Yet it moves

A 1970s tv show, a story about modern trends, and Galileo. Also, 7 other things worth your time.

I wrote recently about Mary Tyler Moore. Well, almost 50 years ago, that show had a spinoff called Rhoda, which became the most popular TV program in the USA by far, at least for a year or two.

In October 1974, for example, more than 52 million Americans watched an episode in which the eponymous Rhoda (played by Valerie Harper) got married. This represented more than half of all TV sets in the United States at the time.

(It’s amazing to think of half of America now agreeing to do literally anything at the same time.)

Anyway, while I’ve only seen a few episodes of Rhoda in reruns, the opening credits always stuck with me. They began like this:

"My name is Rhoda Morgenstern. I was born in the Bronx, New York in December 1941. I've always felt responsible for World War II…”

(For my non-American readers, by the way, I’m aware World War II started in 1939, not 1941.)

It was a joke, obviously. But, it’s the kind of joke that’s funnier because it’s almost not funny. Like, we all know people who think the world revolves around them.

With that, let’s fast-forward to now, and an article in the New York Times by Taylor Lorenz, in which she introduced me (and others; I am now hyper-aware that the world does not revolve around me) to an apparently trendy new word: “cheugy.”

Here, let’s give her a blockquote:

It’s not quite “basic,” which can describe someone who is a conformist or perhaps generic in their tastes, and it’s not quite “uncool.” It’s not embarrassing or even always negative.

Cheugy (pronounced chew-gee) can be used, broadly, to describe someone who is out of date or trying too hard. And while a lot of cheugy things are associated with millennial women, the term can be applied to anyone of any gender and any age.

I doubt I will ever use this word, except for today in this newsletter. But, I want to zero in on one specific person Lorenz mentions: a Los Angeles software developer who claims to have literally coined the word “cheugy” back in 2013.

“It was a category that didn’t exist,” said Gaby Rasson, who said she started using it while she was attending Beverly Hills High School. “There was a missing word that was on the edge of my tongue and nothing to describe it and ‘cheugy’ came to me. How it sounded, fit the meaning.”

Apparently it was a high school friend of Rasson’s who recorded a highly popular TikTok video recently that popularized “cheugy.” So, I can see how Lorenz was able to go back and find Patient Zero for this word.

Although, there’s a media joke that all NYT reporters count like this: one, two, trend…, and this story plays right into that. It’s odd to think of a normal, non-celebrity person, who can point to a linguistic development and say:

Oh, right, I came up with that on the way to sophomore year math class.

Rasson, 23, is to “cheugy” as Rhoda Morgenstern, who would be turning 80 if she hadn’t been fictional, thought she was to World War II. All of which made me think of Galileo, who would have just turned 457.

I suspect a lot of readers will already know why.

Maybe it’s the gray hair I keep finding, but lately it’s a great comfort to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around me—not even close. Life went on pretty well before I got here, and it will continue (hopefully many years from now) after I’m gone.

In other words: “and yet it moves,” or ”e pur si muove,” as Galileo supposedly said at the end of his heresy trial, after insisting that the Earth revolved around the sun, and not the other way around.

Is it still cheugy if you have to go back half a millennium to get the reference?


7 other things worth your time

  • I was trying to remember the last time I wrote about something Taylor Lorenz wrote. This was it: another story she did about a TikTok video that sparked a meme. (Understandably)

  • Facebook is scheduled to announce today whether it will allow former President Trump back on its platform. Regular readers will know I’m uncomfortable with blanket, permanent bans for political figures, even if I disagree with them 100 percent. But I also still can’t figure out why Trump didn’t sue both Twitter and Facebook in California. Meanwhile, Trump sort of unveiled a new social platform of his own — but it’s really just a single page on his personal website. (CNN, Understandably, BBC)

  • I’m a happily married man, but in case you’re wondering what the trends are for singles on dating apps now, almost-kinda-post-Covid: open minds (not as picky about who people match with as before), an aversion to ghosting (people say they’d rather just hear the bad news if someone they’re into doesn’t feel the same way), quantity over quality, at least for now, and: “vaccinated' is the hottest detail you can add to your dating app bio.” (Business Insider, $)

  • Montana is ending its participation in a federal program that paid $300 per week in unemployment benefits; with a labor shortage now, the state says it will instead pay a bonus of $1200 to any state resident who completes four weeks at a new job. (Fox 5)

  • A Florida mother who is also a school assistant principal and her 18-year-old daughter are facing serious criminal charges that could possibly result in 16 year prison sentences … for hacking into a high school computer network to try to fix the results of a contest for homecoming queen. (Law and Crime)

  • I'm a day behind, since yesterday was May 4, but I am glad to report that the Smithsonian now has a full scale model of a Star Wars X-Wing fighter. (CNET)

  • Do you live in a political bubble? You probably already know, but if you enter your address in this New York Times interactive article, it will give you the statistics. (NYT, $)


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