Catch Phrase Thieves

December 4, 2009

My freshman year of college I made a good friend, let’s call him Bob, who shared in my talent and excitement of making fun of everyone for superficial reasons. We would sit around our dorm, scouring through “The Meat Book” finding new reasons to hate people that we’ve never met. The Meat Book was an introduction to our classmates that the college sent around the summer before our freshman year. Students were encouraged to include pictures of themselves, as well as relevant information about where they were from, where they went to high school, their major, a couple hobbies that helped define their personalities and a quote or phrase that best described who they were. It was meant as a tool to bond us as a class, but Bob and I used it as a weapon to assert ourselves to the top of the social food chain.

We would sit around for hours, scratching out our classmate’s names above their pictures and penning them new nicknames that we thought were more appropriate according to the image and information they provided. There was a girl we called “Loveladies” because she was stupid enough to admit that she actually had matriculated from a small, beach town in Southern New Jersey called Loveladies. There were the two girls who, we were convinced, were lesbian lovers because we had seen them sharing some spaghetti in the cafeteria one night. Because one of them was an obesely bovine creature and the other one had a long face, and horsey teeth, they were labeled “Fatty McGee” and “Misses Ed”. One of our favorites was “Times Square”. She earned her nickname because, one night at a bar, Bob and I overheard her tell this long-winded and hideously cheesy story about how she had spent the previous New Year’s Eve in Times Square and how it was the best night of her life. And then there was Cro Magnon Man, named so because of his receding hair line and oversized, bumpy forehead.

But every once in awhile we would fumble across a profile that was just too hideous to even look at. Even our keen powers of perception and judgment couldn’t handle the eye-soaring image of a small, unfortunate sect of the student population. For example, there was a girl who, through some genetic misfortune, had been born with no neck, a lazy eye, female pattern baldness and rosacia. Bob and shuddered in horror when we flipped The Meat Book to her picture. It didn’t feel right, even for two shallow guys like us, to make some of someone that was so completely unfortunate in appearance. “She has got to go bye, bye.” I said. Bob crossed out her profile, so it could never frighten us again.

We used our “bye, bye” method of removing unsightly students from The Meat Book and, eventually morphed it into a way of dismissing anything we found inappropriate, dismissive or just plain stupid. We’d be walking around campus and notice a girl in those polka-dotted MC Hammer type of pants that were popular for like, a minute, in the late nineties. Bob and I would look at one another and say “Bye, bye.” Eventually, we shortened it just “bye”. It was the perfect way to express our disgust, annoyance and utter contempt for something while, at the same, providing a sense of finality and closure. When you said “bye” to something, you knew that the topic was closed. When someone would talk to me about something that I either did not agree with or did not want to hear, I’d roll my eyes and simply say “Bye” and walk away. Before long, I started using our new catch phrase in my everyday life. Depending on the situation and what subject was being discussed, I could morph that one little word to express so many different emotions. I spent the next four years of college, and the rest of  my adult life, including a conversation I had with a very rude code official on the phone this morning, uttering that one little word that has served me well for so many years.

If I could go back in time and edit what I included in my profile in The Meat Book, under my picture, instead of the quote I chose originally, I’d replace it with one simple word: “Bye” and site myself as the source. It was, is, and always will be my catch phrase. And even though it was partly inspired by my good friend, Bob, I made it up and it belongs to me. I wish I could say the same for these new catch phrases I’m hearing thrown out all the time.

I know I’m not the only one who’s noticed that, in the last few years, a lot of catch phrases seem to be caught by too many people. Too often I hear “Raise the bar” or “Think outside the box.” One of my favorites is when a client tells me they want their building to “pop.” If they really want it to POP, I could design some explosives in the basement to pop it up to the sky. I wish. Too many people are hopping on the catch phrase bandwagon, stealing and taking credit for phrases that they certainly did not generate. Two of the worst offenders recently have been “The reality is…” and “It is what it is.”. It’s always amazing to me when I’m talking to someone and they say “Well, the reality is…”. Do they think that I’m existing in a parallel universe? Do they think that I live in the fourth dimension? I know what reality is, and when I hear someone utter that stupid phrase, my reality is that I want to punch them in their catch phrase thieving face. And what’s the point of saying “It is what it is.” Of course it is what it is. If it wasn’t, then it wouldn’t be it; it would be something totally different. One time, when the time is right and I’ve had an especially bad day, or one too many martinis, I’m going to respond to that stupid piece of language that’s crept up into our lexicon by saying “You know, I actually think it is what it isn’t.” and just see what kind of response that receives.

My bf and I were at a dinner party a few days ago with some good friends of ours and some friends of theirs from out of town. We enjoyed a delicious dinner, a few cocktails and had just started our desert when the topic of politics came up. Normally, a political discussion with a bunch of gay guys is pretty simple: we’re always Democrats, bordering on Socialists. We joke about how the government should provide all Americans with toilet paper and how gay marriage and would actually lead to a more progressive and productive political body. But at this fateful dinner party, there was a kink in our political chain: one of our friends’ friends was a Republican. My bf kicked my leg under the table, signally that we should just keep our mouths shut and not get involved in a lengthy discussion about why gay Republicans are one step up the scumbag ladder from abusive spouses or how I’m convinced that Ann Coulter is really a man. So, I poured myself a fresh glass of wine and sat back, ready to bite my tongue listening to the conservative diatribe of this person that I barely knew.

He spouted off about how stupid it was for the three least effective politicians of the last fifty years (Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Barack Obama) to have all won Nobel prizes. He actually defended proposition 8, invoking some bogus rhetoric about how it’s okay to limit citizens freedoms for the better of the majority. And, his crowning moment was when he said, and I quote “It’s not that I’m a racist, I just think white people are smarter.” To this, despite my bf’s urging, I had to say something. “Isn’t that the definition of a racist?” I asked, trying to conceal the growing hatred I had for this pathetic closet case and his Bill O’Reilly inspired ideals. He mouthed out some statistic that he’d heard on Fox news, no doubt, about the difference in test scores between mostly white schools compared to mostly black schools. We spent a few minutes, sparring back and forth, my anger getting harder to hide with every breath, when he said to me, “Listen, the reality is that white people are just smarter. It is what it is.” I sat there, frozen, with just my thoughts for a few seconds.

Was this my opportunity to unleash all the frustration I had for these quasi-intellectuals and their commitment to bastardizing someone else’s catch phrase? Should I throw out my canned speech that I’d prepared for this very occasion? I mean, this doofus had just uttered the two phrases that I hated most in the English language as if he had just though of them right there and then. But then I remembered my bf’s nudge at the beginning of the conversation and the fact that we were at our friend’s house, so I took a small sip of wine and just asked “Did you read that on Sean Hannity’s blog?” “Excuse me?” he asked. Not wanting to talk to him anymore all I could say was “Bye”. I stood up from the table and walked to the bathroom. By the time I returned, the conversation had taken a new direction and we spent the rest of the evening in relative harmony.

My advice to catch phrase thieves:

If you’re not smart enough to think of something creative to say, just sit back and shut your mouth. Most likely, the people around you won’t want to hear what you have to say anyway

My advice to everyone else:

The next time someone says to you “Show me the view from thirty thousand feet”, take them to the aiport, board a flight. After you’ve reached the cruising alititude, open the emergency exit seat and throw them out of it. That should give them what they’re look for…and what they deserve.


7 Responses to “Catch Phrase Thieves”

  1. Michele Says:

    How about “honestly”? When people say that I want to say, “so everything else you have said is a lie???” I love you…smartest thing I ever did was forget to enter myself in the meatbook!

    • Michael Says:

      I totally agree. Check out my “Truth Qualifiers” entry. It explains exactly how I feel about that stupid expression.

  2. Matt Says:

    I see that we’ve solved the image/video problem. Good for you. More hot singer-songwriters, please.

    • mnkey75 Says:

      Thanks, Matty
      I still need some help with overall formatting.
      You missed a great dinner party at Rob an Eric’s tonight. We all made plans for New Year’s. I’ll let Ivan fill you in.
      Miss you.

  3. Scott perkins Says:

    My two newest most hated catch phrases…

    “Here’s the thing, …”

    “The thing is… ”

    What is THIS THING? Thing 1, or Thing 2?

  4. […] sit in her room, leafing through the Meatbook (see Catch Phrase Thieves for more information) making fun of the Cro-Magnon girl with the big forehead, or all the girls […]

  5. […] School ended and I left for college where I met Homo Honey and Bob (for more on Bob, read “Catch Phrase Thieves”). We were like the Three Musketeers  but, instead of fighting crime, we made fun of people. And […]

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