Sunday, July 12, 2009

Don't mind him: he's only a little crazy

In conversation with a friend of mine, I brought up that it always occurred to me that before introductions were made, there was a curious way of explaining people I'd heard. In an effort to describe the person, but without using absolutes (and removing all the wiggle room), people would flesh out their descriptions like this: "Jane? She's a great person. Loves kids, really sweet. She's a little into the NRA, mind." Subsequently, it would come to light that Jane's actually got a rather serious persecution complex, convinced that Obama's coming to take her guns away. That should explain why she's turned two separate U-STOR-IT sheds into armories, but somehow it just doesn't.

It's come to the point now where I'm drawn to that phrase "he IS a little ______" in conversation. What? Is he just a LITTLE effeminate? Is she just a little "Hulk-like"? Are they a little racist?

And it's always a vice. Or something that the speaker perceives as being a possible negative. Nobody says, "she's a little nice" or "he's just a little compassionate", unless they think compassion is something one steps in and rubs off on the curb.

An English friend of mine once sent me into a conversation with the advisory that she "is a little short". Knowing how this sort of phraseology leads to disguised extremes, I was prepared for a midget. Instead, she was five-foot-six. It turned out she was incredibly brusque. Ah, the joys of our "unified" language.

Famously, my friend also blushed when I mentioned I had left my good pants at home; to a Brit, "pants" is more likely to refer to "underpants", rather than "slacks". Also, a "vest" is a shirt, or something? Crazy English.

Back on topic, I brought this up because at a social function a few weeks ago, there was a new woman there who was unknown to most people. She was also quite physically attractive and seemed to be friendly (as much as one can tell at a party). Being new and different, she'd attracted the attention of several of the single (and not-so-single) guys in the room.

In the corner, one guy was holding court on what she was like. That might have meant that he actually knew her a little, but maybe not. Many points were debated: when a girl wears a tank top with a skull on it, is she dangerous? Does she want to be THOUGHT dangerous? Is she a fan of Ozzy Osbourne? Does she shop at Hot Topic at the mall when they have sales? Is it ironic? Is it post-ironic?

Mr. Authority assured the listeners that it was just an act, and that she was really not "metal" at all. "She's a preacher's daughter," he said in tones reserved for explaining trigonometry to tree stumps. A young guy tried again, "But they're wild, right?" he said, hoping that what he'd heard about the rumored contents of Penhouse letters was true. The expert widened his eyes a little and let his head loll slightly to one side, conceeding the point. "Sure, some of them are."

"But she's.... she's a little religious." Like in a comedy series, everyone nods sagely and mumbles sounds of agreement, and just as the hubbub dies, one guy says (half to himself), "I still think she's hot." Who says life isn't like a sitcom?

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