The New York Times, in a vain attempt to be trendy and oh so fashionably courant, has ramped up its “social” reporting. Both the news and lifestyle sections are replete with stories about the latest trends and styles–not just in clothing, but everything from blogs to language itself.
Enter one Frank Bruni, the paper’s erstwhile food editor, who last Sunday was moonlighting as a lexicographer of the impossibly trendy in A Buzz Saw of Buzzwords. His beat was the “hot” words of 2006. Like much of the “social” reporting I referred to above, such stories attempt to “make” a story out of material that is more a stock in trade of USA Today and its ilk. I love language as much as the next person. But will the world be worse off if we hadn’t heard terms like “hubby-sitting” are the rage in certain circles? And do we need to hear yet again about George Allen’s “macaca” moment? What further illumination can Frank shed for us on that episode? Not much, it appears from reading his piece.
But what really burned me up was the following passage:
And what, on a lighter note, of “sanctimommy”? It went beyond deft wordplay, vaulting into the realm of social commentary. Self-beatified and eagerly censorious mothers were everywhere, shaming anybody who dared question their noble callings or unimpeachable judgments. This witty tag for them took because they were itching for a takedown.
The passage reeks of condescension and smarminess. It smells to high heaven of presumption and arrogance. Will no one rid us of these meddlesome trendmongers?
Maybe like me, you weren’t aware that sanctimommy “vaulted into the realm of social commentary.” In fact, not only wasn’t I aware of this profound development, I wasn’t even aware of the word at all. How very unstylish of me. And ask me if I care. And did you also know that such terrible, no-good, very bad mommies were “everywhere?” Omigosh, whatever are we going to do? What ever happened to the just plain good, old-fashioned mommies of yesteryear? And did you not know that this fictive class of meanie mommies was “just itching for a takedown?” I know I didn’t.
So thanks Frank for clueing us into a major social trend. I feel better for having read your story. I know I’m a better person. Aren’t you?