The Divil’s Dictionary

Satire never goes out fashion. Which is unfortunate, really, because it wouldn’t be necessary if we lived in an ideal world. In Heaven, for example, there’s a total dearth of good satire (Jesus tried it once at the celestial comedy club’s open-mike slot: went down like the Tower of Babel).

Down here, though, we’ll forever be beset by pomposity, stupidity and people who insist on giving their children names like Woden and Poppy-Sparrow, despite all appeals to common decency.

We’ll always need satire, and always have. The great American humourist Ambrose Bierce published The Devil’s Dictionary a full century ago, and it remains just as relevant today.

The book is bilious and spectacularly bitchy: in other words, great fun. So good that I’ve been inspired to update it for Ireland 2013.

To exhaustively lampoon everything that makes modern life rubbish would mean colonising this whole newspaper for a decade. So we’ll limit it to the annoying things people say nowadays: the clichés, jargon and gobbledegook that have become a part of (and here’s one) “the national discourse”.

Rereading a collection of George Orwell essays recently – yes, I am that intellectual – I was reminded of how these people seem to speak from the back-brain, almost unconsciously, yapping away on auto-pilot without processing what they’re saying.

It’s time to take back Hiberno-English from the drones and robots. It’s time to make a stand for linguistic truth and elegance. At the very least, it’s time to poke fun at some idiots, which is both amusing and morally justifiable.

It’s time for The Divil’s Dictionary.

  • “May I begin by saying”: Yes, you may. The host has just asked for your opinion. You don’t now need permission to speak.
  • “First and foremost”: tautology at its finest. First and foremost? It’s a two-for-one offer!
  • “It’s a real Marmite sort of film/book/whatever”: what you mean is, it’s likely to divide opinion. But you’ve expressed this by reference to a vegetable-based British sandwich spread which has never been consumed by anyone in this country. You might as well reference Krav Maga or monkey-brain soup.
  • “Awards season”: oh there’s a season now, is there? What is it, Winter, Awards, Spring, Summer, Autumn? Gah. You probably say “Fall” too, just to be doubly annoying. And while we’re here…
  • “Gong”: prize, award, statuette. No human being in history has ever used “gong” in spoken English.
  • “Luuurve”: this stupid pronunciation of the word “love” is much, eh, loved by DJs on those late-night shows playing smoochy classics for romantically inclined insomniacs. “Now we’re gunnatogaliddlebidaboud luuurve.” Must we?
  • “101”: hey, it’s Psychology 101, you guys! It’s Trolling 101! It’s “Saying 101” 101! …No, it’s Idiocy 101.
  • “-ista”: this suffix has become an unstoppable plague. Hedonista, fashionista, recessionista…I’m just surprised we haven’t seen psychopathista or homelessista yet. But we will.
  • “Aw, bless”: no, because a God could not exist which permits you to use a phrase like “Aw, bless.”
  • “Empowering” this has become so meaningless, Microsoft Word is refusing to let me type it in. It keeps deleting the letters. Did you know stripping is empowering for women? It really is! Presumably being gelded and crucified was empowering for the slaves of Imperial Rome too.
  • “Mum”: as a proper word in advertising. You mean “mother”; “mum” is a pet-name some, but not all, people used for theirs. Anyway, why not mam or mammy?
  • “Gingers”: ignorant neologism for people formerly known as redheads. Any Irish person making jokes about red hair should have their passport confiscated. Anyone pronouncing it to rhyme with “singer” gets beaten to death. Harsh but fair.
  • “The beautiful game”: said of association football. It may be, but your constant reversion to cliché isn’t.
  • “Oligarchs”: when used to describe rich Russians, or indeed anyone not the head of an Abrahamic religion or a city-state in Ancient Greece.
  • “I’ll get my coat”: please do, the Funniness Police are waiting to arrest you for crimes against humour.
  • “The real issue here”: is that I’m about to stab you in the throat if you continue that sentence.
  • “Outraged”: by nothing remotely outrageous.
  • “Appalling”: never even close to it.
  • “A man who needs no introduction”: then why are you introducing him? Just let the dude amble up on-stage.
  • “During the course of the week gone by”: such a short sentence, so many unnecessary words in there.
  • SPECIAL RUGBY SECTION: “Big ask, hard yards, front up, grubber, try time, grind his testicles into the mud Alan.” /END SPECIAL RUGBY SECTION
  • And finally, the two phrases most beloved of our – ahem – commentariat: “It’s a real game-changer” and “The only show in town”. Well which is it, game or show? I need to book tickets.

One response to “The Divil’s Dictionary

  • Doreen Finn

    You are my new god! Reading this piece was like listening to myself wax critical about all that is wrong with how Irish people speak today. More, more, more!

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