By Daniel A. Kaufman
Prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.
–George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”
Our public discourse today has disintegrated into a wretched cant, in which words are chosen and strung into chains of verbiage for every purpose but that of expressing a clear and straightforward thought. The aim is to signal; isolate; target; coerce; evade; pose; preen; villainize; dogpile; soothe; enrage; terrorize; placate; muddy; obfuscate; but never to plainly express or persuade, by appeal to another person’s good sense and will. We have arrived at a place where virtually all of our public conversations are performative, rather than constative; manipulative, rather than civil. 
Certainly, a number of my examples here are of cant that is spoken and written by those on the political Left, but this is not because the discourse on the Right is better. Quite the contrary, with the capture of the American Republican party by Trump and Trumpism, Right-wing writing and speech in the US has descended below the level of cant to a vulgar, misanthropic, inarticulate raving. If Left-wing ways of speaking have become a nauseating, Rococo mashup of the managerial, the therapeutic, and the postmodern, Right-wing discourse has turned into the discursive equivalent of professional wrestling: bellowing, flexing, threatening, crotch-thrusting, and every variety of juvenile machismo, all in the service of a mentality so atavistic that the capacity for understanding and employing metaphors required to develop and employ a cant [stale and empty though those metaphors may be] is well beyond reach.  All you can do with the current Right is grunt, shout, pound your chest and vote against them at every opportunity.
Misrepresenting oneself and one’s feelings is one of the more common uses of cant today, and one popular form of it involves communicating a false air of solidarity with the Common Man and Woman, through the use of expressions like ‘Folks’ and recently, ‘Folx’.
Now, ‘folks’ was once just a homely way of saying “people,” and in the US had a regional bias, being used mainly in the South and the Lower Midwest and hardly at all in the Northeast or West Coast, unless one wanted to evoke a rural, “country” affect for some literary purpose.
Its current use, however, is predominantly among urban progressives and hipsters and academics [as well as cynical members of the ruling classes in the South and Lower Midwest]. The idea is to give the false impression that you are of – amongst; a part of; in solidarity with; an “ally” of – the simple, working people, for whom, in fact, you have complete contempt. It also can be used in a somewhat more oblique manner, where one falsely characterizes the objects of one’s speech as being of the common people, despite their demonstrably not being such. Hence the weird spectacle of people talking about purple-haired, septum-pierced, covered-in-tattoos hipsters, kinksters, and urbanites as if they were the Waltons.
‘Folx’ was invented to render ‘folks’ gender neutral so as to placate excitable gender-activists, despite the fact that ‘folks’ isn’t gendered. The reasons for this addition are unclear.
The most prevalent use of cant today is to abruptly terminate conversations and debates, especially when one has no chance of winning or is already losing.
‘Baby Boomer’ used to denote those born to the WWII generation, in the 1940’s and 50’s. The expression was coined due to the large number of infants born, after American soldiers returned home from the war. Today, ‘Boomer’ [sans ‘Baby’] is used by younger millennials and Gen Z to indicate anyone older than them who holds an opposing view on anything they take to be important. Most have no idea what the original expression meant – or know much if any 20th century history – so it has become a kind of floating signifier, like the t-shirts they wear of bands they have never listened to and never will. Typically, it is used in “OK, Boomer,” which is meant to dismiss an older person and end any conversation one might be having with one. [I wrote about my own experience with the expression, here.]
An adjacent use of cant is to smear and slander your target with the hope of destroying his or her reputation, relationships, and livelihood.
Besides ablutionary uses which are mostly dated now, ‘Groom’ used to mean “preparing someone for a higher position or task in an organization,” but now is used almost exclusively to suggest that one’s political and other opponents are sex criminals. While sometimes used in this way on the Left, it is primarily a Right-wing instance of cant, and is meant to echo “OK, Boomer,” but with a far more malicious and destructive intent.
The only non-malevolent use of it today seems to be in the area of pet cosmetology.
A not-insignificant portion of contemporary cant is intended as a prophylactic against tension and conflict. ‘Perfect!’ – uttered chirpily or with a purring inflection – is used almost exclusively in retail and service, in response to trivial and mundane transactions, like ordering a coffee or giving your name for an order. Its purpose is to be ingratiating and to lubricate the transaction/service that is to come against any rough spots. As I discussed in a recent essay, customers and workers today are respectively pissed off and anxious, so these transactions and services are fraught.
The trouble with ‘Perfect!’ is that it can often misfire, evoking precisely the irritation it was meant to deter, as most people do not like being dealt with in an ingratiating manner. And if the subsequent transaction/service is terrible, having had ‘Perfect!’ chirped at you beforehand will just make your reaction angrier, rather than less so. [In this regard, it’s similar to telling someone how much you value his or her time, while you are busily wasting it.]
I don’t know how long we are in for this sort of thing. Perhaps, if we can get past our current and catastrophic wave of cowardice, cynicism, envy, fecklessness, dysfunction, our bizarre lionization of ressentiment, and the collapse of any and every authority, people will return to more civil modes of speech and will endeavor to persuade one another, rather than use words and expressions as if they were bricks aimed at windows or poisons designed to maim or kill someone weeks later. But, maybe not. For one thing, it’s not clear how we get past these civilization-crippling trends — what is going to turn all the MAGA-Neanderthals normal, for example? — and even if we succeed in doing so, conducting so much of our interactions online and through avatars may just inevitably corrupt and debase our communications, whatever else we do. And as Orwell famously remarked, “the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts,” so the stupider and cruder we continue to write and talk, the stupider and cruder we’ll become.
Regardless, I can’t get this song out of my head, now.
 If you think the “cock-thrusting” part is hyperbole, Tucker Carlson, the Right’s current favorite Fox News show host, created this documentary about “manliness” [as Tucker apparently conceives it], in which a testicle-tanning device is featured and recommended. It is not a parody.