Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Would You Like Fries or Sex with That?

Aside from the the vapidity of the this article, which tries to substitute snark for argument, we have this some of the worst published writing I've seen in a while, starting with this line, awe-inspiring in its horribleness:
Why are we so wildly, preternaturally terrified of all things sexual while at the same time drawn to it all like fat teenagers to French fries?

We are drawn to things sexual like teenagers to fries? Um ... how about, we are drawn to things sexual like teens to, well, things sexual?

Oh, my dear freshmen of next semester, learn a lesson from this: Engage your brain before engaging Microsoft Word. Try not to write phrases like "spineless as a jellyfish licked by Pat Robertson" without first considering how trite the "spineless as a jellyfish" trope is, and how nonsensical the Robertson reference is (unless, of course, Robertson's saliva has some sort of weird vertebrae-dissolving properties I've not heard of).

Think about the visual before writing such sentences as "This is why foreign countries laugh at us and mock and shake their heads and sigh," which creates an image of a foreign country with uncontrollable facial tics. If I ran into someone in the street who first laughed at me, then mocked me, then shook his head, then sighed, I would probably call a mental health professional over the odd behavior. Look, let's pick one reaction and stick with it!

Or, we could play a game -- count the metaphors in the sentence:
But so are we in the media, for endlessly hyping hyperbolic fear-addled stories about sexual predation and child abuse so out of scale with actual reality, it trickles down and induces spineless execs at PBS to fire Martinez because they're openly terrified of the whiny backlash that might strike them if groups of ignorant parents (read: red-state religious right, mostly) found out that the host of a kiddie show actually has a sense of humor about sex in her non-kiddie-show life.

There are so many mixed metaphors in this sentence that it even loses its grammatical structure, so that the first "it" doesn't seem to refer to anything. Stories trickle and backlashes whine in this magical world.

Let us remember what Orwell tells us in "Politics and the English Language" -- that bad writing leads to bad thinking, and visa-versa. By the end of the essay, the author has confused himself so badly that he describes parents as "trembling bipeds who never have sex." Um, having sex is kind of a prerequisite to being a parent, short of adopting or birthing the Messiah.

By the way, Arts & Letters Daily, I expect better from you in your "Nota Bene" section. Don't you know what the "Bene" part means?

2 comments:

  1. Good lord -- anyone remember MadLibs?

    "But so are we in the media, for endlessly (_verb+ing__)ing hyperbolic (_noun_) stories about (__noun__) and child abuse so out of scale with (_adjective_) reality, it (__verb__) down and induces (__adjective__) execs at PBS to fire Martinez because they're openly terrified of the (__adjective__) backlash that might strike them if groups of ignorant (_noun, plu_) (read: (_color_)-state religious right, mostly) found out that the host of a kiddie show actually has a sense of humor about (_noun_) in her non-kiddie-show life."

    This guy obviously played the version of MadLibs that I played as young teenager starving for...um... French fries. The object was to fit as many dirty, obscene, and foul words into the passage as possible and have it make sense.

    (Proud user of Word Perfect since 2003.)

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