I usually try to keep these columns lighthearted and funny, but I wrote this one the day after the Louisiana theater shooting.

I’ve been working in the media industry since 1999. I did spot news for ten years, and have been in advertising for the last six. For two years I was a blogger who got between 2000 and 5000 uniques per day (which is a lot when you don’t promote yourself in any way) on my site. I guess what I’m trying to say is: I know what I’m talking about when it comes to the media.

And I think it’s because of the media that I need to write this article.

See, we* as a society have started to say the same things over and over again, so much so that they’ve lost any meaning. From apologies to “not all men”, the narrative has begun repeating itself to the point that the people who really need to hear it are more unwilling to listen than ever.

So let’s stop wasting our time. Let’s just follow the example of the sarcmark and make up words and symbols to save time. Here are six of the worst ones that we (unfortunately) need.


6. Apologizo (ap uh loh JEE zoh) — We’ve gotten to a point in this country (and, indeed, the entire world) where someone, somewhere, is going to be upset or offended by what you do. Even if you’re an Abnegation who gives all your money to the needy and helps everyone without prejudice or fear, someone is still going to be pissed off** and you’re going to have to apologize. But you’re not going to mean it. No one means apologies anymore. Over the past ten years, we’ve had to make our apologies so flowery and wordy that a simple “I’m sorry” no longer cuts it. So just say I’m sorry, tack on an apologizo symbol instead of a period or exclamation point (and say “apologizo” if you’re doing it aloud), and move on. Because, truthfully, no one gives a damn about the strength or sincerity of your apology. They just want to know that you’re sorry.


5. Empathae (EM pa they) — One of the reasons we say “I’m sorry” is because we are legitimately apologizo to hear something going on. Maybe your pet died, or your mom is in the hospital, or you lost your job. But given how weak “I’m sorry” is, it’s not adequate anymore. It’s lost all meaning. So we’ve been empathizing, being more wordy, offering suggestions instead of just listening and being there for our friends and loved ones, and it’s just turned into a huge mess. For the empathae, I’m taking a cue from my friend with Asperger’s who has told me countless times “don’t use social niceties with me because they anger me”. Sidestep all the BS and just say “empathae”, or use the empathae symbol in your texts and e-mails. We’ll know you mean it; you won’t have to search for the “right” words to tell us you’re apologizo and you empathae us.


4. Phant (fant) — Remember how, a few weeks ago, Taylor Swift made the rookie social media mistake of injecting herself into Nicki Minaj’s dialogue? That happens all the time; every celebrity, every sports star, every news and opinion personality… they’ve all done this. So have I. So have you. Don’t lie to me. So, in the spirit of helping all the stupid (usually) white people who can’t keep their mouths shut because they’ve been taught that their opinion on something that doesn’t apply to them is more important than the people it applies to, let’s start using the phant. It comes from “irrelephant” — as in the meme. Anytime a person who doesn’t belong in the narrative inserts him/herself there, anyone who does belong there can simply say phant, or use the phant symbol, and the (usually) white people will know to shut up and step off.


3. Naughtal (NAW tall) — However, just to appease the people who use the phrase “social justice warrior” or “SJW”, I’ve also developed the naughtal (formerly the soleux, but naughtal is easier to spell). This one is specifically for the (usually) white people who say “not all men” or “not all straight men” or “not all CEOs” or “not all fraternity brothers” or “not all athletes” — in other words, the people who ruin it for those of us who really aren’t assholes but are afraid to speak up because then we’ll get lumped into the group of people who get phanted for inserting themselves into narratives where they don’t belong. Rather than causing a stir, if you feel like you need to be a part of the conversation, just throw in a naughtal symbol. You won’t get phanted, you’ll have contributed to the conversation, and said conversation can move on in a positive direction without getting sidetracked with trying to teach you a lesson on not sticking your nose in where it doesn’t belong.


2. Onion (UN yun) — Similar to the sarcmark, the onion*** is a key that lets people know the following:

  • This is really happening.
  • It sounds like satire, but it’s not.
  • In an intelligent society, this wouldn’t have happened.

In other words, rather than filling articles about people like (for example) the Charleston church shooter with quotes about how this is awful (it is) and how more education and tolerance would’ve prevented this in the first place (it would have) and how the system failed and let this stupid kid have a gun (it did), we can just use the onion and instead fill the articles with information about how to fix the problem, instead of just reminding people that a problem exists to a point that it needs to be satirized just to get people’s attention.


1. Verimarque (VAIR uh mark) — This one can be shortened to “marque”, because it’s going to be used a lot. It’s an outgrowth of how Twitter verifies celebrities and other famous people, using a symbol to let their users know this is really the person it says it is. Rather than spending a bunch of time verifying that people are as knowledgeable about a topic as they say they are, they can apply for a verimarque from a currently-nonexistent worldwide vetting agency****. The marque would contain a number — perhaps using the Dewey Decimal System as a jumping-off point — to indicate what the person has a marque in. For example, if you are talking about civil rights and how they seem to have taken a huge step backward in terms of how racist America has become in the past 15 years, your marque might contain a 300 or a 320. You can also apply for multiple marques, and use them in your Twitter bio so people know you know what you’re talking about. Oh, and marques would have to be renewed every five years. That way, if you don’t have a marque, your only recourse to being phanted is to add a naughtal to the conversation and apologizo, which indicates that you empathae what’s going on with this onion.


Bonus Content!

I also kind of want a graded set of symbols for e-mail salutations. I’ve been dinged by bosses in the past for being too formal in my e-mails… but in my opinion, starting a work e-mail with “Hi” or “Hey” is informal and unprofessional.

Or, y’know, we could just go back to writing professionally when we’re in a professional setting, such as, y’know, the workplace.


Got an idea for a future “Six of the Best” column? Tweet it to me @listener42.

* I’m talking about the West in general and the US in specific.

** Probably a Republican.

*** Named for the famous satirical publication which is somehow strangely prescient.

**** Which would create hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide, I might add.