Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Miley Cyrus, Christians, and the Death of English


Enough with spreading the word on atheism, because I’ve got a new mission now: saving the English language. So if you’re here looking for some snark about religionists, you’ve come to the wrong ... well, OK, just skip to the last few paragraphs.

But let’s begin by boarding my train of thought, shall we?

Yesterday, my local rag saw fit to devote nearly a page and a half to an article about Miley Cyrus, a teenage superstar and the envy of every prepubescent girl in America. Apparently, if the hype is to be believed, when those young women are not obsessing over boys or whether their tits will ever grow, they’re fixated on every detail of Miley’s life. Of course, you may know her better as Hannah Montana, the character she plays on her Disney-produced TV show. Or, if you’re like me, you may not know her at all.

Now, had I been the editor-in-chief of the paper, I might not have opted to devote so much room to that article and its huge accompanying pictures. I mean, y’know, what with all the, like, stuff that’s, you know what I mean?, like, happening all over the ... um ... world and places like that. But, hey, everyone knows that the newspaper audience in a smallish city filled with retirees is made up mostly of tweenage girls, so I guess it was a sound editorial choice to run that story.

Miley's answers to questions reflect the glib talk of someone who has no idea that words are supposed to have meanings. And reading what Miley said has me wondering whether we as a country have already started devolving in our ability to communicate verbally. Granted, Miley Cyrus is no orator; but she is the trend-setter for millions of kids who want to be like her. Here are some sample answers she gave.

When asked about her new “adult” CD, recorded under her own name rather than that of her character’s:

To be played on these radio stations is awesome, to be able to rock out to it in your car without planning it, without it being just a kids’ channel.... I’m making it a little more fun and edgy, and I think being able to step out of the “Hannah Montana” thing — not in a way where I’m forgetting her completely, but as my fans grow up, me growing up, too, and kind of having my own person.
When asked about “mistakes” she has made:
It’s kind of hard to let someone that was so young when they started kind of grow up. You just have to realize that people make mistakes and that makes you almost a little more relatable.
When asked about the songs that she, herself, wrote:
I hope I get respected a little bit more as a writer. I want them to respect me and know that I have a lot to say. I have a lot for the world to know and take away from what my life experiences have been.
When asked about allowing the character Hannah Montana to age along with her:
There’s some things that I want to reinvent with her look, and not make it all sparkles and butterflies, you know? Some stars, and some black rock ‘n’ roll stuff. I did want it to grow up a little bit.
When asked about touring as Hannah Montana:
I’m kind of past that stuff. But I definitely wanna keep doing my show. I love doing it and I wouldn’t wanna give it up quite yet.
OK, so why am I clogging up the intertubes ranting about a semi-literate young lady?

Here’s part of a Christian’s comment that I’ve lifted from chappy’s blog, with her kind permission. I’ve combined paragraphs, but otherwise the quote is verbatim:
If all existence is nothing more than the interaction of matter and energy, then there can be no knowledge, no science. Practical science is predicated on the philosophy of science, but that philosophy is itself not physical. Ideas, reason, logic… are all held to be a part of reality, but they deny any sort of physical description. In fact they require some semblance of personhood to exist, and personhood itself resists a reductionist, naturalist description. The concept that metaphysical concepts such as logic and persons are as fundamental to existence as empirical things is why I remain a theist.
Here’s another Christian’s writing, from the same comment thread. Again, I’ve sewn the paragraphs together, but left the language intact:
The narratives of the Bible have a deeper complexity of meaning then meets the eye. The human race is in intellectual obscurity as to the nature of the Holy Word’s expanded meanings within its literal sense. This is why the Lord has promised to return “with the clouds.” One may take this literally and believe that the Second Coming will take place on an overcast day, or elevate the natural meaning of these words to their psycho-spiritual equivalent, and understand that the Lord’s return is not a physical event, but His clearing up the obscure ideas we have about ultimate reality and the divine scheme. These new ideas are now being made available to the world.
Both Miley Cyrus’s interview and those comments by Christians are evidence of the debasement of our language. Words readily flow, but they have no relationship to one another. Vague ideas are presented by piling on what are essentially nonsense phrases in “Jabberwocky” style. Compare:
  • ... kind of having my own person
  • they require some semblance of personhood to exist ...
  • I have a lot for the world to know and take away from what my life experiences have been.
  • These new ideas are now being made available to the world.
  • I love doing it and I wouldn’t wanna give it up quite yet.
  • The concept that metaphysical concepts such as logic and persons are as fundamental to existence as empirical things is why I remain a theist.
  • You just have to realize that people make mistakes and that makes you almost a little more relatable.
  • The human race is in intellectual obscurity as to the nature of the Holy Word’s expanded meanings within its literal sense.
Please do your part to help keep English alive. Do NOT speak or write like Miley Cyrus or like Christians. Thanks.

25 comments:

John Morales said...

Yeah, me too. What annoys me most is hardly anyone I know even gets it's just rubbish.

Vapid, canned sentiments are what celebrities apparently get coached to provide.

This, from someone not yet 16: I have a lot for the world to know and take away from what my life experiences have been.

...

And don't get me started on the vacuous, obscurantist, ignorant and often self-contradictory pabulum that Christians love to post.

John Morales said...

So, now I've looked this girl up in Wikipedia. Nice.

"In an interview with USA Today, Cyrus was quoted as saying her faith is "the main thing" and is the reason why she works in Hollywood."

I suppose the "lesser thing" is this:
"In December 2007, she was ranked #17 in the list of Forbes Top twenty earners under the age of 25 with an annual earning of US$3.5 million."

Still, why wouldn't she be the envy of every prepubescent girl in America?

It's nice to see that society rewards her commensurately to her contribution.

John Evo said...

I just come here for the snarkiness. It matters not where it is directed.

John Morales provides some glue though, doesn't he?

"In an interview with USA Today, Cyrus was quoted as saying her faith is "the main thing" and is the reason why she works in Hollywood."

No doubt.

DB said...

I get my faith from the liberal, godless Hollywood as well...

But another conundrum:

I want them to respect me and know that I have a lot to say.

...dressed as a schoolgirl. Ya, I am "listening" to everything she has to say! This does sound like a lot of the bs nonsense that Xians are pushing. "We want our kids to study both sides of an issue, thats why we are pushing Intelligent Design!"

The Exterminator said...

JM:
I never thought I'd be Googling her, But it turns out that our friend Miley -- birthname: Destiny Hope Cyrus -- was born in Tennessee. If you're at all familiar with the U.S., you're well aware that everyone born in Tennessee is a fundamentalist Christian from the moment he or she was conceived. In fact, when a Tennessee doctor smacks newborns on their behinds, the infants yell "Praise, Jesus!" Then they put on their teeny NASCAR caps.

Evo:
I just come here for the snarkiness.
Come for the snark, stay for the beer.

DB:
It's hard for me to imagine what Miley has to say that would cause anyone to respect her. Of course, with her money, you can buy yourself a lot of respect. And, hey, that's what our American politicians do, isn't it?

yinyang said...

Geez, Ex, don't be so mean. Give Miley a break - she's probably more fluent in text-speak than English at this point, considering that she (and the vast majority of people her age, I'd bet) uses it more often. And, compared to, "gtg, cya later," English is hard.

John Morales said...

And, sort of on topic... sports cliches are to be endured. I often wish I could take the commentary track off live coverage, and just hear the actual sounds of the game. Sigh.

PS Exterminator, I'm a little vague about your nation, but even I have heard of the Bible Belt.
Isn't Alabama the most notorious god-fearin' State?

the chaplain said...

I don't know whether I should be pleased or embarrassed that you found your sterling examples of Christian-speak at my blog.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

I can't believe no one has mentioned that she is also the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, that one hit wonder of Country Music. How soon we forget Achy Breaky Heart?

(My daughter is a big fan. It's all I hear about, everyday. Someone shoot me.)

You know, it would be nice if the entertainment industry would advance idols we would actually be proud to idolize. But then, who'd pay the kind of money they earn to ensure that the 15 year old teen heart throbs can rake in millions of dollars a year. That's what she earns. Think about what Disney is making on the deals. So if you're surprised that she demands so much attention, follow the money.

As for Christian-speak, Hitchens describes best what emanates from their mouths and pens.

"White Noise".

The Exterminator said...

Yinny:
If you can teach me the text-speak for "cynic and all-round wiseass," I might have a cellphone message to send you.

JM:
Yeah, Alabama's up there. But Tennessee ain't far behind. FYI: Basically, the entire country is the Bible Belt now.

chappy:
Hey, I, myself, don't know whether I should be pleased or embarrassed that I found that shit at all.

SI:
Yeah, it's white noise, but not the kind that lulls you and me to sleep. It's the kind that lulls its own producers to sleep.

PhillyChief said...

Her faith is "the main thing" (gotta love google) but can she lead? That's the real question.

Venjanz said...

HEY! Give her break man! She's 15. And she has 1/2 a billion dollars.

You should have got Philly to 'Shop that pic so the guy is holding a fist full of benji-greens and looking down her shirt.

Sarge said...

I feel kind of sorry for the kid.

I'll bet dollars to dog turds no one is going to ever teach her how to be an adult. They may teach her to play one on TV, but here's another public melt down in the making which will captivate our society with its bathos while others her age either give up on life completely or fight like crazy to keep what they can of it.

As one who speaks foreign languages (well foreign to most English speakers) and as one who has been an air traffic controller, even a near high school drop out like me comes to appreciate a conciseness and nicety of words. Step out of bounds and you're in big trouble.

Our group was returning from a reenactment once, and we stopped to eat. We were in a "fast food" establishment, and one of our number, somewhat older than me, observed one of the countermen, said that he figured that this young man looked like he was one of the more informal people who waited on folks. Said if one more person called hin "Dude", he'd just scream.

Got to the counter, young man said,
"Wuttle ya have dewwwwd"?

Fred said, "AAAAUUUURRRGGGGHHH!!!" at very high decibel.

Young man answered his cry and ran out the back, scared to death.

Fred said, "Wow! I actually DID it!"

John Morales said...

Nice one, Sarge.

Re: I'll bet dollars to dog turds
However, though the phrase flows felicitously, it is not one I've encountered before, nor can I make sense of it.

You'd win, but why would you bet dollars to win dog turds?

<headshake>

John Morales said...

Ah, nevermind. I posted too alacritously.

I surmise it's intended to evince the sentiment that, since the outcome is certain, one can safely bet against anything.

Still, watch out. There are some, like I, who'd point out it's stupid on the face of it.

Sarge said...

Sorry, John. It is meant to imply a sure thing, as you surmised. Along with "a penny to a pinch of shit" and others.

Please forgive me, sometimes I lapse back to the argot and patois of the military, which can be colorful but takes an ear to appreciate.

I confess myself to have slipped on occasion when it was somewhat, um, tricky.

At a reenactment (we were doing infantry) I told my people we had to be on line at a certain time, I enumerated equipment to be brought, and said it applied to "every swingin' Richard". Just popped out, I tell you.

We have several young ladies who also carry a musket, and one of them advised me that she and some others did not possess "Richards", did this include them?

Everyone is looking at me with that "Watcha gonna say NOW"? look, and I considered. I pronounced that they were to consider themselves honorarily endowed for the rest of the day. It got a chuckle.

My neighborhood is becoming "gentrified" (it removes some problems, brings others) and one thing I don't miss are the brawls in the streets and the arguments.
My erstwhile neighbors decided their rightness on any question by seeing who could scream the most F bombs without taking a breath. The one with the highest volumne, F bombs, and who could get the word "mother" in the utterence a couple times proved his point.

Of course, some of these people thought they were clever as hell if they unzipped before they took a leak.

(((Billy))) said...

I watch children such as Hanna Monagna, the kid who played Dennis the Menace on TV, Gary Coleman, George W. Bush, Michael Jackson, and every damn one of them have the same problem: they never had to grow up and take responsibility for their own life. Want to be a singer? Daddy will arange it. Bankrupt a company? Daddy's friends will help you out.

The problem is, it is not just celebrities. A large portion of Christianity approaches reality with a child-like demeanor and education -- Jesus (or God (or the Holey Spit)) is the Daddy, so just let them take care of you. The same type of vapid, nonsensical, and self-contradictory statements come from both groups.

Painted on the back of a truck (seen while driving home from Maine): "Don't Follow Me; Follow Jesus." Makes no sense, is vapid, and I had to follow him in heavy traffic for twelve miles. What was I supposed to do? Follow Jesus right into the median?

PhillyChief said...

Wha-choo-talkin'-'bout, Billy? Coleman had all his money stolen by his parents. By the time he sued for emancipation, it was too late and no one wanted to hire him for anything (not even Tarrentino).

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
You asked Can she lead? Unfortunately, her age doesn't qualify her for the office. But she sure sounds like the current prez, doesn't she? Well, OK, maybe she is a little more intelligent, and has actually succeeded at something in her life.

Venjanz:
HEY! Give her break man! She's 15.
Yeah, I guess I should respect what she says. Otherwise, Bill Donohue might accuse me of a hate crime. You know how he gets his panties in a twist if you make fun of stupid ideas.

Sarge:
Nice story as usual, Dewwwwwd. Since you speak foreign languages, perhaps you could translate Cyrusian or Christianese into English for those of us who don't understand it.

JM:
The original expression was "I'll bet dollars to doughnuts." It used to be the case that doughnuts were valued at far less than dollars. Still, doughnuts had some value, so it was like betting dollars against pennies. Nowadays, of course, dollars and doughnuts are of roughly equivalent worth, with doughnuts gaining every day. Also, some of us really like doughnuts.

(((Billy))):
I assume that when you had the chance, you passed Jesus on the left. I'm not sure there's any way you could pass him on the right, unless you choose to follow Mohammed.

(((Billy))) said...

Philly: Are you saying that Coleman grew up (emotionally, I mean)? I know his parents screwed him over (as did the Dennis the Menace kid), but neither one of them ever really made it adulthood (that I know of (I may be (and frequently am) wrong).

Ex: I did pass him on the right. I followed a Hummer (H2) with Wyoming plates (as soon as traffic cleared, though, he shot away at 80+mph) past him.

PhillyChief said...

You said they never had to grow up and take responsibility for their own life, and that their Daddies took care of things. Not true of Coleman.

iambilly said...

Philly: Sorry. Going on old (ca 1993?) information. Mentally delete the Coleman reference from my post 2 back.

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