuh, biff!”

CATCH PHRASE “Senator, I don’t recall.”
ORIGINAL CONTEXT “Torture” was huge in 2007. And in one of the year’s neater ironies, the chief enabler of the Bush administration’s chaotic and homicidal torture policy — then–attorney general Alberto Gonzales — revealed himself, before a Senate committee, to be a man who only the most extreme forms of mental and physical duress could persuade to tell the truth. As he rebuffed questions relating to the underhanded dismissal of non-Bushite US attorneys, the glasses of Gonzales were fact-repellent; his face was insult-absorbent. Shame could not touch him, nor the blusterings of powerful men: nothing could dent the simpering steadfastness of his denial. To watch him testify was to feel oneself going slowly insane.
USE IN EVERYDAY LIFE AS a surreal refusal to admit the totally fucking obvious.
EXAMPLE “I see you spilled your coffee, sir. Let me clean that up for you!”
“Senator, I don’t recall.”

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