Welcome to the Brutality Report

I do have one beef with modern American English. It's this word "brutal." Few words in our great language have suffered as much misuse as this one lowly adjective. And surely no English word has ever faced such misuse as both understatement and...

|
Jun 4 2011, 12:00am

Hey gang. Sam McP here. New column time. Columns are fun! My new column is about a single word. Accordingly, I need to preface this venture with a disclaimer. I am NOT one of those sad schlongs who corrects other people's grammar when they're talking. I think people who spell check other people's tweets are worse than Pol Pot. You can say "nuclear" any way you want around me. As far as I'm concerned, the English language is one big ceramic skull bong, passed endlessly from person to person in the great stoner tree fort that is life. Who am I to bogart it?

That said, I do have one beef with modern American English. It's this word "brutal." Few words in our great language have suffered as much misuse as this one lowly adjective. And surely no English word has ever faced such misuse as both understatement and overstatement. For example, no band on Earth is truly brutal. And only a handful of all the songs ever recorded can legitimately lay claim to brutality (and not a one of them was intentional). Conversely, many events labeled "brutal" in the media are actually much, much worse than this word implies.

Here's a quick primer:

1) In Sierra Leone, a group of child soldiers attack a church and hack all the congregants' arms off. FAR BEYOND BRUTAL

2) A 22-year old bass guitarist in Plano, TX reads about the attack. Confusing issues of religious intolerance and political violence, he writes a two-minute thrash song called "Christfuck Machetedeath," which his band, Hate Boner, then records as the ninth track on their new album. NOT BRUTAL

3) A college radio DJ in Rensselaer, NY plays the track on her 9-11PM underground death metal show, "Nightmares Of Brutality." WHICH IS NOT IN ANY WAY BRUTAL

4) In nearby Clifton Park, a Lutheran minister is driving home from his weekly bowling league match. He turns on his car radio and hears the introduction to, and first eight seconds of, the Hate Boner song. Troubled by the profanity, the minister momentarily distracts himself while fumbling for the radio tuner and accidentally drives headfirst into an animal control van. He wakes up in the hospital to find that he has lost both his arms. FAR, FAR TOO MUCH BRUTAL. WHAT, DO YOU THINK THIS GUY IS GOING TO WAKE UP AND BE LIKE OH, SHIT, 'THIS IS BRUTAL DUDE!' NOPE. HE'S SCREWED.

5) Because she played a song using profanity before 10 PM, the college DJ loses her radio show. She sinks into a deep depression and gets incompletes for all her classes except ceramics. Confused, she takes off the next semester, then the next, then the following year. Eventually she meets a really awesome and sweet guy named Trevor who rescues dogs for a living, and they move in together. But Trevor turns out to be more of a sad schlong than an awesome and sweet guy, and soon enough she finds herself living alone in a two room apartment with six crusty beagles and $950 in unpaid Verizon bills. WARMER, BUT STILL TRIPS THE BRUTALITY METER.

6) One day the manager of a bagel shop notices the former college radio DJ sobbing in the corner of his restaurant. He spends the rest of the day sad and confused. BINGO. BRUTAL.

The key is survivability. If something wallops you into a temporary rage / depression / emotional meltdown, but then later that very day you are laughing at a King Of Queens rerun, you have indeed encountered one of life's many morsels of brutality. You're human!

http://twitter.com/sammcpheeters

Due to a transatlantic communication whoopsie between the author and editors, the column this introduction is introducing went up earlier today. Give it a reread right here with all of the above information in mind.

Stories