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"In place of thought"

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I follow this writer on twitter, Teju Cole. A self-important and self-righteous moralist who drops wisdom every now and then. Last night he posted a dictionary-styled critique of tired phrases, and then posted an article in the New Yorker today:

Of course I replied to a few, and then called it in the 21st century parlance, a matter of Dictionary of Google phrases. :heh:

AFRICA. A country. Poor but happy. Rising.

ALMOND. All eyes are almond-shaped.

AMERICAN. With the prefix “all,” a blonde.

ARTICULATE. Say “you’re very articulate” to young blacks, and then ask where they are from.

ARTISAN. A carpenter, in Brooklyn.

ATHEISM. Deranged cult of violent fanatics.

AUSTRALIANS. Extremely fit. Immune to pain. If you meet one, say “Foster’s.” The whole country is nothing but beaches.

BLUE. The color of purity. Countless mysterious ads are devoted to pads and liners that absorb blue liquid.

BRAVE. Doomed.

BREAST. No joking matter. One glimpse on television sufficient to destroy a childhood. (See CHILDREN.)

BUDDHISM. The way of peace.

CARAMEL. Term used to describe black women’s skin. No other meaning known.

CAESAR. “Veni, vidi, vici.” Get into a conversation about the pronunciation.

CHILDREN. The only justification for policy. Always say “our children.” The childless have no interest in improving society.

CHINESE. Wonder what they’re thinking.

CHOCOLATE. Term used to describe black women’s skin. No other meaning known.

CHRISTIANITY. Peace on earth.


COAL. Clean.

COFFEE. Declare that it is intolerable at Starbucks. Buy it at Starbucks.

COMMUNITY. Preceded by “black.” White people, lacking community, must make do with property.

CRIME. Illegal activities involving smaller amounts of money.

CRISIS. Mention that it is composed of the Chinese characters for opportunity and danger.

DIVERSITY. Obviously desirable, within limits. Mention your service in the Peace Corps.

EGGS. Always say “you can’t make omelets without breaking eggs” whenever the subject of war comes up.

EMIGRÉ. Jewish immigrant.

EVOLUTION. Only a theory.

FASCISM. Always preceded by “creeping.”

FEMINISTS. Wonderful, in theory.

FISH. A vegetable.

GERMANS. When watching football, “never rule out the Germans.”

HARVARD. Source of studies quoted on BBC. Never say “I went to Harvard.” Say “I schooled in the Boston area.”

HAUTE COUTURE. Always declare that it is made by gay men for boyish girls. Wait hours to see fashion exhibits at the Met.

HEAT. Antonym of humidity.

HILARIOUS. Never simply say “funny.”

HIP HOP. Old-school hip hop, i.e., whatever was popular when you were nineteen, is great. Everything since then is intolerable.

HIPSTER. One who has an irrational hatred of hipsters.

ILIAD. Declare a preference for the Odyssey.

INDIA. Work your tolerance of or aversion to spicy food into the conversation as quickly as possible. “A land of contrasts.”

INTERNET. A waste of time. Have a long online argument with anyone who disagrees.

ISLAM. Religion of peace.

JAPAN. Mysterious. Always “the Japanese.” Mention Murakami.

JAZZ. America’s classical music. The last album was released in 1965.

LITERALLY. Swear you’d rather die than use “literally” as an intensifier.

MAGISTERIAL. Large book, written by a man.

MEN. Always say “all the good ones are gay or taken” within earshot of the straight single ones.

MIGRANT. Mexican immigrant.

MOCHA. Term used to describe black women’s skin. No other meaning known.

NEWSPAPERS. Bemoan their gradual disappearance. Don’t actually buy any.

NIETZSCHE. Say “Nietzsche says God is dead,” but if someone says that first, say “God says Nietzsche is dead.”

ODYSSEY. Declare a preference for the Iliad.

PARIS. Romantic, in spite of the rude waiters and Japanese tourists. Don’t simply like it; “adore” it.

POET. Always preceded by “published.” Function unknown.

PRETTY. On Facebook, to indicate an unattractive woman.

PROUST. No one actually reads him. You reread him, preferably on summer vacation.

PUNS. Always say “no pun intended” to draw attention to the intended pun.

RACISM. Obsolete term. Meaning unknown.

REGGAE. Sadly, just one album exists in the genre.

RUSHDIE. Have a strong opinion on “The Satanic Verses.” Under no circumstances actually read “The Satanic Verses.”

SCANDAL. If governmental, express surprise that people are surprised. If sexual, declare it a distraction, but seek out the details.

SEMINAL. Be sure to use in a review of a woman’s work. Proclaim your innocence after.

SMART. Any essay that confirms your prejudices.

STRIKE. Always “surgical.” (See EGGS.)

SUNSET. Beautiful. Like a painting. Post on Instagram and hashtag “no filter.”

TELEVISION. Much improved. Better than novels. If someone says “The Wire,” say “The Sopranos,” or vice versa.

TOUR DE FORCE. A film longer than two and a half hours and not in English.

VALUES. “We must do whatever it takes to preserve our values.” Said as a prelude to destroying them.

VIRGINITY. An obsession in Iran and in the olive-oil industry. It can be lost, like a wallet.

YEATS. Author of two quotations.

ŽIŽEK. Observe he’s made some good points, but.
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HERETIC. Both Bouvard & Pecuchet in one. Likes pink things and kittens, but, paradoxically, despises pink kittens.

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AMAZING ATHEIST: Metabolic encephalopathy

AMERICAN PSYCHO: 21st century Disneyland

BAUHAUS: Artistic incontinence

CAMILLE PAGLIA: Trans-vampirism

DAVIDM: Anton Sugar on a warming globe

HIPPIE: Food stamp collector

MUSLIM: Assault rifle manufacturer's best friend

PIG: A reason to go the speed limit.

TORTURE: What Christianity did to Jesus


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After seeing Teju Cole's cute effort, I tried tweeting dictionary-styled definitions of my own:

AMBITION: the overpowering desire to be slandered by enemies while alive, and made ludicrous by friends once dead.

COMMON SENSE: why everyone can be wrong at the same time.

CYNIC: a person who knows too much but doesn't believe in much.

DIPLOMAT: someone forever stuck on the razor's edge between the banal and the blunder.

ENEMY: one whose judgment of us is more honest than that of our own.

EDUCATION: the indoctrination of the inscrutable into the incurious by the impotent.

DEMAGOGUERY: a fault in the thinker, an art in the priest, an accomplishment in the politician, and second-nature in the journalist.

FACEBOOK: helping emo bitches inflate drama since 2004.

FOOL: a person independent of anxiety, forlornness, meaninglessness, and other existentialist moods.

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Posted (edited)

GOD: a man made invention that prevents mass suicides.

HIGHBROW: educated beyond one's intellectual level.

INTELLECTUAL: a guy interested in something more else more than women.

JEALOUSY: the respect many women have for one another.

LAUGHTER: scrupulous hostility.

LIE: a crude surrogate for the truth, but the only available alternative.

MAN: an inexhaustible source of humor for the gods.

SARCASM: mockery masquerading as an endorsement.

Edited by The Heretic
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Non-twitter attempts:

CONFORMIST: one who lives by imitation & by horror of originality.

CONVICTION: a clear sign one has failed to study his beliefs thoroughly.

DESPAIR: vacillation between the corruption of Epicureanism & the noble poise of Stoicism.

FLATTERY: a weapon to enslave, to demoralize, & corrupt others.

HONESTY: the cynicism of prostitutes.

HUMANISM: the reason why we would nail Prometheus, the first humanist, to a rock today.

IDEA: a phony that is eventually exposed as a belief.

PEACE: the sleep of ambition.

SALVATION: the subtlest & most camouflaged of all torments.

SELF: the greatest dogma, for nothing insulates as well as self-esteem.

TRAITOR (greatest): a Judas with the soul of Buddha

WISDOM: a dead end that pretends to be a discipline.

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These aren't mine, but from a little book called the Contradictionary. Sort of a Devil's Dictionary of the current age.

ECONOMY - as an adjective, "cheap"; as a noun, that which compels us to render ourselves thus

INVENTION - mother of necessity

SACRED - possessing a quality characteristic of cows, venerated by the cowed

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