There are two keys to hipness, inextricably woven together: image and timing.  Image has a lot to do with the proper air of disdain, not so much that you just look sour, but not so little that it’s invisible.  This is often accomplished linguistically, and that’s where timing comes in.

There are seven stages to the rise and decline of a hip word or turn of phrase:

  1. Someone comes up with a clever neologism.
  2. Her immediate cohort, seeing this, starts using it among themselves.
  3. Eventually, they use it in social media, and it catches on.
  4. It appears in Urban Dictionary.
  5. There are articles in Time or some similar rag on its proper use.
  6. Suddenly, it’s everywhere.
  7. Suddenly, it’s nowhere.

Consider the word ‘mansplain.’  If you used it during the first three phases, you were hip; if it was during the first two you were very hip, but only retroactively.  In phases 4 and 5, you were probably an older person ‘in tune’ with the younger generation.  After that, you’re dead to the younger generation, and in phase 7, you’re either completely out of it, or just being a smart ass.

Unless you use it in a blog, in an eye-rolling sort of way.  Then you’re extremely cool.  You might call that ‘blog-rolling.’

Feel free to use use that.

Into the wild


Today, while wandering through the beautiful campus of Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville, I had the rare privilege of stumbling upon a herd of bicycle, gamboling on a hillside.  I quickly snapped a photo; I apologize for the focus, they were gone in a flash.  Still, I was able to notice a few thing that might be of interest.

As you can see, unlike their domesticated cousins, wild bicycles all have the same distinctive markings; I didn’t see any exceptions.  In addition, there was no size differentiation, such as we are used to seeing.  This is not really surprising; compare dogs and wolves, for example.

But the most notable thing was their joyful abandon, capering through the campus.  I wish we could re-instill that feeling in the domestic bicycles we all love!

A fable

Crusty Paul sat in his apartment, water lapping at his feet, when there was an insistent knock at his door.  He sighed and got up to answer it, knowing full well it was Larry, his annoying neighbor from downstairs.  He opened the door, and sure enough, there was Loopy Larry, a look of stern admonition on his insipidly righteous face.

“There’s water dripping on my head again, Paul,” he said.

“Well, I’ve told you before, just get used to it.”

Loopy Larry sighed.  “Have you let the bath run over again?”

A flush rose to Paul’s face.  “So what?  It’s just your stupid theory that that’s what’s making water drip on your head.”

“It’s not just a theory.  Every time it happens, I come up here and you’ve let the bath water run over.  Look at your floor, for chrissake, it’s covered with water!”

Paul looked at him with an expression of someone explaining some simple fact to a rather dense child, for the hundredth time.

“If you look at the past, you’ll see there are lots of times when water just falls out of the sky, for no reason.  How can you say my bathwater causes your problem, when we know that happens naturally, all the time?”

The stamp man’s complaint

Janos was a good and dutiful man. He had a small house with a neat little garden plot overlooking the railway station.  He kept his petite wife well supplied with money for groceries, flowers, and other necessities.  And every morning without fail, he boarded the 7:10 into the center of the city, to report for work at the Bureau for Auxilliary Affairs, precisely at 8:00 AM.  His record was unblemished, save for the time he choked on a digestive biscuit and had to be taken to the clinic for treatment. He was 2 hours late that morning; it is possibly the reason he was passed over for promotion yet again.

Which is a damn shame, really. His job was to approve paperwork as it passed through his station. He was a stamp man, and possibly the best in his section, the Department of Supplemental Approval. The official rate of passage of forms to be approved through his station was 30/hr; he himself estimated it at more than 100. Theeoretically, he could mark any given paper with the bright red Returned fo Further Evaluation stamp, rather than the bright green A, but that slowed things down considerably, as he would have to fill out the proper form, and hand carry it along with the Returned paper down the hall to the Department of Approval Appeals. Janos considered this a waste of valuable time, as there was no one ever there. One dropped the papers ino a slot marked IN, and they disappeared. Meanwhile, paper at one’s own station was piling up relentlessly. Over the years, he had gradually come to simply approve everything that came through. That had been an immense relief, for it meant he no longer had to read the papers as they came through; indeed, truth be told, he had forgotten the criteria for approval, or even the nature of the forms themselves. Perhaps that accounted for his legendary efficiency. Janos’ days passed smoothly and inevitably. He was happy, and his superiors were happy. Though not so happy as to promote him.

And so, in the course of events, came this particular day, which to all appearances differed not one whit from any other day.  It was also a day Janos would regret for the rest of his life.  For it was the day he glaanced down at a form before stamping it.  He read,

1 ib butter (unsalted)
tea (Elina’s favorite)

It was, truthfully, not what he expected. True, he was no longer sure what the paperwork was about, but this seemed unlikely. With a hint of a tremor, he reached over to the top of the pile to his left, the already approved pile, and nervously looked at the top, most recently approved paper.

Dearest Sylvia,
I can no longer be responsible for the fire in my heart. I dream constantly of your warm white breasts, the razor-like nipples piercing…

He had read enough. A cold hand gripped his heart. It must have been a quarter hour before he slowly returned his attention to the pile. With each paper, each word, his heart sank further into his shoes.