A few of weeks ago some poor sod from the UK and his traveling companion were stopped by security at LAX, held for about 12 hours, then deported back to England. His offense? Several days earlier he’d posted this to his twitter account:
Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?
Big Brother issues aside (…are we really paying Department of Homeland Security staff to monitor inane twitter feeds?), this kind of thing really makes you wonder: are there people in the world who are so completely ignorant of slang – and so completely humorless – that they would view a tweet like this as legitimately threatening?
Destroyed in this sense, of course, wasn’t meant to mean literal destruction. Simply reading that initial tweet, even out of context, should give most people a sense that it’s pure silliness. And if the goon who flagged it as dangerous had bothered to read forward or backward for a few tweets in the same stream (as I did researching this post), it’s easy to see that there’s very little chance we’re dealing with a terrorist here. In fact, one might start to wonder if we’re dealing with a coherent human being at all: like much of twitter (or much of the Internet, or much of human endeavor overall, for that matter), most of the text in the feed is garden variety nonsense.
What was destroyed actually meant to indicate? According to Leigh Van Bryan (the dearly deported), destroy is slang for ‘party.’ While that’s not exactly a strict grammatical substitution (try ‘to party in‘ or ‘party across‘ and it will fit more smoothly), the intent is easy to recognize.
Let’s go one easy step further. Aren’t destroyed and party euphemisms for the same thing? To get wasted, blitzed, smashed, heeled over, loaded – to get drunk?
Some people might not want to acknowledge it, but getting totally destroyed is exactly what many 20-somethings want to do when they go on vacation. (I’m more for seeing the sights, sampling the cuisine, and starting off the next day sober; but to each his own.) And they’re fortunate to have so many different terms for it. Not simply destroyed, or any of the terms above, but blotto, loaded, high, devastated, ruined, paralyzed, quenched, lit, rotten, stewed, snackered, shitfaced, spanked…the list isn’t infinite, but it’s incredibly long and varied.
Poets sometimes say that all poetry concerns only one of two subjects: sex and death (…some even say you can compress this down to ‘death’). If you ever spend time looking into euphemisms, you’ll notice very quickly that two of the largest categories are the same: sex and death. Certain other bodily functions are up there, too. But I’m guessing, based on my unscientific look into this, that terms for getting drunk make up one of the broadest categories of English language euphemisms. People get very, very creative when it comes to finding new ways to describe recreational alcohol abuse. Sadly…none of those people seem to work in the LA office of DHS; literalists have filled those positions.
If you’re curious about other terms that have been used as a substitute for “drunk,” you might take a look at The Drunktionary. The author has found hundreds of different expressions, possibly thousands. It’s encouraging to see just how creative people can be with the language when they put their minds to it.
[Notes: I had to heavily revise this post several times to keep it from becoming a rant about my personal experiences with, and opinions of, airport security. Some of that material was entertaining, but it doesn’t belong on this blog. I hope this entry, as posted, is sufficiently neutral.
For a fairly comprehensive article about the “destroy America” tweet incident, go here.
I haven’t covered the even more irrational behavior of DHS over another tweet, a “digging up Marilyn Monroe” joke (they actually searched their bags for shovels). Or the guilt-by-association wording of the deportation order for Bryan’s traveling companion. That just doesn’t fit here, which is probably for the best.]