One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is how in contemporary life, the idea of a generation gap has been abandoned and replaced with a sort of generational turf war, with everyone staking out their importance to the culture, from the boomers clutching to relevance with their ossifying fingers [seriously, Zoomer Magazine? That’s just sad. Almost as sad as the word ‘Zoomer’], to the millennials storming the cultural castle, doe eyed and sparkly smiled with Blackberrys strapped to their faces and laptops displaying non-profit social media strategies.
And then there’s us. The X’ers, fulfilling our pitiful prophecy and squandering our moment, intergenerational seat warmers for the next batch of 20-somethings to ride the waves of the Internet onto the stage of global change.
For the most part, I accept this. I understand the things I do and try to create would probably have more sexy pertinence if they came out of the mouth of a 22-year-old, but I’ve kind of always been this way, I think my disposition was just waiting for my body to catch up. But what I have a hard time accepting lately is the bad rap my generation gets us lazy slackers, while the group coming up behind us gets painted as sunshiney, optimistic futurists when they’re the ones who fly the flag of apathy more succinctly than we ever did, with the adoption of one horrible, awful neologism:
Now, look: I’ve been a conductor on the Meh-Train before, just like everyone else, believing its phonetic economy conveyed a certain disaffected cool. But I was wrong, and it took writer/comedian/PC John Hodgman to reveal these facts.
Hodgman took to his Twitter in 2009 and succinctly dissected everything that is wrong with ‘Meh’:
Did I ever tell you people how much I hate the word “meh”? Nothing announces “I have missed the point” more than that word. It is the essence of blinkered Internet malcontentism. And a rejection of joy. Also: 12 hive mehs in the replies SO FAR. By definition, it may mean disinterest (although simple silence would be a more damning and sincere response, in that case). But in use, it almost universally seems to signal: I am just interested enough to make one last joyless, nitpicky swipe and then disappear.
And he’s completely right. ‘Meh’ isn’t cool, it’s just lazy. It’s shorthand for stupid dismissal without trying to engage the thing you think should be dismissed. And the best part is that you can’t even pin this one on us.
Wikipedia [which must be true] tells us that the word’s origins, like many wonderful contributions to culture, can be traced back to two 1994 episodes of The Simpsons, and explicitly spelled out in a 2001 episode. But it took seven more years to reach critical mass, becoming an official dictionary in 2008. So even though the word originates in my generation, it’s prominence is due to its overwhelming use by the one that followed us. Those life-loving, future-forward millennials who pepper their conversations with it because they think whatever’s the target of its employment is beneath their of-the-moment importance. But it’s a lie.
So down with ‘meh’! Snark is unfortunate enough as it is [I say this as a man who fiends for it with crackhead-like desperation] but is you need to, at least step your snark game up. Give the cause of your irritation the full weight of the intelligence you think you have.
And before you do, leaving ‘meh’ in the comments would be a textbook example of a missed opportunity.