Monday, July 28, 2008

This post is random

No it isn't, you fools!

My first post made me think about how over/misused the word "random" is used in speech these days. "Random" is the new "like" (X is the new Y is also an overused phrase). For the sake of your eyes, and my shift key, I'm not going to throw quotes around "random" (starting now), and instead I'll italicize it. So don't worry. They didn't just randomly disappear.

Everyone knows what random means. Something that occurs by chance is random. Flip a coin, and it will randomly fall onto one of its sides. Now, anyone picky enough will say that it's outcome is predictable based on the variables such as flip speed and air flow, making it chaotic but not random. Well go fuck yourself, because it is about as random as you can get. Anyway, that is an event by chance. If you place Helen Keller in a room and tell her there are 4 sides with a door on each side. One of them leads to the outside, the other 3 lead to the Great Pit of Carkoon where the Sarlacc will devour her slowly. What is the chance that she chooses the right door? That is random. The genes you acquired from your parents were chosen at random (or so we believe).

HOWEVER, that dude that you talked to at the bar was NOT random. You didn't stick a quarter in a dude machine and cause him to tumble down the spiral ramp to greet you at the bottom. Why? Because if you did, then everyone would probably be looking over at you while you stand very awkwardly as he rolls down the ramp making that loud rolling sound everyone knows, taking an exceeding long amount of time to reach the end. And since no one was looking over, that event probably didn't happen.

It has become ingrained in our vocabulary to use random for strange events or things that may have been unlikely or unexpected. I think the growth of its popularity originates from a few sources:

Pop Culture - Most celebrity figures are idiots. Especially younger people in reality shows. Their immature communication skills get broad casted around the world and get passed to the viewers. They get picked up like memes and perpetuate the trend.

Education - There is no mandatory class devoted to vocabulary and communication. We did our little word lists in English class and forgot 99% of the words the day after the test. A class focusing on speech could use strategies to not only just strengthen vocabulary, but actually get people to use it in daily conversation.

American Dream - We all want to be successful by doing the least amount of work necessary. This might get integrated into speech as well. If we can get the point across with less effort, then more time can be spent doing other things. Restructuring something like "This random guy came up to me at the bar. Randomly he bought me a drink and tried to talk to be about some random stuff. It was so random." might take slightly longer. Most people know what that was intended to mean. A guy came up to this person at the bar. She wasn't expecting it, but unless the guy was blindfolded, and spun around with his nose on a bat 10 times before coming up to her, it probably wasn't random.

So here is where you say, "Then Dave. What must be done to stop this de-evolution of the English language?"
Well we have to treat the cause, not the symptoms. Stop making silly TV shows where stupid people are portrayed as icons. Teach kids not just what words and sentences mean. Teach them how to use the words, naturally in everyday communication. Most synonyms have slightly different meaning, and some can be more accurate than others for the particular context. And this doesn't mean just changing the sentence to "This arbitrary guy came up to me at the bar. Haphazardly, he bought me a drink and tried to talk to me about some desultory stuff. It was so whimsical." I'll punch you in the face if you say that. To us, this seems like a mighty task. We have already established a strong bond with our speech, and it would be very difficult to break from it. However, children could easily learn this if they had proper education. And finally, we would have to change the foundation of our entire society. We would have to get people to want to be productive and thorough (I don't see this happening anytime soon. At least not to me :)).

So that was longer that expected. Halfway through I randomly decided to do some serious analysis. I also randomly chose this point to stop, so until next time,

keep the whole world in your hand
not on the shoulders of Atlas, who be shruggin' like Ayn Rand
(Not chosen because of this post. It was totally random.)


1 comment:

kelly said...

hahaha... you wrote this one just for me, didn't you? (i'm making a mental note to not use the word "random" in conversation with you anymore.) however, i'd love to try using a "random dude machine"... sounds interesting. and hilarious.