Some of you may not know that I am an enthusiastic, nay, even avid, consumer of a careful selection of reality TV shows. Each week, I watch Project Runway (in all of its variations), Top Chef, and -- never have I been happier to write under a pseudonym -- The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Since you, my gentle readers, are all in fact readers, I'm guessing few of you ever watch reality television in all its bleeped-out, hair-pulling glory, but it has a lot to offer the student of sociology or someone who simply finds stupid people funny. It's also well-nigh incomprehensible to the casual viewer.
To help those of my readers who'd like to occasionally climb down from the lofty heights of criticism and mingle with the media hoi polloi, I've compiled a partial lexicon of the most commonly misused and abused words in reality TV, hoping that you can benefit from my hard-won experience.
actual meaning: lacking in knowledge; unlearned
meaning on TV: holding a different opinion from the person who hurls this epithet; unsympathetic
usage: "She thinks it's wrong that I had sex with her boyfriend and stole her clothes? She's just ignorant."
explanation: This word is a shortcut for "You don't like me for some perfectly rational reason related to my own behavior or character. As I'm incapable of backing up my point of view in a reasonable, logical manner, and am in fact ignorant myself of the rules of debate and grammar, I am going to pretend that you just aren't aware of some salient fact and that I am obviously in the right, thus fallaciously implying that there is only one right-thinking way to approach this matter." For further examples of usage, please see any mainstream media outlet (cf. bigoted).
actual meaning: experiencing human feeling; not being a robot
meaning on TV: upset
usage: "My mom would be so proud of me for finishing second to last in the competition, because she spent her whole life dreaming of a better life for me while she crawled uphill both ways to her job in the cyanide factory in Cuba. I'm so emotional right now."
explanation: We can only assume that these people experience only one emotion. Subtext: the person experiencing emotion is clearly more sensitive than other people, and therefore superior.
actual meaning: reflexive first-person pronoun
meaning on TV: any first-person pronoun
usage: "We went to the strip club to audition, but that ignorant [bleep] didn't hire Bambi or myself. I'm so emotional right now."
explanation: As myself has two syllables, and thus contains one more than the majority of words known by the typical reality-TV speaker, it functions as the linguistic equivalent of drinking Alizé because it has a French-sounding name. The insertion of myself into a sentence nicely distinguishes the user from the low-class types who prefer to use the common I, or even worse, the utterly pedestrian me. This tactic works just about as well as every other self-announcement of high social status does (cf. bling).
actual meaning: the only, sole example
meaning on TV: high-class; expensive
usage: "I'm a very unique person, and that's why I drink Alizé. Anyone who thinks that makes myself a whore is just ignorant."
explanation: Ignorance. In general, the word unique will be prefaced with a varying number of verys. If something is high-class enough to be unique, then that quality will be communicated far more clearly by calling it very, very unique.
actual meaning: a vivid or striking series of events; literature meant to be produced on stage
meaning on TV: fighting over a man who's sleeping, or suspected of sleeping, with at least two women
usage: "I told that ignorant [bleep] not to start any drama with myself and stay away from my husband! I'm sorry, I can't talk about this any more. I'm so emotional right now."
explanation: As Sophocles, perhaps one of history's greatest dramatists, once said: "Only an ignorant whore believes that a man who has once cheated will remain faithful in the future. Oh great Zeus, I'm so emotional right now."