Hey, Don't Be Such A Prissybutt
Odd, straining, and semi-incoherent op-ed by author Karen Stabiner in the LA Times about how horrible it is that people greet people with "Hey":
"Hey" can sound dismissive; in the long ago, it's what people yelled to get the attention of someone they didn't know or care to know, as in, "Hey, you." I remember an adult, possibly my fourth-grade teacher, muttering, "Straw is cheaper and grass is for nothing" when a child said, "Hey." It was a sloppy place holder. Along with its descendants -- "like" and "y'know," or the dread combo, "like y'know" -- it indicated a lazy mind.
That's a lot of freight for a little word to have to carry, and I don't mean to give it too hard a time. I'd just like to suggest that we hesitate before we turn our backs on the salutational past and rush blindly off the linguistic cliff, like so many texting lemmings.
To its credit, "hey" aspires to be democracy in action, the same short syllable for everyone regardless of status or class, which has a certain egalitarian appeal; it makes sense if, like me, you're a devout believer in earned, not presumed, respect. A partisan could even argue that we should all start at "hey" and then win the right to be called "sir" or "madam," "dean" or "doctor."
Still, I worry about deeper meaning. There's a prevalent disdain for all authority these days, which seems healthy when we're talking about Congress' behavior but not so smart when the topic is prohibiting the use of cellphones while driving. We need to be able to distinguish, to maintain standards with case-specific vocabulary, and "hey" inadvertently wipes out judgment -- what feels like fair is really just vague.
Is this the most ridiculous thing you've read in recent memory?
I like people who are warm and friendly, and whatever they say to greet me, if it's warm and friendly, that's fine by me.