Somewhere in Delmore Schwarz’s journals he remarks on the brilliance of the American “sure”.
He doesn’t say anything more, but I’d speculate that Schwarz intuited that certain words are novels – and not just novels, but state of the nation novels, U.S.A. novels.
Like so much in the U.S.A, the word has mutated since the forties. It has become the bogus absolutely. Of course, this mutation is not unrelated to other mutations abroad in the land – for instance, the systematic skinning of the working class, from their place in the popular arts to their dignity to their paychecks. Sure was both the extended hand and a word to be spoken out of the side of the mouth by private dicks and mobsters. Sure was off the farm – as was the population, draining into Detroit and Chicago and Los Angeles and Cleveland, making steel in Youngstown and Pittsburg, waging labor war in Flint. Sure was familiar with numbers runners and the overflowing toilets in neighborhood taverns on Friday night. Sure had all beef hotdogs in its teeth and the ball game on the radio.
Absolutely doesn’t. Absolutely is the fated, that is, planned erosion of the manufacturing sector. Absolutely is the relentless rise of the service sector. Absolutely is waitresses setting out jauntily to make money while going to college and ending up three jobbing it to make payments on the college loan. Absolutely is the cool music played at starbucks. Absolutely is emotional labor, while emotional surplus value is hauled off to be plasticized in the cultural industries. But absolutely never reaches into the now dominent upper reaches, who invaded every crannie of the popular arts in the U.S.A. and made it a mirror of their own vanity. Absolutely is said to them. They never say it back. Instead, they say things like, I’ll have the Chilean sea bass.
I sure hate absolutely.