Wednesday, July 06, 2005

And random

Here's the third in a trilogy of loosely-related usage notes. Kinda like Lucas, I'm making the last one first, so that when they are finally posted you can read them in order. BTW I have no idea why Lucas made his movies ass-backwards.

Now you know how I feel about usage notes, but society compels me to do them. So here goes.

About a year and a half ago I noticed people using the word random to mean weird. Usually in phrases like "How random!" or "That's random." They clearly meant weird in context.

HERE IS WHERE YOU MIGHT EXPECT A RANT ABOUT HOW WE ALREADY HAVE A PERFECTLY USEFUL WORD LIKE WEIRD WHAT DO WE NEED TO USE RANDOM FOR! IF THAT"S WHAT YOU"RE LOOKING FOR GO ELSEWHERE.

A quick Google search for the phrase "How random is that" gets about 599 hits. The same search for "How weird is that" racks up about 24,600 hits (although it randomly asks if I mean "How wide is that"). So it looks like a small population of users. Not surprisingly most of the hits for the random-variant are blogs. And most of them are by youngsters.

Here's some samples:


Like for instance I was going to write a post about how I found a shirt at walmart that said: “I’m already #1 , why would I want to improve myself?”
Needless to say I bought the shirt. That and some other cool ones.
But how random is that. “By the way I bought a shirt today”
I guess its who I am becoming. Sorry I had to throw some teenage angst in there.

TEXT 1: "Hi Shell! i'm texting you from France, how random is that? :-)" Yes, it is pretty random.. thanx tris, keep up the good work!
how random is that situation?? never would i ever think that i'd be stuck sitting in a cafe in cairo listening to Whitney Houston repeating over and over in such a depressing way, i really felt for the waiters sitting working there who have to listen to that stuff every frickin day!
What?!? How random is that?!?I immediately commented on the fact that that line was in “Jersey Girl” and it was therefore freaky-weird.


I notice the usage mostly at work. There it isn't teenagers, but women of a range of ages. I haven't heard a man use it at work, but some of the Google hits are from male writers. At first it bothered me. The usage seemed a little jarring. I guess because, my meaning of random just didn't match theirs. Now, I'm getting used to it and, bizarrely, I may actually use it.

2 comments:

boredoom said...

Isn't there a slight distinction between "random" and "weird" when used this way, tho? It seems to me from the examples you give, and my experience, that "random" has the connotation "out of the blue," or "unusual, but not necessarily very interesting." "Weird" feel like it's a stronger expression of "out of the ordinary," "a headscratcher."

liberal elite said...

I talked to some of my teenage neices and they definitely use random. They also were surprised that I didn't think there were using it following the "dictionary definition". I'm sure there is sa subtle distinction between weird and random. I'll have to think on it more.

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