This is one that has been festering for some time, so please forgive the Phrase Freak if he goes “off the Bale” a bit. Like many changes to the English language, the meaning of this word has become twisted. Once, it defined something that was done without a method or choice, something determined by chance.
It did not mean something unexpected, strange, improvised, capricious, absurd, and cheese-eating monkeys flying out of my butt. (See that last one was absurd, a non sequitur for sure, but it was not random, even if it might have seemed that way to you.)
Now the Great Beast (Facebook) has slouched its way into the Bethlehem of my daily routine with an epidemic of lists (which by their nature tend to be the opposite of random) giving me supposedly “random” facts about the people I love and admire. Many of these people are incredibly literate. Way smarter than me. Yet they have fallen under the sway of the googly-eyed siren that spawned the phrase, “that’s, like, so totally random.”
It is easy to mistake great complexity or subtlety for randomness. I’d be willing to bet that most of those lists are:
- carefully chosen
- written to achieve a specific effect
- tomato paste.
I’m afraid this usage gets eight gobsmacks out of ten. We’re on full alert now people!
Other freakish phrases:
You can check the definition of random yourself. Yardsitck! Alltop’s lack of coherence should not be considered random either. This was originally published in 2009, and I’m only repeating it now because I have heard it used by students so much recently.