Saturday, December 30, 2006

A wag redeemed...

So, popular culture has added yet another dumb acronym to our language in the last year. As if some of the great advancements of 'text speak' (lol - laugh out loud; gtg - got to go; l8r, etc) and spuriously acronymised pressure groups (FOREST - Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco) weren't enough, we now have the term WAG, a group noun for the Wives and Girlfriends of famous sportsmen, in particular those of the English football team.

Now, not only has this term been purloined, shunting the more archaic (and interesting) meaning aside, it's fucking stupid as well. Fine, a group of women being referred to, somewhat demeaningly, as objects only identifiable through their association with their male partners, could be called the wives and girlfriends - the WAGs. But when the term is applied to a singular member of this group, then they must surely become a wife or girlfriend. WOG is certainly not as palatable, but it's a darn sight more accurate; not that this has prevented WAG's propogation throughout the national media as a handle for both the collective and the singular.

Obviously, the usage has been so widespread since the World Cup, carping on about it as we turn toward the New Year seems a bit futile; but what really irked me in the run up to Christmas was an article about the whole bone-brained saga in the 22nd's Guardian. A phenomenon so blindingly oafish being dissected in my sports pages of choice? Now that I do not like.

The blessed wordsmith who first minted this new currency of idiocy, Andrea Thompson (of fabled tome, Grazia, no less), garbled on for nearly a thousand words about the WAGs's triumphs over the summer, albeit in an ironic sense. The cursed voyeurism which afflicts the national media is pretty much entirely summed up in the following excerpt:

"Everything the Wags did, ate and bought was dissected in pubs and offices across the country. Our fascination lay in watching a group of ordinary working-class girls plucked from obscurity playing out (and making a mess of) their new roles as ladies of leisure on the world stage. With nothing to do all day for three weeks but drink themselves stupid, spend their partners' money and gloat over their new-found celebrity status, they made addictive viewing."

If humanity has not quite descended all the way into the slurry pit yet, then, by my reckoning, the only people for whom this form of bird watching can have made "addictive viewing" are the ones whose brain cells are only kept going by the regular doses of radiation from their mobile phones. Watching stupid, rich people doing stupid things, a subject for national dissection? I bloody hope not.

But perhaps the worst part of it all, the part which really cuts to the core, is the injudicious appropriation of the term itself. The 'wag', helpfully defined at Bartleby, is one of the most delightful and evocative characters that one could have the fortune to come across. A wit and a humourist, perhaps even a raconteur, the wag recalls a 'boy's own' world of mischief, of Tom Brown's Schooldays, and Wildean aphorisms. It is so far above a cheap pop reference.

And so I'm launching a campaign to reclaim the word for its original purpose. Nevermore shall our language be sullied by this distasteful (and faulty) acronym. References to WAGs shall be systematically expunged from the record books wherever possible, and a society that applauds and commemorates waggish behaviour will prevail. Quips and cutting ripostes will abound, while the doltish and fatuous pursuit of non-entities shall become verboten. Gawping will be outlawed. This may be utopian - but what fanciful and comedic project ever wasn't?

Postscript. This guerilla movement may also coincide in some way with my attempts to have Arsenal's new stadium recognised solely as Ashburton Grove - more updates soon.


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