Jun 3, 2022

Quibbles & Bits: News from Hazmat, Saturn and More

Who’s up for some glossary fun? Why, everyone!

By Ed Goldman

TOXIC CITY— Good morning, students! Today’s vocabulary word is “toxic.” While technically an adjective it’s also come to be used as an adverb (since “toxically” just doesn’t have the bite we’re looking for—and could even be mistaken for a line of poisonous jeans). 

It often morphs into a gendered noun—male toxicity—and, like the words “tragic” and “tragedy,” is an exaggeration meant to give moral weight to what’s essentially commonplace. For example, your not winning the lottery doesn’t remotely qualify as tragic. And guys whose mouths are larger than their brains don’t make the toxic list—they’re jerks, but they’re not authentically poisonous. Only Vladimir Putin can claim that distinction. 

Edgy Cartoon

Spaced explorer

AS THE WORLD BURNS—If you had plans to invite a date to view Saturn’s rings through your telescope, don’t procrastinate: astronomers have announced that the rings will burn out in roughly 300 million years.

So, tempus fugit! (For younger readers: This means “time flies.” It’s Latin—not Latin-American, Latinx or Pig-Latin, which would have been Empus Tay Ugit-fay. And it is not what a disgruntled person yells at his tempus.)

The news caught me off-guard, as almost everything seems to. I’d scribbled in my forward-planner—in pencil, mind you—to try to leave open a Tuesday evening in August 250 million years from now. I’d have scheduled it for Wednesday but that’s Bowling Night.

I think it’ll work out, though, since when that evening rolls around, we’ll still have about 50 million years to re-schedule, if necessary. This kind of flexibility is very important in a romance.

THE LOVE BLOAT—Some cliches and stereotypes spring to life and linger because they’re rooted in the truth, or at least some element of it.

I don’t mean the metaphorical ones, like “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” You actually can make it drink—but if you do, and you’re spotted doing it, you may get a visit from the anti-animal cruelty people.

I’m thinking more of dumb-ass dicta like “True love is unconditional.” Oh, come on. Anyone who believes there’s such a thing as “unconditional” love has never been in love. Romance comes with all kinds of conditions. Finding happiness with a very special person always requires compromises, which are just a “conditions” with a better spin doctor.

In your relationships, haven’t you and the other party had to give up or add something? I’m not talking about not scarfing Cheetos or cutting your toenails in bed (though either activity should cause you to be immediately defenestrated* from the room). I’m talking about beginning a sentence in an argument with the phrase, “You always….”

I’d also like to permanently confine to the ash heap of overused relationship phrases the following:

  • “I’m a work in progress.” (The only people who aren’t are dead, Pal.)
  • “I can’t love you until I love me.” (If you can say that with a straight face, odds are you already do the former and aren’t breaking any land-speed records to do the latter.)
  • “I have abandonment issues.” (At some point in your life, if you’re fortunate enough to live beyond infancy, some people you know and love are going to die. Unless they’ve written you a final letter indicating they’ll be very glad to not have to see you eating a soft-shell taco ever again, my guess is they won’t really be abandoning you. They’ll just be checking out of the life hotel.)
  • “I know right?!” (This desperate plea for affirmation of an insight or comment you make is guaranteed to ruin any relationship. —Okay, maybe just a relationship with me.)

* For younger readers:  This literally means to be tossed out a window. Can you believe there’s a word for that? Kind of  makes you wonder what kind of marriage Noah Webster was enduring when he wrote “A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language” in 1806, doesn’t it? Or how Mrs. Webster felt about things, for that matter. Maybe she thought Mr. Webster was a toxic male.

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).