Saturday, June 12, 2004

sound the bells and hang the flags at half-staff...

a catch-phrase is dead.

The bling is dead. Long live the bling.

Today, at 2:20pm PT, the phrase "bling-bling", AKA "blingbling", AKA "BlingBling", died a horrible and miserable death as used, somewhat properly, by one of the stars of USA Network's Before & After'noon Movies. This marked the last time anyone will ever look good or not sound like an idiot using the phrase "bling-bling."

I first heard the phrase "bling-bling" around 2000. I had no idea what it meant, and let the phrase slide, assuming it would go as soon as it had come (as phrases do more when you're in college and around college). I had previously misinterpreted "'da bomb" as meaning something was bad, as in, it was a bomb. I was, clearly, very wrong. And I had already paid dearly for misinterpreting that one while working at a record store.

Finally the use of "bling-bling" used a critical mass in usage on television, in casual conversation, and finally I heard one of our student workers use it, and I had to ask.

"You don't know?"
"Why the &*#$ would I know what it means?"
"Don't you watch MTV?"
"I'm not twelve," I explained.
"Oh. Well," the student worker spoke very slowly, to explain to me, who was so unfortunate and so obviously un-hip. "It means, like, lots of flashy jewelry and stuff."
"Like... lots of gold."
"How the hell did anyone get 'bling-bling' out of that?"
"'Cause it's the sound that too much gold makes when it slaps together."
"That," I concluded, "Is the dumbest thing I ever heard."
"You're so not cool."
"Tell me about it."

But the phrase stuck around. Like a stray cat you thoughtlessly fed tuna the one time, it just hung around at the door.

As a non-extreme, non-hip, non-hiphop, nor Gen Y sort of person, I did my best suburbanite Gen Xer routine, and only used the phrase when I was being silly and poking fun at the phrase. But to no avail. Bling-bling was now part of the lexicon, and I was powerless against the forces of the hip. Talk show hosts used it. Guests on talk shows talked about their bling-bling (or blaeng-blaeng, as it is so often pronounced). I half-expected Diane Sawyer to toss out something about her bling-bling. I imagine Oprah was using the phrase, but, hell... all of a sudden, everyone was talking about their bling-bling.

It's a Gen Y thing, I think. Or a shift in the pop culture psyche. I've never been sure which. Pop stars in the 60's and 70's might show off a neat car, or wear a nice dress, but it wasn't something you talked about. And folks emulated maybe a little, but it wasn't something you ever thought about as adopting as your own lifestyle. But the publicists downplayed that aspect. In the 80's everyone was so high on cocaine, they allowed Robin Leach into their homes, and made America wonder what they had to do to get a gold-toilet seat, too. But for the most part, everyone was too drunk and high to even notice they owned much of anything.

But the J-Lo's, and Mariah Carey's and 50-Cent's and P-Diddy's TALKED about it. They TALKED about the stuff they bought, and what they owned, and it was a hell of a thing. They had the bling-bling, and who the hell were you if you didn't have some, too?

The new notion was this:

All of America is already famous. All of America is on the verge of being a star tomorrow. We can all sing well enough, dance well enough, and we all look good in those pants we got at the Abercrombie & Fitch. All of America is going to wake up tomorrow, and the TV cameras will be upon them, and, by GOD... we will be ready. We'll have on our bling-bling like our royal jewels and say "Jesus... what took you so long to figure it out?"

And so I was reading an article not too long ago, and they were using "bling-bling", but, as hip writers will do, they had co-opted and transmorgified the meaning. The writer had used "The bling" as something along the lines of the perfectly usable word "cachet". Something like "Senator Boring has the credentials and the bling-bling to be noticed." Hell, I don't remember exactly what was said, but I knew it wasn't good...

"They're using it out of the original context..." I pondered. But, you know... it was going to happen, and that's the way hip, young writers work and our language works.

But today...

Today I was watching USA's Before & After'noon Movie (which happened to be Burton's version of Batman), and at the commercial breaks, some genius decided we'd like to see some privileged high school girl get ready for prom. It was Before & After'noon, so we get a movie before noon and a movie after noon, and over 6 hours we get to see an already perfectly pretty girl get her hair done, so it's like before and after(get it????). And here's the good part: the girl is on the show because, tee hee, her first two trips to prom were SUCH A DISASTER, but this time, Mom wanted to make sure this evening would be the kind of night dreams and memories were made of...

Okay, NOTE TO PROM GIRL'S MOM: If your daughter's gone to prom with three different guys over three different years, she may already have that memory you're praying to God she doesn't already have.

So, anyway, the totally scary middle-aged lady who has made her life getting teen-age girls ready for cotillions and stuff has our Barbie dressed up and staring at the camera like Bambi in headlights, and declares she now needs her "bling-bling" (ie: her expensive looking rented jewelry provided by USA).

She. Needs. Her. "Bling-bling."


Yes, a phrase which began in the heart of the hip-hop community is now being bantied about by a 50ish lady owning nothing but Josh Groban and Anne Murray records. Bling-bling, from the mouth of this goober, in a suburban backyard, on a Saturday afternoon movie show. Bling-bling, which this jewelry really didn't qualify as anyway... bling-bling, which, may appear at some proms, but was most certainly NOT going to fit into this poor, deluded mother's vision of what was going to be a Disney-esque evening with magical chariots and coachmen (but was probably going to end with some puking and a lot of tears).


And as it slipped from the weird make-up/ ward-robe ladies' lips, there was a sound like glass breaking as a small part of America died.

Bling-bling, they're still going to invoke you. You're still a popular phrase. Maybe too popular? For the most part, they may even use you with the original meaning, but you will never be the same. They're going to drag you kicking and screaming into routine usage. You're going to be watered down like the original usage of "rock n' roll", or "juke." You were kind of silly to begin with, and maybe you were too cute for your own good. Maybe that was the source of your ultimate demise.

I'm not sure I can even miss you, bling-bling. How can I miss you if you won't go away?

I invite all Leaguers to share their memories of the bling...

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