Thursday, February 26, 2009

Are You Über?

Have you noticed that just about everything has become “über this” or “über that?” All you have to do is watch any segment on your favorite morning show, and surely the “so called” experts will use “über” in their descriptions of any object, trend, or fashion.

So what in the heck does it mean and how did it arrive at such a ubiquitous place in the America lexicon?

Let’s get the formalities over with first. It’s über, not uber. They are not the same thing. If you want to write it in English without the two dots, you would write “ueber.” It is from the German language and refers to something super or supreme. The literal meaning in German is “above.”

Many of us, including me, were introduced to the word when it was used as a synonym for “super” on a Saturday Night Live sketch in 1979, called What If?. They pondered the notion what if the comic book hero Superman had landed in Nazi Germany when he first came from the planet Krypton. Would he have taken on the name Überman?

Shortly after this, in the early 1980s, the California punk band, the Dead Kennedy’s, used the term in the anti-California government song “California Uber Alles,” which was a take off of the German motto of “Deustchland Uber Alles,” which means “Germany above all.” The term was then picked up by the natives of California (surfer dudes and punks), and then was adopted by the teenagers, which led to the eventual use by the majority.

It went from—“That band is uber hip”, to-- “that is an uber blog!”

I wonder if many people realize that one of their favorite terms has Nazi roots. The term “über” crossed over into English from the work of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, when in 1883 he coined the term “übermensch” to describe the higher state to which he felt man might aspire to. And then during Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, he bastardized Nietzsche’s term, using it as part of his description of an Aryan master race. Most importantly, it is this association we have with the image of the Superman hero that the term has taken on much of its English sense implying irresistibility or invincibility.

So the Nazi German anthem, re-used by punk bands, helped the term become popular in America.

When words like this come into such widespread use, I can only wonder if those speaking them have any clue as to what the hell they’re saying.

Now here’s another one for you to contemplate: fashionista.

Got any other suggestions for words to eliminate from our lexicon?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Tale of Two Cities

Once again, I am faced with the prospect of the “Tale of Two Cities.” One is for the filthy rich and the other for the rest of us. They seem to be fortressing themselves in their gated communities as the masses gather their pitch forks and torches at the walls.

As the rest of us (as tax payers) have doled out nearly a trillion dollars in emergency bailout funds, Wall Street big wigs have awarded themselves with a reported $18.4 billion in year-end bonuses.

Are they just thumbing their noses at us?

Did you know that the average CEO makes 344 times as much as the average worker?

The now former CEO of Merrill Lynch, John Thain, spent $1.2 million on redecorating his office when his company was going down the toilet. Then he had the gall to ask for $10 million for his year-end bonus.

At the same time, here in my state of Ohio, the governor has announced his new budget. In it, the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities is taking a crippling hit. They will have to cut operating spending at about 87 percent of the last budget.

Why do the people who need our help the most always become the first to suffer in times like these? The ones who depend on us the most (those in need of home services, children at risk of developmental disabilities, and early intervention services) are left out to dry, while the rich keep getting richer.

Sharpen those pitch forks. I’m just getting started.

When I married my lovely wife, I inherited a step son who is disabled and has to live in a nursing home. He is incapable of even living in a group home. We are not rich and have to depend on many of these services. The rich, with children in these circumstances, always have the option of private institutions. We don’t. Our son who has been helped by the wonderful people working at the MRDD facilities in the county where he resides are facing cuts in staffing. They are also faced with reducing the number of clients that they can help.

Let us not forget the possibility of closings of many services to this dependent population. It would remove the critical safety net for families who have run out of options in their homes and communities.

The money involved here, which pales in comparison to that we have handed over to the centa-millionares, is microscopic. The damage that will be done to children is infinitely disproportionate to the amount of money involved.

Get forward to seeing our juvenile-detention facilities becoming overloaded with mentally ill offenders who will not have access to doctors and medications.
This has been a very short rant, but my blood pressure is about give me a brain hemorrhage. I better stop now, before I need one of the many services that poor people like us depend on.