EDITORIAL: Use words that mean something

Peter Gillette

Our use of slang is becoming quite sketchy.What did I just say about our use of slang? Nothing, actually. Using “sketchy” freed me from the bounds of precision. Students, myself included, should attempt to substitute more precise synonyms for that word into our speech.

I must confess to a large degree that I think I’ve used that word dozens of times during this term alone. From now on, though, if you hear me use that word, I officially owe you a quarter. (Usages in this article don’t count, for all you smart-alecks out there.) It’s so hard not to use “sketchy,” though; rhetorically, it is the easy way out.

The fact that “sketchy” ascended to the forefront of student slackerdom should surprise none: the word is itself a non-descript adjective that’s purpose is to avoid describing a particular thing. As tomorrow’s leaders, we should be sharpening our opinions and finding the clearest-or, to leave room for artistry, an original-means of communication. “Sketchy” is a copout.

My argument is ironic without specifics, I confess, so I will try to sharpen my opinion and find the clearest way to express it. In ensembles, other members or I will often say that intonation or rhythmic accuracy is “sketchy.” What a copout!

We are the generation that self-esteem gurus raised and, more importantly, educated. Saying, “You are flat,” or, “You are sharp,” singles students out. Loss of agency and the language of politeness with its accompanying passivity were given to us by our touchy-feely grade school teachers.

To loss of agency, we are now adding a complete indifference toward basic description. “Something sounds wrong,” is a sentence that represents the quietly destructive jargon of apathy under which “sketchy” falls.

The professors use sketchy just as much, but I suspect they are just trying to be “cool,” in the same way that Freshman Studies professors tend to use more dirty words when prospies visit. But professors contribute to the jargon of apathy through the “funny-the-first-few-times-I-heard-it” attempt at humor, “That’s the Lawrence Difference.”

With all the alleged wit on the faculty, who knew LU would have to hire George Carlin as a Scarff professor before we’d hear some new punch lines?

But the faculty has lived with its musty jargon for years; we, the students, are still flexible enough to control our manners of speech somewhat.

Follow my lead. Take the quarter pledge.

You may think that I am very pretentious and hypocritical, and you are probably right. But if we are to raise our standards, or even care to (and that is the real question) hypocrisy is a necessary evil of the process. As for pretension, only pretentious people label others as being pretentious.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find a change machine.