Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The 'Meh' Generation

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The 'Meh' Generation

Article excerpt

If there's one word that haunts the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, it's a tiny yet expressive one: meh.

For a definition of meh, let's turn to the Collins English Dictionary -- which welcomed the word to its pages in 2008. As an exclamation, it's "an expression of indifference or boredom," and as an adjective, it means "mediocre or boring." But if the word is about boredom, the reception of meh by English speakers has been anything but apathetic. Four years after joining the dictionary, its frequency is rising, threatening to take over the presidential race and maybe our whole year.

Within the presidential primary, it's not just Romney who has inspired a meh response: It's the whole GOP field. In a recent online opinion piece for The New York Times, Timothy Egan wrote, "Yes, we know Republicans don't like their choices; it's a meh primary."

But Romney has borne the brunt of the meh assault. "There's not much Romney can do to make himself seem more than 'meh' to the base," wrote political columnist Joy-Ann Reid in December. When Rick Santorum swept the states of Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado on Feb. 7, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg declared that "these three states offered a huge referendum on Romney, and the crowd rose up to say, 'Meh.' "

Romney has become so intertwined with the expression of indifference that during the run-up to the New Hampshire primary in January, mock campaign signs began cropping up with the words, "Meh. Romney." The signs turned out to be the handiwork of the anonymous wag behind the website MehRomney.com.

On the other hand, maybe being meh this year isn't such a bad thing. In a magazine cover story for the Times of London, Polly Vernon recently announced that "2012 will be the year of Meh." "Anyone doing, being or pursuing anything other than Meh will be entirely out of step with the moment," she said, pointing to the "Meh List" currently running in The New York Times Magazine with the tagline, "Not hot. Not not. Just meh." The magazine's culture editor, Adam Sternbergh, says the Meh List is meant "to celebrate all those things in life that exist at the top of the fat middle of the bell curve of taste: neither adored nor reviled, but, simply, meh. …

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