On Charlie Sheen's linguistic acrobatics.
My name is Mark Peters, and I am a Charlie Sheen-aholic.
I usually pooh-pooh celebu-obsessions, but ever since February 24—one of the most prolific days of the ongoing Sheen-pocalypse—I’ve been as obsessed with the unraveling Two and a Half Men star as a lifetime paparazzi-hugger. As a language-lover, how could I resist? The man is a gushing geyser of wild new terms such as “Vatican assassin warlock” and yearbook-ready claims like “I am on a drug. It’s called Charlie Sheen.” Sheen has out-Bushism-ed Bush, out-cuckoo-ed Cocoa Puffs, and given word-lovers and quote-collectors the most fun material since...ever? I can’t keep up with the ever-expanding field of applied Sheen-guistics, but here’s a look at some of the highlights.
With all due respect to “fire-breathing fists,” “tiger blood,” “battle-tested bayonets,” “Sheening,” and the rest, my favorite Sheen-ism by far is “Vatican assassin warlock.” This term—so geek-friendly and reminiscent of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles—was coined on the 24th, as Sheen let radio host Alex Jones in on some information that’s left out of even the most liberal Catholic-school curriculum:
We work for the Pope, we murder people. We're Vatican assassins. How complicated can it be? What they're not ready for is guys like you and I and Nails and all the other gnarly gnarlingtons in my life, that we are high priests, Vatican assassin warlocks. Boom. Print that, people. See where that goes.\n
Where it went is everywhere, as bloggers (especially tweeters) instantly embraced and celebrated this nutty nugget of creativity. People played with the term in snowclones, like “First rule of High Priest Vatican Assassin Warlock Club—YOU DON'T TALK ABOUT High Priest Vatican Assassin Warlock Club.” Some speculated on the term’s literary influences: “...Vatican assassin warlocks? The bastard love child of Dan Brown and Tolkien? The mind shudders.”
Others thought the term foreshadowed a new career: “Charlie Sheen should write speeches for Gaddafi.” Dozens of people said it would make a great name for a band, softball team, fantasy football team, improv group, or Kanye West album. No less a writer than Doc Jensen—Entertainment Weekly's Lost scholar—wrote: "'Vatican Assassin Warlock' sounds like my next favorite movie of all time."
Another term that’s likely to be with us for awhile is “bi-winning”—a 2011 euphemism of the year candidate. Sheen came up with this one during his March 1 20/20 appearance, when he responded to a question about being bi-polar like so: “I'm bi-winning. I win here and I win there." With this Internet-thrilling coinage, Sheen added to a tradition of euphemisms that are sunny, silly, and spit-take-worthy. “Bi-winning” reminds me of “nervous breakthrough” (a transparent evasion of “nervous breakdown”) and “heaven-o” (a substitution for “hello,” which is a little too eternal damnation-y for some).
“Bi-winning” continues Sheen’s fascination with the word “winning,” which he uses as punctuation (“Sorry, you thought you were just messing with one dude. Winning.") and in boasts (“The only thing I’m addicted to right now is winning”) and tweets (“Face it folks, you just feel better when you say it. #WINNING"). It’s safe to say Sheen has tarnished “winning” as much as Daffy Duck and George W. Bush weakened “despicable” and “mission accomplished.”
Beside individual words, there have been quotes. Oh my, have there been quotes. During one of his most rant-heavy days (February 24), the comic Thomas Lennon tweeted, "Congrats to Charlie Sheen for coming up with more T-shirt worthy quotes in 1 day than any previous human." I think Sheen has since set the record for week and month too. Lines such as “There's a new sheriff in town. And he has an army of assassins,” “You have the right to kill me, but you do not have the right to judge me,” and “I'm tired of pretending I'm not a total bitchin' rock star from Mars” will highlight the Sheenisms book every publisher is no doubt scrambling to get out. Everyone is either collecting his quotes, turning them into poetry, or mashing them up with New Yorker cartoons, baby sloths, and God knows what else. There are dozens of gems, but I enjoy the Obi-Wan Kenobi-ness of “I close my eyes and make it so with the power of my mind.”
Speaking of the movies, out of the bazillions of jokes and observations about Sheen-ology, Stephanie Sparer came up with my fave: “Charlie Sheen sounds like he's just continuously quoting a Will Ferrell movie nobody's seen yet.” Indeed, most Sheenisms would fit right in with Anchorman-isms like “I love lamp” and “They've done studies, you know. Sixty percent of the time, it works every time." That movie is immortal, and so is just about everything Sheen has been saying lately—unlike the man himself. I do feel a little creepy for enjoying the rants of a guy who’s obviously trashing his career, family, and health, but I just can’t help it. I’m also on a drug: It’s called wordlust. Sheen may be a disaster everywhere else, but he’s a gold mine for the lexicon.
Still, our warlock laureate should probably heed some other lines from Anchorman: “Take it easy, Champ. Why don't you stop talking for awhile? ... Maybe sit the next couple plays out.”