Monday, December 22, 2014


I have to remind myself, I was a "like, TOTALLY" girl.  I was, like, totally sure.  Though not what we used to call a Val, I was lousy with verbal tics it was wisest to shed before I turned twenty-five.

I have to remind myself, wasting energy finding the way Kids Today speak irritating doesn't make me superior - and, in any case, it's hardly only Kids Today whose speech irritates me the most.

Some of the newer slang I really like a lot.  "Acting like you're brand new" has a great evocative sense to it, and is a lot more fun and interesting than "Don't be disingenuous."

Some wears out with astonishing speed.  "Amazing" has, in less than a decade, entirely changed in meaning (or, at least, *usage*) from "awes and surprises" to "ohmigosh, that guy/house/car/food/cheesy internet top-ten list is so great!"

Much of the way American language-usage has changed in the past generation is just interesting, apart from pedantic superiority - the sheer proliferation and speed of language dedicated to the way technology has affected lifestyle alone has filled volumes already, and is an ongoing problem/opportunity/frustration for not only those interested in linguistics, but pretty much all of us in a world where "e-mail" has already taken on the quaintness of now obsolete, new-fangled phrases once so quaintly hyphenated at the turn of the twentieth century.

A recent emphatic which has taken on a new specific form and proliferated with the speed and intensity of a virus is HUNJAPASSENT.  This is the assertive pronunciation applied to "hundred percent" - signifying an overly vigorous application of denial, assurance or, less often, agreement.  The intriguing point with this phrase, for me, is that it is pronounced with remarkable consistency across accents.  It has the feel of an outsider trying to sound New-York-y; not quite the native shape of any accent, and almost inflection free.  Since every syllable of it is delivered with an almost plosive power (from what I've seen and heard of it, emphasis is just about always just shy of an actual shout), it is a single unit, a brick of a modifier, functioning as adjective, adverb, denial, affirmation, fighting words, support.  Men and women both deliver it with this curious homegeneity.  "I agree with you, HUNJAPASSENT."  "I never did that, HUNJAPASSENT."  And it always seems to be an "I-statement", come to think of it.

I haven't heard it southern-twanged into "hunnerperSINT" as might have seemed likely in my neck of the woods - nor even heard that J elided at all, as many American dialects might do with other formations.  It seems clear that a part of its procreative appeal is the powerful sound, even the way it must feel to speak it, physically underscoring the verbal in a way that adds to the sense of communication the way some speech magically does.

It's the "Worst. Episode. Ever." of 2014 - and the Period. Between. Every. Word, at that.  It's "totally" for the next generation.  Maybe it'll even eclipse this new "amazing" I've heard so much about; certainly its ubiquity and nimble functionality lend to the same implications.  "He's the hottest thing - HUNJAPASSENT."  It could work.

But HUNJAPASSENT seems mostly to be a negative term, emphatic and powerful almost to the point where it can intrinsically beg its own questions.  Perhaps I've been watching too much television (I have been, with Broadcast all I have in my living room lately ...), but what I've seen of it tends to be defensive and, oddly enough, kind of tenuous.  It feels right up there with "trust me" for statements that set me on guard as to whatever is asserted.

I. Did. Not. Have sex with That Woman.  HUNJAPASSENT.

Have you been hearing 100%?  Or have you been hearing usage innovations that drive you bananas or kind of tickle your brain a little?

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