Whether you consider yourself a more or less avid pop-culture observer, chances are good that by now you’ve seen at least one of the videos, Twitter accounts or articles chronicling the phenomenon we’ll just call "Stuff Girls Say" (hereafter "SGS," with "Stuff" being my G-rated substitution for another word you can probably guess at).
The original Twitter account contained nothing but a couple of comedy writers’ rapid-fire blurbs of silly things young women say.
But the spinoff Web video series took the hilarity up a huge notch, featuring a young man in a wig delivering these verbal tics with inflection and body language you’ll find bizarrely familiar if you are a woman under 40 years old or know many of them (the video also featured Juliette Lewis, which might seem like a random choice but turned out to be exemplary casting).
Don’t take my word for how funny the video is: At the time of this writing the first video is on its way to clocking 9 million views on YouTube.
As that stat makes nearly inevitable, within the week of the first SGS video, the parodies came rolling in. Most have been versions of what girls from various ethnic groups say, but others have focused on what members of various communities say, like Stuff Yogis Say, Stuff Vegans Say and Stuff Moms Say.
I’ve recognized a couple of the SGS and Stuff Yogis Say one-liners as things I’ve said myself ("Could you pass me that blanket?" "Do you want to go to the farmers market after yoga?"), but the funniest "Stuff" to me has been the many other things I hear, rather than say, all the time in my 90 percent female workplace.
Last week, a woman I know — who could virtually have been the subject of the original video, as it is such an accurate depiction of her own verbal tics — recently told me that her husband didn’t understand why her friends thought it wasn’t at all insulting to tell her so.
His comment brought up a good point: The videos are funny only if you are close to a large number of members of the community parodied within. I think that’s because they bubble up the fixations, obsessions, loves, hates and even passive aggressions that tie the group at issue together.
The ways we are similar in what we care about, what we disdain, what we want or fear, what we are anxious about, and how those things infiltrate our slang and our subgroup’s microcultural lexicon — these videos surface them.
And they help us in recognizing them for how silly or nonsensical or even just plain old revealing they are, how non-unique what comes out of our mouths so often is, and how plain old predictable the sayings themselves and we, ourselves, truly are.
Then they become absurdly entertaining because they are strung together, rapid-fire, without all the context and detail of the stories and conversations we usually weave around them. You wouldn’t normally hear someone just say, "Is that hummus?" or "That poor dog needs some water" out of context.
But it is becomes comedy when you hear the SGS guy/gal say it that way, because of the dozen times you’ve heard women you know say it in context. The ties that bind, apparently, are made of chickpeas.
With all that said, I was inspired to take a stab at scripting the Stuff Underwater Homeowners Say. These are a vocal group, making up a disproportionately large number of those who write in to ask me real estate questions, compared with their numbers vis-à-vis homebuyers, sellers and homeowners not facing negative equity concerns. And here’s what they say, in my experience, in no particular order:
1. "Businesses strategically default all the time."
2. "The banks inflated the prices."
3. "None of us would be in this mess if it wasn’t for _____ (fill in the blank)"
- the Fed;
- the banks;
- Wall Street;
- the "1 percent";
- President Obama;
- former President Bush;
- former President Clinton;
- subprime loans.
4. "I applied for a loan mod, and they told me the documents got lost."
5. "The bank said they don’t give modifications to people who are current on their payments."
6. "Can my sister just buy it from me in a short sale, then sell it back to me?"
7. "I can’t do a short sale — I’ll lock in my losses."
8. "I’ve gotta cut my losses."
9. "I can’t keep throwing good money after bad."
10. "I have to do a short sale."
11. "I’m going to buy a car, cash in my equity line and then do a short sale."
12. "What do I need to know about doing a short sale?"
13. "If I could just get a principal reduction."
14. "I’m so over it."
I suppose this entire "Stuff (insert X group of people here) Say" phenomenon is nothing if not unifying. Its brilliance is in showing you that you are not alone, no matter how you might feel at any given time.
And as Stuff Underwater Homeowners Say shows and proves, all these forays into what I’ll call verbal anthropology might seem silly from the outside looking in, but are very reasonable and very serious in context, especially when they are coming out of your own mouth.