Things went a bit sideways during Lance Sorchik's Hot Rod Deluxe photo shoot. Don't let this happen to you. Obey all posted public highway notices or prepare for regret. In the end, Sorchik's banged A-bone made it into the magazine, but this shoot was much more expensive than necessary. (Photos by Diane Sorchik)
First things first – let’s not kid ourselves here. The multi-kazillion dollar mass media industry parades under the guise of “communication”, but the true purpose of its existence is generating noise to distract people from their real selves. Telecommunication is still somewhat legit, but the rest is just noise – the few messages being communicated share a commonly negative value. As an automotive photojournalist, I make my noise in a quiet little neighborhood known as the hot rod microcosm, which entails less than one percent of the world’s consumers. And lately it seems there are just as many journos fighting for attention as there are readers desperately searching for legitimate information. If you’re one of us myriad cub reporters, frantically thrashing in the industry mosh pit, I may have something for you here.
Some folks seem to be making up their own rules these days, perhaps empowering themselves with an “I invented the wheel” mentality. And while I’m all for experimentation, innovation and evolution, I’m also somewhat a traditionalist, especially concerning the craftsmanship aspect of the creative process. So it’s hard not to notice a writer tossing out half comprehended concepts as absolutes. This gets my attention because it reminds me of my cocky and ignorant self, not so long ago. Today, I carry a certain regret for the times I swaggered through literary intersections in total disregard of the road signs. In recent years, I’ve been noticing a lot of this from overnight experts and established (but overworked) veterans alike. It isn’t necessary and does not serve anyone – especially the writer/reader relationship. So, as a public service, please allow me to point out some red flags that you may not even realize you’re waving. Kind of like cruising down the freeway, unaware that your turn signal has been blinking since the last rest area. Better check your shoe for toilet paper, while you’re at it.
Most obvious are betrayals of the general guidelines presented to you in grade school English class. You may be a black belt texter or tweeter, but when writing for a general audience, you must assume that the reader is educated enough to expect proper use of basic English. Anything less will distract said reader and your important message will not be received. I myself am an uneducated person, but recognize good writing habits due to voracious reading. If I can do it (yes, even by faking it), so can you.
The jazz-based slingslang of the hot rod vernacular presents untold opportunities to prove yourself as respectful, a credible player, a lazy slob, or an outright fraud. Your choice. Let’s go straight to my Pet Peeve Du Jour to prove the point: A building has a roof – a car has a top.
One of the few cars with a legitimate claim of a roof was Bell & Trantham’s Outhouse show rod of the mid 60’s. Most others either have tops or no tops. (Photo courtesy of Jay Ohrberg)
Other common automotive nomenclature that has become bastardized nearly out of existence includes Quarter Window, Backlight, and Decklid. Variance from these basic terms may seem whitty or cute, but results in confusion and/or distrust from the reader, blowing your chance to establish credible voice in the reader’s head. Just remember the first rule of journalistic survival: Kill your darlings! In the quest to effectively communicate with the reader, you must coldly eliminate any distractions, like a hit man. And the primary target is almost always that cute term or phrase you wish to impose on the proceedings. Kill it and walk away.
Traditional garners the credibility you were after before blurting out Old School and blowing your cover.
Feel free to stylize your prose with a Z (Rodz), toss in some PG-rated color (badass mother), and/or embellish with extra exclamation points!!! Just know that these sophomoric moves identify you as someone who dots “i”s with hearts and butterflies.
Rims, Nos, Dubs, Donk, etc. Slang, yeah, but I’m too old to qualify for an opinion. Likewise, if these are terms of your generation, you’re too young to opine on Bangers, Gow, and Jitney. So there.
Having said all that, I don’t feel any better. Just older. No, wait – actually, I think the noise in my head may have receded a couple of decibels. I’m going to celebrate by turning off this computer.
The Sussex County (New Jersey) Sheriffs Department thanks Lance Sorchik for his generous donation.