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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of October 22 - 28, 2003

Opinion Column

Double-bubble speak awareness week

Commentary by Betty Bell

"So, Betty, whatís your recipe for longevity?" Georgeís face was guileless, but what did he mean by longevity? Iím at the high end of prime mid-lifeómonths away from even turning 80. But I didnít tell George "go count migrating geese," instead I answered in double-bubble speakóthe tells-you-nothing jargon that passes as discourse.

"Well, thatís a good question," I said. I could just as well have said "Thatís a very good question," either reply allowing me enough time to send my neurons zipping up and down and left and right and hither and yon to grab the answer George was angling foróa little something he could latch onto for use in his far-off future.

"George," I said, "no doubt about it, I owe my longevity to a serious life-long commitment to burning my candle at both ends. You, of all people, George, know that burning your candle at both ends leaves your middle really strong, really durable."

George beamed at affirmation that his life in the passing lane was exactly where he belonged.

Maybe you havenít picked up on this answering a question by first complementing its astuteness, and if you havenít itíll be distressing news ... from now on youíll be grippingly aware of it. From now on, all day, every day, youíll count every "thatís a good question" you hear. And yes itís a drag, but itís worse if you keep weekly and monthly totals as I did at first. Itís wonderful to be past that now and just let the numbers go at the end of the day. My highest-ever one-day count was 17, and Iím never going to try to better itóthereís plenty of other cranial clutter vying for space.

Another double-bubble speak phenomenon that youíre probably at least sub-consciously aware of is the official, designated, front-and-center "Soother and Smoother," the marvelous new career niche for women. Sometime soon, probably today, youíll turn on the tube and see a woman whose sole duty is to allay your fears and correct your misconceptions about the Corporate Malfeasance of the Day. Itís up to her to convince you that the charge is inappropriate, politically motivated, and patently false. But her mere appearance is the tip-off, a dead give-away that the charge is true and quite likely worse than you know. Otherwise the CEO, or General Such & Such, or whomever the honcho before whom the buck deservedly should stop, would make the case himself. Todayís S&S is the much needed spinner of last resort that corporate and government mess-makers rely on to pluck them from the muck.

Canít you just hear some CEO at a cozy power lunch? "Give the gals a chance," he says. "It doesnít go down like sugar when we personally try to squirm out of our messesóweíre so, you know, commanding, and all," (appreciative laughter around the table)óbut thatís how we got here, hey boys? So we need those little gals up front."

A Soother and Smoother is never introduced by her work as cover-up girl, but as a company representative. But no matter her title, her job is to put the best possible spin on corporate/government malfeasance Ö mismanagement Ö mishandling Ö misconduct Ö wrong--or evil doing.

Among the S&Ss Iím familiar with, a couple stand out. After the Supreme Courtís decision to allow medical marijuana, Dr. Andrea Barthwell made the case that the ruling was horribly misguided since the governmentís obsessive fear that the use of medical marijuana is the direct route to the road to perdition is right-on. And a few days ago, a competent Wendy Hall, quoted in the New York Times, tried to S&S away the revelation that while Halliburton tries to repair Iraqís oil infrastructure, theyíre also gouging taxpayers on gas they have to import until itís fixed. The Corp of Engineers paid Halliburton $304,486,577 for 191,985,150 gallons of gas, an overcharge of 60 plus cents a gallon. My calculator batteryís dead, so I donít know how many dollars that comes to, but I know itís a generous tithe. Whereís the incentive for Halliburton to get on the ball and fix things?

Itís probably just a wild hair thatís tickling me to make a big-time career change. I think I should start a classy Soother and Smoother school because the needís there and the marketís hot. Iíd sell franchises and Iíd offer correspondence courses, and Iíd be a hands-on CEO. As a student neared graduation, sheíd have to appear before meóthe chairman of the board so I could pass on her manner and appearance--itís a no-brainer that appearance is the big thing in S&S work.

An S&S has to be attractive in a reassuring wayóif Ann Coulter, for instance, tried to make a living as an S&S, sheíd end up on food stamps. Sure sheís attractive, but way too predatory, donít you agree? Iíd look for S&Ss in the Sarah Lee image Ö impeccably dressed but never chic. And not under-nourished looking either. Prime time S&Ss wear suits with soft lapels and gentle folds, and they never wear them over starched and pointy-collared blouses. The power-shirt look might help poor thing lunging to grab a hold of the corporate ladder, but not for the S&S. Nope, gauzy turtlenecks with floppy collars nicely compliment the traditional-looking necklaces that seem basic to the S&S wardrobe--pearly strands that look as though they were been passed along by the great-great grandmothers of Daughters of the Revolution.

Yep, an S&S school sounds like a good fit for me. And itís no stretch at all, then, to visualize my catapult straight into the nether world of exorbitant CEO pay.

SoÖany questions? Whatís that?

You say you never see an S&S fronting for John Ashcroft, and youíre asking if thatís because heís absolutely always right--or because, actually, heís merely insufferably arrogant?

Well thatís a good question, pilgrim. Thatís a very good question.




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