Cultural Imperialist

"Scathing Spats on Shallow Subjects"


Mon Aug 21



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Sincerely (Up) Yours: Jeers to "Cheers"

Greg Piper

Lawyers take naughty pleasure in signing off cease-and-desist notices with the phrase, as if litigation makes a person feel wanted.

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Anglophilia may sound like a love of exotic sexual positions but it's actually the fetishizing of all things that crush the anointed spirit of independence. Yanks have long aped their effeminate forbears through the haphazard insertion of u's, imbibing of Earl Grey, and most brow-furrowingly, the use of "cheers" as a sign-off from any form of communication.

There's no shortage of true departurisms, each fit for its own occasion.

"Goodbye" comes from "God be with you," but only a prick would want you to fall into Satan's hands once you leave the confines of the conversation. "Best" and "sincerely" may carry the weight of false cordiality in an era that celebrates "I'm out, bitches" as fraternal love, but they remain proper for use in more formal settings, such as threatening letters from Congress.

For the digital age, there's the friends-with-benefits cachet of "Later" - utterly factual in nature and thus impervious to misunderstanding, and so indefinite that the initiator's only responsibility is fleeting future contact.

Now clinking glasses to celebrate your impending inebriation is surely reason enough to be cheerful. But bidding adieu to your mother, proctologist or that pesky reporter with a monosyllabic flop of the wrist shows casual contempt, not courtesy. As a noun, "Cheers" is incoherent as a sign-off, on par with "Shrieks" or "Orgasms" as physical responses that a communique may elicit in the listener or reader.

A sentence fragment or an adverb shows a modicum of respect to your guest at the verbal exit, but "Cheers" grabs the recipient by the scruff and tosses him out of the bar to make room for the playboy popping bottles of Romanée Conti. More tactfully, "Cheers" darts its eyes around the room in the middle of a conversation about Daddy's terminal cancer.

Free of inherent context, "Cheers" often is deployed ironically. Lawyers take naughty pleasure in signing off cease-and-desist notices with the phrase, as if litigation makes a person feel wanted. Customer-service reps veil their hostility toward complainers in e-mails ending with "Cheers." It's no surprise, really, for the English system of social class reinforces such imbalances of power through language as much as preference for hunting fox or nutria.

It's time Americans break free from their crumpet-stuffing tallywackers and their backhanded byes. Even if it means a resurgence of the "Peace"niks.

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Raising a Glass To "Cheers"

Jeremiah Lewis


If the English had their way, the globe would be populated entirely by tea-swilling colonials with sharp walking sticks and sharper accents, dominating provincials through the benevolent imperialistic attitudes which served the Brits so well during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. American bravado, a backlash product of firing well-oiled muskets at regimented redcoats during several wars, has seen anti-British iterations ranging from lack of public manners to at least one basic course of teeth work. In most respects, Americans are keen to distance themselves from British sentimentality, tending instead toward brutish jingoism and frontiersman chutzpah--lacking refinement, perhaps, but with an impressive track record of imperialism through force, charm, or balls-out, gung-ho can-do spirit. What the British defined, the Americans perfected.

That is not to say we haven't inherited good things from our dapper Anglican cousins. Democratic imperialism is one of the finest aspects of British imprint, though we can also point to the most obvious hand-me-down--the English language, which while Americanized to a proper degree, is at its core British bred and cultivated for over 400 years before America was even a colonial itch in Queen Elizabeth's hoop skirt.

So when we begin to digress, to dig into the archives to resurrect ye old British things and use them as our own, two views can result. The first, and certainly more cynical of the two, is to denounce it as a form of intellectual vandalism, cultural piracy at its most venal. The second, more cheerful approach, is to simply recall our imperialistic forebears and raise a glass to their health.

To wit, I say three "Cheers" to the use of the closer, "Cheers!" in email and online chat conversations. Yes, it is heartily British, a brand of sensational linguistics that bespeaks of highbrow interaction without evidence that it actually is anything other than a gap word. In British custom, Cheers is the word a grocery clerk uses after ringing up your purchases, the word a cable repairman uses after fixing the router and you thank him for his efforts. It's used to greet a friend, to say goodbye, and to raise a glass in celebration.

So when I began using it to sign off on emails and chats with friends online, it was partially a conscious choice to align myself more with my British brethren, as was my decision to spell things the British way: "our" instead of "or," "tre" instead of "ter", and so on. Cheers was my gateway to the charming appeal of the Isles, my opportunity to effect an exciting new brand of European sophistication in a world best described as puerile. The internet is generally not a place you go to for intellectualism, but a little class never hurt the common discourse.

But secretly, cheers is more than just a closer. It's a subtle hint to the person on the receiving end that they're dealing with no minor figure. Anyone who uses cheers is several notches above the bell curve, and must be considered more seriously than other candidates who suffice with "Cordially" and "Best regards." Cheers indicates high intelligence and affability but low egotism. Cheers says "I'm happy and I'm secure enough with myself to show that I'm happy. I'm content enough to be pleasant. I'm well-read. I'm a Man About Town."

Cheers is the cork in the bottle of sixteen dollar wine; it's not your top-shelf stuff, but it's still pretty damn good, and your guests will recognize your good taste. It's the ambassador's suite at the end of a long day on the road, the twenty-dollar bill found on the sidewalk, and the unexpected discount you receive on a pair of really nice trousers. Cheers is the gold medal in the Special Olympics. Can't make fun of it, must respect it.

As a nod to cultural imperialism, using "Cheers" in our communiques is a tip of the hat to the country that practically invented global subjugation. There's no greater honor than to emulate what once was great and wonderful about the British Empire. So I can safely reply to any who message me with a hearty "Cheers!" and know my duty is done.

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