The Font of Teriyaki… You Tell Me, How Does it Make You Feel?

littleplasticcastle.jpgI am listening to the song “Fuel” from Ani DiFranco’s 1998 album Little Plastic Castle. There is a lyric in it I have always liked:

People used to make records as in a record of an event
The event of people playing music in a room
Now everything is cross-marketing
It’s about sunglasses and shoes
Or guns and drugs, you choose
We got it rehashed, we got it halfassed
We’re digging up all the graves and spitting on the past
And we can choose between the colors of the lipstick on the whores
Because we know the difference between the font of 20% More
And the font of…. Teriyaki! You tell me, how does it make you feel?

The first 6 lines of of that excerpt strike me as the usual Ani-style mourning for the old days of music, when John Lennon Gave Peace a Chance and Nixon tried to deport him, the days when Guthrie put THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS on his guitar because he actually believed that it did, or could….  or, maybe closer to my own retro dreams, the days when Gerard Malanga got his ass beat during “Venus in Furs” because he was wasted, pumped, and audacious and when Iggy jumped offstage and smeared peanut butter on himself because… well, who knows why Iggy did what he did in those days, and does it matter? It was art, man, it was music, it was happening, and it was as unpredictable.

Takin’ some liberties here, I read it as a pretty standard-issue kvetch for alternate-tuning folkpunx like Ms. DiFranco. In which case I’m right there with my fellow disgruntled thirty-something in the “WTF do these kids think they’re doing?!?!?!?” school of old-fogeydom.

But those last 2 lines show a rare insight into something I think most people don’t get…. I laughed till I cried the first time I heard “Fuel” because during my many years in advertising and marketing I swear I have had that very conversation and thought to myself… “The font of Teriyaki? Did she just ask me how it makes me feel? For Christ’s sake, it’s an ad for an antihistamine.” My internal “bar-oo?” was a constant companion in those days. (Not now, though.)

Ani’s lyric evokes a kind of pidgin that advertising and marketing people speak when discussing things with clients and/or superiors, and it bears a resemblance to the English language in much the same way that Newspeak does, and is ultimately no less dangerous… if vastly more comical.

While Orwell’s Newspeak is described as the only language with a vocabulary that gets smaller each year… the marketing lexicon just keeps getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and makes ever less sense. Especially to the people who speak it.

Image top via righteousbabe.com. Image below from the US Library of Congress via Wikipedia.

Post-script: Woody Guthrie is God. Ani is still a badass.

woodyguthrie.jpg

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