On Language, vol. 2
Matt Damon visits the "Hard-Rocking" Cafe
Safire's back from vacation and as usual, every sentence is just a bevel of shit you never cared about. Like the difference between "chief strategist" and "senior political adviser." Hint: It's entirely semantic but somehow still important, kind of like the difference between "certified bachelor on the prowl" and a plain old "registered sexual predator."
But that just left me with mild boredom rather than full-blown embarrassment. Luckily, I quickly found Still Searching, But With Darker Eyes, Manohla Dargis' review of The Bourne Ultimatum. "Jaw clenched, brow knotted, body tight as a secret, Matt Damon hurtles through 'The Bourne Ultimatum' like a missile," reads the first line, and the review proceeds accordingly, its 5th grade sycophancy finally bursting with "[The director] knows how to do his job, and there's no one in Hollywood right now who does action better, who keeps the pace going so relentlessly, without mercy or letup, scene after hard-rocking scene." (Italics mine.)
Like catching your Uncle Steve masturbating, you want to just back away slowly, but unfortunately, the Gray Lady just decided to go ahead and seriously print "hard-rocking" as both (1) serious criticism and (2) a hyphenate. Why?
"Hard-rocking" first graced the pages of the New York Times on September 12, 1980, describing a John Lennon recording session. It was first used in a movie review three years later, on September 23, 1983 in Janet Maslin's review of the New Jersey rock epic, Eddie and the Cruisers, which still employed the phrase in a musical context.
The phrase wasn't made completely devoid of meaning until March 4, 2001, when writer Dan Neil asserted that "It isn't hard to spot a cultural trend in the hard-rocking commercials for the Nissan Frontier," which makes Neil the first in the cultural trend of using "hard-rocking" to mean "establishmentarian" and "literally commercial."
"Hard-rocking" at the Times doesn't have to involve music and can be anything abrasive or just attempting a mysterious "cool." (e.g. "Your Uncle Steve's hard-rocking Matt Damon jag-off session.") So just go ahead and use "hard-rocking" to mean any fucking thing you want. Really, everything rock-related is going to die anyway with the coming birth of this Rosemary's baby/chupacabra creature from Nicole Richie and Emo posterboy Joel Madden. Just keep rock-harding until then. Or whatevs.