Thursday, January 05, 2006

Random Transmissions 9: Douglas Coupland ~ Extracts from Generation X's Glossary of Neologisms for an Accelerated Culture

from Generation X : Tales for an Accelerated Culture

Poverty Jet Set:
A group of people given to chronic travelling at the expense of long-term job stability or a permanent residence. Tend to have doomed and extremely expensive phone-call relationships with people named Serge or llyana. Tend to discuss frequently-flyer programs at parties.

Historical Slumming:
The act of visiting locations such as diners, smokestack industrial sites, rural villages - locations where time appears to have been frozen many years back - so as to experience relief when one returns back to "the present."

Decade Blending:
In clothing: the indiscriminate combination of two or more items from various decades to create a personal mood: Sheila = Mary Quant earrings (1960s) + cork wedgie platform shoes (1970s) + black leather jacket (1950s and 1980s).

Clique Maintenance:
The need of one generation to see the generation following it as deficient so as to bolster its own collective ego : "Kids today do nothing. They're so apathetic. We used to go out and protest. All they do is shop and complain."

Legislated Nostalgia:
To force a body of people to have memories they do not actually possess: "How can I be a part of the 1960s generation when I don't even remember any of it?"

Now Denial:
To tell oneself that the only time worth living in is the past, and that the only time that may ever be interesting again is the future.

Status Substitution:
Using an object with intellectual or fashionable cachet to substitute for an object that is merely pricey: "Brian, you left your copy of Camus in your brother's BMW."

Celebrity Schadenfreude:
Lurid thrills derived from talking about celebrity deaths.

Musical Hairsplitting:
The act of classifying music and musicians into pathologically picayune categories: "The Vienna Franks are a god example of urban white acid folk revivalism crossed with ska."

Conspicuous Minimalism:
A life-style tactic similar to Status Substitution. The nonownership of material goods flaunted as a token of moral and intellectual superiority.

Café Minimalism:
To espouse a philosophy of minimalism without actually putting into practice any of it's tenets.

Knee-Jerk Irony:
The tendency to make flippant ironic comments as a reflexive matter of course in everyday conversation.

Derision Preemption:
A life-style tactic; the refusal to go out on any sort of emotional limb so as to avoid mockery from peers. Derision Preemption is the main goal of Knee-Jerk Irony.

Fame-induced Apathy:
The attitude that no activity is worth pursuing unless one can become very famous pursuing it. Fame-Induced Apathy mimics laziness, but its roots are much deeper.

Dumpster Clocking:
The tendency when looking at objects to guesstimate the amount of time they will take to eventually decompose: "Ski boots are the worst. Solid plastic. They'll be around till the sun goes supernova."

More here


Jack P Toerson said...

I think the above could be easily dismissed as pretension, if it weren't so funny. The irony is that the only people who will recognise the descriptions are the people themselves and their friends.

Everybody else regards them as a new petit-bourgeois attempting to derive significance in their relative comfort. They don't get existential angst; they get knee jerk irony.

It's a sad truth but anyone who feels they are having a mirror held up to them by Coupland is a cunt, and Coupland seems so good at defining them. Whether the same is applicable to him is open to question, but I wouldn't mind punching him just for bringing a whole generation into disrepute.

eugene ionesco said...

I've had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Coupland. He's a really nice guy. He's a satirist with a gift for encapsulating the essence of the zeitgeist. His modus operandi, like all satirists, is reductio ad absurdum, but he's very good at it and, as you acknowledge, extremely funny.

Jack P Toerson said...

I will have read it again. Last time I wasn't in on the joke. It would be better if his output was thought of your way rather than an Alf Garnett or Ali G, something fictional that has become admirable by the people it was satirising. I've written a bit about this on my blog, and in light of you comment will follow it up later tonight/early tomorrow. It really doesn't change my view of it as a book many people have used to confirm and therefore accept their lifestyle, just the intentions of the author.

eugene ionesco said...

Yeah, I'm sure there are those amongst the constituency he lampoons who take drearily literal-minded "inspiration" from Generation X. It's remarkable how many of Coupland's neologisms have passed into popular currency. Needless to say, the mainstream media, the corporate world, advertising executives who seek to "cultivate" the youth demographic et alia have corrupted, repackaged and commodified Coupland's satirical message and sold it back to "the kids" at a profit.

I'm also pretty sure Brett Easton Ellis' American Psycho has an admiring audience amongst narcissistic yuppies, steroid-popping gym junkies, designer label-obsessed fashionistas, Huey Lewis fans and aspiring psycopaths.

On a similar subject, John Fowles' novel The Collector is, apparently, practically ubiquitous within the collections of literate serial killers. Literature is clearly wasted on the literal-minded.

Katie said...

lol.. labels being valued for what they are..
Truly an interesting and amusing blog!

Jack P Toerson said...

It's just occurred to me that any significant literature has the same number of interpretations as holy books. The more it is revered the higher the chances of it being misinterpreted. I choose the phrase 'holy book' on purpose, because holy books don't have to be popular to be misinterpreted, just holy, in some way reverential. Which would account for some of the wacky interpretations of cult books, as well wacky interpretation of great authors. You become holy and things get wacky. Analysis of latter day holy books becomes a kind of theology.