Anyone who grew up on Little Feat instead of Lil Wayne has probably done it. Maybe you were in a crowd of people a little younger, and in a vain attempt to appear relevant you made the mistake of turning to a vernacular with which you were not comfortable.
Maybe you were even trying to be ironic, but still hip, when you blurted out, "What up, dawg?"
So I have to empathize a little with Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who late last week both ventured into some mad hip-hop language and street slang, perhaps in an effort to lure the youth vote that helped win Barack Obama the presidency.
Steele, during a radio interview, was coaxed into sending "slum love out to my buddy guv," Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Our own Rep. Bachmann was not to be outdone. She introduced Steele to a crowd of natty Republicans by saying, "Michael Steele, you be da man. You be da man."
Oh yes, she did.
Look at my picture. It's probably pretty obvious that I don't speak hip-hop or even street slang. But my cringe reflex was so overworked by Steele and Bachmann that I had to find them some help. It's admirable that they want to encourage young people to get active in the political process, but they should do it right.
So I turned to Alex Mingus, 28, whom I have mentored through Big Brothers Big Sisters for more than 17 years. He's grown up in several worlds, and is as comfortable at Escape Ultra Lounge as he would be on the floor of the U.S. Congress. Unlike our elected officials, however, he would probably know which language was suitable for which venue.
I told him Bachmann was repreSENTIN' the East Side, by Stillwater.
"We don't use represent much anymore," he said.
I mentioned that, if we could help Bachmann, other politicians would soon be stealing her material.
"They'll be bitin' her style," Alex said.
I said that Bachmann had been very critical of Obama for spending away Alex's future on stimulus payments.
"She's killin' it,'' he said. "She should say that Obama is trickin' all the guac away."
"Guacamole. Money," he said.
The congresswoman is also dedicated to law and order. "She rides with Johnny law, or with the po-pos," Alex said.
Alex noted that Bachmann had been on television a lot lately, with her big smile. "She's showin' off her grill," he said. And wearing plenty of jewelry, too. "She's iced out."
I noted that reality shows about the fancy homes of athletes and rappers were popular with young people. Bachmann bought a new home last fall.
"She should show off her phat crib," said Alex.
There are some people, including GOP strategist Ron Christie, who think such language is, um, inappropriate for an elected official. Actually, he called it "stupid."
How might someone better express that displeasure for a younger audience?
"Off the heezy for sheezy," said Alex. "But that's only on the West Coast."
(Note: We gave a shout-out to Bachmann for comment, but got no reply. Holla back, girl!).
I asked Alex if they still used "off the hook" for something a bit nutty. No, he said. And off the hook could be a good thing.
"You might say someone is OC," he said. "Outta control."
Let me try that in a sentence: Sometimes it seems Rep. Bachmann is a little OC.
"There you go," said Alex.
Jon Tevlin • 612-673-1702