The dive toward the bottom of the culture barrel struck me the other day when I clicked on the highlighted teaser at the bottom of an email from a dear friend in the UK. Courtesy of her Hotmail account, I was being invited to "Pimp My Live" by, of all people, Bill Gates. Well, not exactly Bill. I'm sure he and Melinda were in the middle of some goodwill tour. Or maybe Bill was looking at his closetful of geeky clothes, and thinking, "Pimp this, baby!!" But some genius at MSN-UK got together all the best marketing talent in that organization, and decided that, since the culture had changed the low and nasty business of sexual procuring into the hip and happening, they should muscle in on the action. To wit:
" 'Pimp My Live' is all about giving Windows Live the personal touch and putting your own stamp on things. We'll show you... customizable features...Plus you can download the latest products and add-ons-- with the chance of winning some fantastic prizes." Followed by:
"Time to Get Pimping!!"
Oh. I thought, with all the cute little "emoticons" that resemble Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch, that MSN wanted me to join the ranks of those charming and sympathetic fellows who make their living from the illicit sex trade. My mistake.
The kicker is that the same company that entreats us to distill the hideousness of that word "pimp" into something fresh! something fun! fantastic prizes!! was at a complete loss when I asked the word processor's thesaurus to give me synonyms for "alchemy".
As Alanis would have said-- Isn't it ironic. The mutation of the language only seems to go one way. What does that mean for children unfamiliar with the word "pimp", or for that matter, the uninformed? The seediness of "the life", the violent and nasty business of selling prostitutes, the sheer horror that the word should conjure up-- is neutralized. MTV's "Pimp My Ride" turned "pimping" into jazzing up one's car. The glorification of easy money goes back to the beginning of time. But here the sting of the word-- the very idea of it as beyond civilized society-- is being demolished.
I deeply resent this. Words are power. They not only result from, they shape our thinking. Orwell illustrated this brilliantly when, in the novel "1984", he made the destruction of the varied and robust English language the centerpiece of an encroaching totalitarian regime. In that bleak future state, not only were you robbed of the freedom to express your thoughts-- the thoughts themselves were rendered incapable of being born. There were no words to deliver them.
"Pimp My Live" takes the words right out of my mouth.