Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I'm like, iconic

Sometimes I think I'm being left behind so swiftly, the people around me are a blur. I'm turning into one of those grannies that picks at grammar and parses sentences.

Or something.

I was never taught to write, not exactly, but reading a gazillion books when I was a grubby little kid taught me something about respect for language. I kind of soaked it in. It hurt me when someone mangled the language, especially in print.

I'm aware of the phenomenon of catch-phrases, words or clumps of words that catch on and become so common that no one notices them any more. The big one right now is "I'm like".

I challenge you to count the number of times each day that you hear "I'm like" (or "he's like", or "they're like," etc.) Everyone says this now, often several times in a sentence. Even Oprah and Katie Couric say it. Does anyone stop to think what it means?

"Like" means, well, either you like something, or you resemble it. "I'm like" seems to be saying, "I don't feel this way, but I feel something like it." It's all happening at a remove.

And don't get me started on "icon/iconic". It proliferates like a cancer. Maybe icon started with computers, who knows, but iconic (which for some reason reminds me of some sort of verbal ice cream cone) has long departed from its original meaning: a person or thing that is representative of an entire culture, a focal point for humanity. (It can also mean, in its original form, a religious object like a statue that becomes an object of veneration.)

Everything's iconic now. Pop singers are iconic. Pants are iconic (if they're Levis). I wince when I see it. Is it one of those words that people think makes them look intelligent if they use it? The worst, but only so far, was an item related to Sex and the City: cupcakes. Yes. Cupcakes are iconic. Or at least, a certain variety sold in New York are iconic.

Maybe some people or things are iconic, like Bogart and Bacall. But they only come along every so often, and usually aren't recognized until after they're dead.

So what's the point of all this? Shit, I got another lousy rejection the other day, and it has me smarting. And aching. I've already published two novels that I am very proud of, but neither one was a hot seller. Since 2005 I've written two more novels and a book of poetry. And I get brushed off everywhere. Agents won't look at me. Why? Maybe because I write in complete sentences! Cupcakes aren't iconic, and I'm not like anything, I am.

The casual mangling of language has become the norm, and if you're like me and care about how to put a sentence together, you're obsolete. Or so it seems right now, after the latest kick in the head has been delivered. I won't quote her exact words, or the Agent Police will get after me.

So I should maybe retitle my latest novel? What should I name the baby?

How's this: "I'm Like, Iconic, Cupcake."