Thursday, June 19, 2014

Unexcited Brit at Curmudgeon Corner

I find myself this morning at Curmudgeon Corner - I'll probably visit here again the next time something irritates me sufficiently.

I'm not sure whether this current irritant is simply another example of what I see as the American habit of out-of-place hyperbole. This one seemingly has spread across the pond too. Or is it another "meme-ish" copycat thing? Why do some people, when attempting to describe their state of mind when looking forward to an event, or action by them or others, describe themselves as "Being excited to......" whatever, when the circumstance would appear scarcely to even warrant a sincere "I'm looking forward to...."

Devaluing words - again. I've whinged about the use of "hilarious" in the past, when attached to something that is, at best, mildly amusing.

What is going on here though? What causes overstatement? Is it a form of verbal one-upmanship, lack of vocabulary - or what? What'll happen when the next generation or "in-crowd" needs to go even one better than "I'm so excited to..." ?

Perhaps I'm still suffering from after effects of culture shock, being a Brit an' all, and therefore having been more used to understatement than overstatement for most of my life, pre-internet. The British - or perhaps more accurately - the English, have the reputation of being overly polite, self-effacing, and of uttering "thank you" or "sorry" several times at inappropriate moments. There are lots of examples of this in a Twitter feed, "Very British Problems" (@SoVeryBritish), I follow it among a scant handful of Twitterers because its entries almost always raise a chuckle of recognition, so much so that I've ordered the accompanying book. A passing reader might get the general idea from the following samples:

"I'm sure it'll be fine" - Meaning: This can only end in disaster

Being mistaken for a shop assistant and simply assuming the role as best you can

Never feeling more uncomfortable than when instructed to "make yourself at home"

Saying, "It's nothing, really" to indicate you're remarkably close to losing consciousness

Nearly washing the skin off your hands so as not to pressure the person using the hand dryer

Being unable to pay for something with the exact change without saying "I think that's right"

"With all due respect" - Translation: You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about

Ordering one of the specials so the waitress won't have wasted her time reciting them

Debating whether to open the train window or quietly succumb to heatstroke

Being unable to help saying, "At least I hope so!" after telling someone they're on the right train.

Punishing people who don't say thank you by saying "you're welcome" as quietly as possible

Becoming incandescent with rage when Microsoft Word corrects your spelling to American English

More here too.


mike said...

I'm thrilled and looking forward to comment here. I believe it has to do with America's fascination with self-importance, which has seeped into the younger citizenry of other industrialized countries, too. Americans are assertive and competitive, which depends on an individual's requirement to express oneself. This is not a contemplative society...silence is not golden.

Capitalism with its inherent advertisements of "buy me" push the consumer toward self-gratification via ownership of mass produced products that imply a unique and individual style, pulling each of us into the relentless pursuit of the self-absorbed. Hence, bling and opulence are part of net self-worth.

Concurrent to the rise of nobody to somebody, such as Kim Kardashian, Snooki, et al, reality TV, Facebook, youtube, and Twitter followers, the digital era has made outspoken, garish commoners household names to be emulated in mass numbers.

mike (again) said...



"When did Americans start to become so self-absorbed with their own delusions of self-importance. Maybe it has something to do with our relative newness as a country that created a giant National inferiority complex.

My father and two of my uncles fought in WWII, while my aunts worked in defense plants and to their dying day they never thought Americans were any better or any worse that any other nationality. I guess I was lucky.

Americans seem well meaning but ignorant of other cultures, yet they seem to think they have the right to dictate American values to those other cultures. While as a country we are drowning in debt, dope and drop-outs and hardly a role model.

If a person speaks three languages they are tri-lingual. If they speak two, they are bi-lingual. If they speak one language poorly, they are American.

There was a time, in the not so distant past, Americans pretended to be British and loved all classy British things...Who are we pretending to be now?"

Twilight said...

mike ~ Well, I'm relieved that you didn't take offence, though I did feel fairly confident, from the little I know, that you'd be unlikely to be one of the constantly "excited to...." brigade. ;-)

The US sterotype of self-important and self-absorbed, loud-mouthed show-offs seems to hold good in some cases, but certainly not in all - as proved by that Okie from Muskogee's comment you posted in your second comment.

The British stereotype of stiff, unemotional, snobbish affectation also holds good for a proportion of the islands' inhabitants, but again by no means all of 'em.

It's interesting to consider how each nation came by its stereotype.
In the case of the USA it has many stereotypes piled into a mixing pot, so it's more difficult to pinpoint the exact why of it. You've explained it well though...pointing out the competitiveness at the heart of this relatively new country. I guess it needed/needs to make its mark noticed over the marks of so many other long-established nations with well-defined cultures.

This over-egging of the word pudding though does seem to be a fairly recent phenomenon - brought about, as you said, by TV and the internet.
American writers of past generations and centuries didn't display such a tendency, as far as I know - at least not unless they were being humorous. What expressions they used in casual speech isn't known, of course, TV didn't exist and radio was in its infancy. Maybe they WERE "excited to..." but this simply wasn't known by the general public.

DC said...

Don't forget the omnipresent use of the word "but" after a pleasant phrase or compliment. It's the "but" the negates the whole previous accolade....very annoying.
I totally get your point in this article Annie :)

mike (again) said...

The silent movies, then the talkies, then the advent of the crystal radio in the 1920s widened social convention from the local to the national. A polite, cultured society was to be emulated. The old, black and white movies typically presented stories portrayed by fairly refined and elegant actors and acting. It was a time of hiding one's true nature behind a mask of social conformity and expectations for fear of social rejection.

The introduction of color movies coincided with the end of WWII, soon to be the demise of McCarthyism here in the USA. Technicolor movies delivered various strains of a turbulent society in classics such as "Rebel Without a Cause", "West Side Story", "King Kong", and "Godzilla". The cold war was initiated. Television brought local, national, and global events into our living rooms. "The Ed Sullivan Show", "Father Knows Best", and the like, brought a newer, fresher, more sophisticated type of person to emulate...people that weren't bound to formal societal formats, but were unique personalities...more outspoken, self-assured, not afraid to discuss their beliefs. The mask of conformity was dissolving.

The 1960s, I think, introduced the phenomenon that you are posting about today, Twilight. Do you remember the PBS show "The Sixties"? A mild shift was underway prior, but the 1960s...Uranus conjunct Pluto in Virgo...brought the assault on social, racial, sexual, and religious conformity and introduced the self-indulgent, self-important, freedom-seeking individual willing to say whatever was on the mind, regardless. It's been downhill since.

There are some benefits to this, too...LOL.

mike (again) said...

And I carelessly omitted the Beat Generation...Alan Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, et al, as pioneers in the exploration of social rejection to favor the notions of hedonistic non-conformity.

Twilight said...

DC ~ Oh yes...... that darned 'but'. Also 'however' is used by some as an alternative way to virtually negate what has gone before. Not nice at all, though I do use 'however' myself now and then. ;-)
There's a fairly well-known phrase which does much the same "caution, I'm negating" job too, but I can't bring it to the front of my memory bank, neither can husband whose ear I've just bent trying to recall the phrase.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Good run-down of the culture saga in the USA, mike! The UK followed much the same pattern, but was lagging behind the USA's film industry by a few years, of course.
The painful stiffness of those late 1930s and 1940s movies gets hard to listen to at times, even more so in the UK because back then only the poshest... so terribly, terribly posh don't ya know.. accents were allowed on screen. It was the mid- 1950s before regional accents were heard in British movies. Even now on radio the BBC favours non-regional accents for news readers and serious shows, but a few regionals have crept in here and there.

The 1960s loosened us up, there were lots of Liverpool accents heard because many pop groups emerged from that and other northern areas.
Many pop groups aped American accents though when singing -something which used to annoy me a lot.

Definite benefits, yes there are, agreed.

I think what irritates me is the parrot-like copying of what might originally have been someone trying to be a wee bit different, using a bit of hyperbole for effect - then it goes viral (as they now say) and in the process becomes devalued as a word or expression. What we get to replace such devaluations are new "words" such as lol, btw, idk, w8t4it....or rather, don't!

R J Adams said...


Twilight said...

RJ Adams ~ :-)

Twilight said...

DC ~ I remembered the "negating" phrase I'd forgotten when I heard it on TV tonight: "with all due respect".

DC said...

ah yes...'with all due respect"!....used by so many talking heads these days....and more polite than "but" btw :)

Vanilla Rose said...

Ah, yes. That's me. "I think that's right" (with change) and "At least I hope so!" (with trains). Yes!!!

Twilight said...

Vanilla Rose ~ Me too - re the change-giving even when in the USA! There aren't any trains or buses in our area so I've lost those still well-remembered feelings related to public transport. :-)

David said...

Wonderful! Part of the problem may relate to not having a reasonable relationship with the author, and thus over reaching into hyperbole to emphasise the point using over stretchedlanguage and hence
over egging the pudding.

Twilight said...

David ~ Maybe....maybe so. :-)