Unique word usage never ceases to amaze

By Clyde Davis: Local columnist

Every time I think I have heard the utmost, the latest, that I am actually keeping abreast of the latest slang or the latest in terms, somebody will concoct a new creative phrase that catches me completely off guard.

Since I am involved in the classroom instruction of college freshmen, it should not be easy to catch me off guard, yet that seems to happen anyway.

The most recent example, heard on National Public Radio, was a commentator’s reference to “helicopter parents.”

Do you know what helicopter parents are? No, this is not a reference to a children’s book about a young helicopter finding its place in life, though that would be a cute concept.

Helicopter parents are parents who are constantly hovering about their children, directing every phase of the offsprings’ lives.

I suppose that all of us, on some occasions, are “helicopter parents.” The word has a slightly different connotation than either overprotective or bossy, although it contains elements of both.

Only those of us who are male, however, can claim that we are on some occasions “metrosexual.”

Of course one needn’t live in a metropolis, or even a microplex, to claim that identity. Near as I can figure out, in its most innocuous sense, it simply means that you have taken the time to make sure your clothes match, that your shoes are coordinated with the rest of your outfit, and that your facial and otherwise hair are neatly arranged. For those who don’t, or for those who do but didn’t on a given day, the word can be spoken with a sneer of derision.

Who would have thought, a few years ago, that we would routinely refer to something pocketsized called an Ipod? Had someone mentioned that word to me, or more accurately, when someone did first mention that word to me, I pictured huge alien craft, invading the Earth on long, flexible metal legs, kind of like the ones described in “War of the Worlds.”

Try fitting one of those in your pocket.

Relatedly, we have jump drives. I have occasionally jumped over the curb while driving, but I don’t recall ever doing a jump drive. On the other hand, if your battery is dead you have to jump it before you can drive.

This is not related at all to the concept of A list, or B list, or perhaps even lower list. For years we have known of A movies and B movies, but only recently have I ever heard it applied to the actors themselves.

To be honest, I still can’t say the phrases; something in me (my basic sense of equality) is offended by what is implied. Is the B-list actor somehow lower or less worthy as a person because her movies have had less success? Even helicopter parents would not want their children believing that.

Much of the phenomenon, which is certainly not new, seems to tie in with our need to believe that we are busier and more involved than any previous generation, which no doubt believed the same about itself. Ergo, we can’t take the time to say “parents who try too hard to arrange their childrens’ lives from K-12 and beyond.” We prefer to invent a verbal puzzle as a way of keeping out people who aren’t quick enough on the uptake to figure out the meaning.

On second thought, maybe it’s just a way of determining who’s A list and who’s B list. After all, in our metroconscious world, you can’t tell by how someone dresses, can you?

Your assignment, dear reader: Make up a weird phrase and use it as if everyone else should know what you’re talking about. See if you can start a hip’n’trendy-word usage fad. Do it while you’re multi-tasking.

Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University. He can be contacted at: clyde_davis@yahoo.com