However, there are some misuses of language so heinous as to cause me to gnash my teeth and induce spikes in blood pressure. The first I'm lining up in front of the firing squad is a reference to the eponymous 1955 novel by Vladimir Nabokov. Just thinking about typing it makes me cringe. OK, here it is:
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
-Nabokov, Lolita, chapter 1
You have read Lolita, haven't you? You know to whom the above words refer: A sexually promiscuous teeny-bopper who dresses provocatively and gets off on attracting older men.
At least, that's what you'd think if you got your cultural contexts from the media, who just looooove to turn Lolita into an asinine adjective, Lolita-esque. To wit:
Here: Meanwhile, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, along with fellow teen stars Mandy Moore and Jessica Simpson, were a new breed of barely legal pop princesses, prevailing against chart competition from older acts with their Lolita-esque ways.
And here: Evan Rachel Wood always seemed sort of intense to us, from the roles she chooses to play, to the fact that she dated Marilyn Manson for four years, to her occasional penchant for Lolita-esque attire.
And here: Marketed as empowering to women, “Sucker Punch” proves to be just the opposite — Lolita-esque characters prancing about in tiny skirts and fishnets seem to be more about fetishism than empowerment.
Dearest Readers, I could copy and paste all day, but I trust you get the idea. In modern parlance, Lolita, or Lolita-esque, translates to a minor female who spends her days playing up her sexuality and angling after the sexual attention of men--especially older ones.
Heavy sigh. People....
Preach it, Inigo.
So, if Lolita wasn't the strumpet we're told she is, who is she? Her name is Dolores, not Lolita. Dolores Haze. A 12-year-old child who is kidnapped by a pedophile, constantly moved around the country to evade detection and prevent her escape, and serially molested over the course of several years.
In fact, if "Lolita" is going to be the encapsulation of an idea, it should be that of the victim of sexual abuse at the hands of an unrepentant predator. Framing Lolita as a seductress is classic victim blaming. A barely pubescent 12 year old child cannot, CANNOT, "seduce" an adult man.
Even though Dolores Haze is a fictional character, I can't help but feel sorry for her when she is so grossly misconstrued in the media, and her nickname is abused in the common tongue. Those who use 'Lolita' as a synonym for a sexually promiscuous young girl have utterly missed the point of the novel, and thus reveal their ignorance. And yet, the malapropism persists.
Dolores, I know who you are, and I vow never to hear the term 'Lolita' perverted by ignoramuses without feeling enraged on your behalf.
How about you, readers? Does 'Lolita' get your goat like it does mine? Are there other linguistic abuses that crush your will to live? Do tell!