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Pack It In! (1999)
Feature on "Fresh Air," 12/23/99

Before we start on the carousin'
We've planned to greet the year two thousan',
Let's empty our linguistic closets
Of their detritus and deposits,
And sweep our storerooms, in the bargain,
Of solecisms, slang, and jargon.
Then, as the afternoon gets late,
Let's dump it from the Golden Gate,
And with one stroke, bold and defiant,
Make English Y2K-compliant.

Let's clear out our congested cargo
Of business cant and corporate argot.
We'll ditch proactive for a starter,
And "We don't work harder, just work smarter"
(A phrase that was cooked up, my hunch is,
To justify two-hour lunches).
Synergistic or synergetic?
Either one gives me a headache,
And the notion of convergence
Is in need of some submergence.
Let's ditch road warrior (save when jocular);
Ditto vision (save when ocular).
Consign restructure to the void,
And downsize should be redeployed
(At least, the next time we get canned,
We'll know exactly where we stand).
Let's lose win-win, that favorite phrase
Of hearty Harvard MBAs,
And cast on the outgoing tide
The box they like to think outside,
In hopes that in the coming age
We'll all be on a different page.

It wasn't very long ago
The Internet was comme il faut,
And only the most avant-garde
Had @-signs on their business card.
But now that even Aunt Estelle
Has got herself a URL,
And Vinnie at the barbershop
Made millions on his first-day pop,
We've reached the point where talking geekish
Is starting to sound so last weekish.
Emoticon and digerati
Aren't worth a wooden zloty.
To portal we can give the gate,
Mindshare will do for tuna bait,
And since you asked, IMHO,
Those email acronyms are de trop.
And ere the sun sets, let us jettison
Newbie, netiquette, and netizen,
Nor should we miss this opportunity
To deep-six virtual community,
e-this, i-that, and without qualm,
Let's unplug everything.com.

On literary critics' patois
I think we must declare a fatwah:
It's hard to part with hegemonic,
But in the end you'll find it tonic;
Think how much randier reading's rendered
When it is sexed instead of gendered,
And curling up at bedtime, who wants
To be holding something nuanced?
Of that au jour contraction "pomo,"
I'd just as soon that we heard no mo',
Nor any others of the host
Of vocables prefixed with post-.
We seem to be, for all our fears,
Still modern after all these years.

I'm sure that ages hence will honor us
If we stop cooking up new genres,
Let's spare the coming centuries
Prequels and rockumentaries,
And pause not even for a comma
Before discarding docudrama.
And ere the clock chimes, let us vow
That critics twenty years from now
Will earn themselves an instant wedgie
Whenever they use taut or edgy.

Before we can put on our nightcaps,
We've other words to feed the whitecaps:
Let's leave off calling rumors buzz,
And blow off anyone who does.
Wake up call has gotten thin ó
Next year we'll all be sleeping in.
And anything you feel like sharing
Kindly offer to the herring.
And as we're chucking out the dross,
Make sure we don't neglect to toss
Those interjections, coy and clever,
Like "Let's not go there" and "Whatever!"
(And while we're at it, do I gotta
Even mention "Yadda yadda"?)
Arrivederci to "Ex-CUSE me";
You simply no longer amuse me;
Farewell to "Duh!" and, apropos,
Let's say buh-bye now to "hel-LO?"

Now as we watch the century go out,
There's only one more thing to throw out:
Let's cast onto the coastal shelf
The word millennium itself
(I'm glad to bid that one adieu;
The fact is that I never knew
If it should have one n or two.)
And as night falls on the Presidio,
Let's all go home and watch a video,
To pass the century's final hour
(That is, assuming we've got power).

Copyright © 2002 Geoffrey Nunberg All rights reserved.