IN YOUR face" is on all lips. It fulfills the present American urge to talk like a lout. This singularly nasty way of expressing muscular, bust-skull contempt for one's fellow man and companionate woman is now so popular that it is even being used in an advertising campaign by ESPN.
And yet you tell me not to despair for civilization. Not despair? We live in a world where men, women and their small, ill-educated issue can say "in your face" without feeling vile, and I should not despair for civilization?
Surely thou kiddest, though possibly for the kindest of reasons. Perhaps you think it best not to tell me that the barbarians are at the gate, the swine.
There! See the corrupting effect the vogue for muscular, bust-skull, macho rodomontade may have even upon a civilized man: In the old days I never called the barbarians "swine," even when they milled around the gates.
Until this very moment I have always spoken well of barbarians. And why not? I used to be a barbarian myself. At my most barbarianic, however, I would never have uttered a phrase as disgusting as "in your face." What is the world coming to etcetera, etc., etc.?
I can't tell you what the world is coming to, but I can tell you how the world is coming to it, whatever it is: seamlessly, that's how, at least if the world is coming to it in the New York Times. And if the world isn't coming to it in the Times, it wouldn't bother coming to it at all, would it?
The world coming to etcetera without recording it in the paper of record? Not a chance.
Note that I resist the opportunity to say, "No way, Jose," not because it leaves a nasty bust-skull taste on the tongue, but because in the ideal state to be established when I am king, anyone over the age of 11 caught saying, "No way, Jose," will be sentenced to six weeks of summer school in remedial adult conversation.
But back to the severe infestation of seamlessness which cropped up in the New York Times shortly after "in your face" broke out of its cage. Unfortunately, I did not start keeping data on this outbreak until constant recurrence of seamlessness sounded an alarm in my face -- I mean, in my skull.
Since then the days of the Times have flowed seamlessly by in a seamless series of seamlesslyness. In a theater review, for instance, the Times refers to a character "whose monstrousness should flow seamlessly." In another: "Mr. Wilson's history bleeds so seamlessly into the present. . . ."
This from a book review: "Seamlessly, the author works in several poems. . . ." And from a full-page ad announcing the 90th birthday of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson: "His entire existence is a seamless act of concern and devotion to mankind. . . ."
Why is the Times so preoccupied with trifling matters like seams when the gates are beset by a barbarian species capable of saying "in your face"?
I bet you are tempted to say it's because the Times just doesn't get it. Why might you be tempted to say that? Because practically everybody these days is having a wonderful time saying "just doesn't get it," or alternately "just don't get it."
Addressed to the second person singular, as in "You just don't get it," just not getting it has become virtually overnight the nation's favorite argument clincher. Feminists use it not just to settle anti-feminist hash, but to shut down possibility of rebuttal. For example:
Anti-feminist hash slinger: "I don't see why you want bosses hauled in by the FBI for flirting with the help."
Feminist hash-settler: "You just don't get it." Sometimes: "You still don't get it." Often fortified with a terminal "do you?" as in, "You just don't get it, do you?"
The closing "do you?" extends the basic meaning of "just don't get it" from "You don't see it my way," with the suggestion that, furthermore, you are too dim ever to "see it my way," hence not worth further educative effort by the reprimander.
This is the civilized way to rebuke dissidents. If only the "in your face" crowd would use it, the swine.
Russell Baker is a New York Times columnist.