Wednesday, May 27, 2009

You Feelin' Me, Bro'?

I am not now, nor have I ever been, cool. I was never in with the in crowd, part of the scene, or remotely in synch with “what’s happenin’ now”.

For example: When I was a teenager, bell bottoms and flares were popular fashion items. We were the Woodstock Generation. It was Cool Times in America. However, those bell bottoms were way beyond my cool status level. But I did wear flares. I assume everyone knows what these items are, but, for an in depth discussion, click here. The short definition of the style is “Trousers with legs that flare at the bottom.”

Cool people wear bell-bottom or flared jeans or cords or even “pants”. Cool people do not wear “trousers”. But I did. I had “Trousers with legs that flare at the bottom.” What’s more, I was a tall, skinny child and the flared bottoms of my trousers were just above my ankles. Not dragging the ground, becoming fashionably frayed at the hem. No, my flared trouser legs flapped at my ankles, giving the cool folk a great view of my white socks and my Hush Puppies. I was not cool.

Having been around back then, I have now aged beyond hope of being cool. My daughter, who is cool, tells me that I get cool points for having done stand up in actual theaters and comedy clubs (strictly amateur). But those few points are apparently a mere drop in the cool bucket. If I accidentally say anything that sounds like I am trying to be cool (or “hip” or “hep” or “the shizzle” or whatever the kids these days are saying) she wall warn me “Dad. No. Don’t ever say that again.”

So I don’t try to use current slang (or “lingo”, or “street”, or “text-speak” or whatever the kids these days are saying). I speak, white, mid-western English, which is no better or worse than anything else, it’s just the language of my people: The Uncool. That’s not to say that a manner of speaking is limited to a given region, age or ethnic group, but we characterize certain ways of talking with such groups. Certain expressions are associated with white culture, some with brown and some as black culture. Cool people can cross over cultures, but uncool people who try that are what we commonly refer to as “dorks” (or “nerds”, or “fools”, or “dweebs” or whatever the kids these days are saying).

I told you all that to tell you this:
You know how certain expressions are automatic? You pick up the phone in the U.S and you say “Hello.” You don’t try to be Chinese and say “Ni hao,” unless you are from that culture. Likewise, at the end of a discussion about some conflict, some people would say “Are we okay now?” and some would say “We good?”, depending on culture. Again, you don’t think about what words to say, it’s automatic based on who you are and the way you learned to speak.

Last weekend an African-American man was explaining to me the service he was providing on the trees at our house. When he was done, he said “alright”, signaling, “Alright, I’m ready to get started,” and I said, “a’ight”.

What? (or “Say what?” or “WTF?” Or “Huh?” Or whatever the kids these days are saying). I could have said “alrighty, then” or “okey-dokey” and not thought I sounded any more uncool. ”A’ight” just came out of my mouth, leaving me wondering who had said it, while the black guy was saying “alright”. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it made me feel like I was Gene Wilder in "Silver Streak" ("Get down! Feelin' fine!"). For sure! (or “tru’ dat”, or “right on”, “I heard that” or whatever these kids today are saying).

"A'ight"? Seriously?

As my daughter would say, “Dad. No. Don't ever say that again.” To which I would instinctively reply, “A’ight. We cool.”

(Don’t forget to go to Humor Bloggers dot com, read all the “Funniest Post Ever!” contest entries and then vote for “What Chinese New Year means to Me” because it is the best one. A’ight?)


Susan said...

I hear you, Bro. :-)

Anonymous said...

Good post! Don't forget the (back then) popular "saddle back" jeans. You were cool if you wore those... Ok, now I'm dating myself.

Cali said...

Ha ha that made me laugh so hard!
ROTF!! I'm diggin' it, man. :)

JohnnyB said...

Thanks, all.
Barb, I don't remember saddle back jeans very well but I remember all the commercials for "Ooh, la, la, Sasson".
As for "dating myself", that defines my high school experience.

al in la said...

Excellent post! And thanks for adding your considerable wit to my anti-cap contest this week.

BTW: You and I have similar taste in music. I believe Jackson's "Late For The Sky" is a masterpiece. I included "The Late Show" on my wedding CD. (Along w/Dylan, Van, Bruce, Joni Mitchell, The Dead etc...)

JohnnyB said...

Thanks for the compliments! Yes - we do have the same taste in music. I have a playlist on my iPod of "Jackson Browne", "For Everyman" and "Late for the Sky". LFTS is my favorite. I also like the other artists you listed.