THE BEEZEE. SYNDROME
by Ruth Minshull
Many years ago my friend Jeanne took me on a tour of the mental hospital where she worked as a nurse. We were in a large ward full of patients when another nurse greeted my friend by her nickname. “Hi, BeeZee” she said.
A patient nearby heard the name and started chanting, “BeeZee, BeeZee..” One by one the other patients began echoing the call. Soon the place hummed and thrummed like a beehive as dozens of patients joined in the cacophony, “BeeZee, BeeZee, BeeZee…..”
Jeanne told me that it was not unusual for the patients to pick up some easy name or phrase and repeat it endlessly.
I’ve never forgotten this incident. In fact, I hear modified versions of it almost daily–from people who are not certifiably insane, but who nevertheless insist on repeating meaningless words or phrases.
I suppose that every era has its trendy clichés. Some public figure uses a trite word or phrase which is then picked up and echoed incessantly by those who are too lazy to think for themselves.
During the Watergate hearings I remember John Dean kept saying, “At that point in time….” I recall thinking, “What a stupid phrase!” If someone asks, “Where were you last Tuesday?” why not simply reply, “Riding a merry-go-round”? There is no need for all the extra words: “At that point in time…” What other time would you be talking about anyway? Furthermore, how is a “point” in time different than just “time”?
Instead of being repelled by this asinine redundancy, however, people grabbed it and clung to it like cat hair on a wool coat. Soon pompous idiots everywhere were babbling about “that point in time.”
Unfortunately, the truly clever and original words being spoken or written are not necessarily remembered. Too often, the remarks most perpetuated are the ones that weren’t worth uttering the first time. Meaningless or mindless, nevertheless they are constantly paraded about like some hideous deformity.
A few years ago people picked up the word “unique” and abused the daylights out of it. Originally it meant “one of a kind.” In the world of collectors it still does. But someone misused the word to mean rare or unusual, and soon, millions of witless souls followed the lead. We now hear “very unique,” “kind of unique,” “extremely unique.”
And of course the words nauseous and hopefully have been hopelessly warped out of meaning. There’s little chance that they can be rescued. Too many people say, “I felt nauseous,” when they mean “nauseated.” Of course, they might be considered nauseaus by other people, but that would be a matter of opinion and would have nothing to do with whether the person felt well or not.
I even see the BeeZee. syndrome popping up among professional screenwriters, who should be able to think of something more original. Instead, they have women over 35 babbling about their “biological clock ticking.” Every time I hear a fictional character saying, “You know, darling, maybe we should think about having a baby…” I always want to scream, “Don’t say it!” But they go right ahead in spite of my warning. No doubt this remark seemed quite clever the first time it was used, but now it’s just another BeeZee.
These same writers put young people into a“relationship” and then talk of “taking it to the next level,” as if human interactions were all part of some pre-plotted board game. Shouldn’t the process of meeting and getting acquainted with another person be more unique (Oops! It’s contagious) than that? Finding the best mate (nowadays commonly known as “Ms. Right or Mr. Right”) is one of the most important objectives in a person’s life. It should be more special than just part of a programmed mating ritual.
We no longer have disagreements and misunderstandings; we have “issues”—another lazy catch-all word that fails to define the problems.
One more BeeZee I frequently hear is a reference to people “out there.” They say, “There are people out there who like parsnips.” “There must be somebody out there who wants this puppy.” This is senseless and mystifying to me. Where the hell is “out there?” And what’s wrong with simply saying, “Some people like parsnips.” (That is, of course, if any people do.)
Another witless phrase that has become popular is “coming forward.”
Where these people are coming from and to is mystifying, but it seems to be a euphemism for publicly finking on a friend or relation with the most embarrassing revelations imaginable.
Latoya Jackson “came forward” to accuse her father of child abuse. Roseanne Arnold came forward with accusations of sexual abuse by her parents. Nowadays, proclaiming childhood abuse, some kind of addiction, then going to rehab seem to be three requirements on the resumé of every would-be celebrity. If you haven’t been arrested, sent to rehab and/or confessed something quite outrageous, you’re nobody.
There’s BeeZeeing going on all over the place.
What ever happened to originality? Can’t people invent their own words and phrases and aberrations and hang-ups?
Sometimes I think there are so many BeeZeeing nuts running around loose that I should get myself off to a private island—just for protection.
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©2010 by Ruth Minshull