Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I was happier before I knew we had a term for that...

I wouldn't say that I'm a huge fan of Jay Brannan, I really only know a few of his songs.  But I like one of them (this one) enough to have ordered a t-shirt off of his website at one point.

It's a solid grey shirt that says 'I Suck at Life' across the chest.

And then beneath that it repeats the same sentiment in ten other languages.

At least I assume it does- I only actually speak three of the other ten, so I'm taking the other seven on faith.

One of the things that I enjoy about the shirt is that it points out an essential truth about culture and language.  You can tell a lot about a culture by the concepts that it feels the need to have a single word to express.  By this I am of course referencing the German translation - 'ich bin lebensversager'.  This translates (loosely) to - 'I am Life Failure'.

In German there is a single word to express the concept 'Life Failure'*

*Well, to be fair - not exactly.  Since purchasing the shirt I've learned a bit more about German cultural orthography and it turns out that they just have a much more casual attitude toward the creation of compound words than we do in English.  The point, however, still stands.

Another of my favorite examples of this is the French phrase 'Esprit D'Escalier' which literally translates to 'Spirit of the Staircase', but idiomatically means 'That moment on your way out of the room when you suddenly think of the exact perfect retort that you should have used to that guy in that argument fifteen minutes earlier See?  Look how many more words it takes to describe the experience in English.

In case any of you think that this is going to be a study in other-culture-bashing, it is with deep regret that I have to bring up America's latest contribution to this phenomenon.

'Revenge Porn'

I first encountered the term a few days ago in an online news headline 'California seeks to criminalize Revenge Porn'. Having no idea what it was, I felt compelled to read the article (so - solid win to you, Headline writer.  Well Played.)

It turns out that what this is is the phenomenon of guys who have been dumped taking their revenge by posting online the naked photos/video that they finally wore their now ex-girlfriend down into sending them over what one imagines was the course of months and months of whining.

I say guys because I imagine that this is primarily a thing that guys do.  First because most men are perpetually terrified that someone else will see them naked and find out how small their genitalia are.  Second because it's just a tremendously douchebaggy thing to do, and in my experience guys are more likely to leap to that sort of thing.

But seriously.  This is happening often enough that we need to have a term for it? 

Apparently it is.  Good God people.

For anyone interested in purchasing the t-shirt, btw, it can be found here.

(You're Welcome, Jay Brannan.  Now we're totally even for...that thing.)

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