Saturday, January 18, 2014

Crying Foul

Lately I've been thinking about bad words. Like unwanted family members, they've become so much a part of the landscape that no one notices them anymore. For instance, I bet you didn't notice that even the friendly pre-recorded male voice on the New York City subway uses foul language ("Stand clear of the *@#!@-ing closing doors, please"; "This is 176th @!!&%-ing Street"). The barista at Starbucks says, "Would you like your #$%^-ing receipt?" and you say, "Yes, **&$# you."

Obviously this signals the degradation of our society, which clearly was not degraded enough to begin with, even when we started wearing thongs. (Think about it: as a society, we did this voluntarily. Of course there are honorable exceptions, such as the Pope.) (I am assuming here.)

My point, as you have no doubt guessed, is this: we need to return to the refined language of a bygone era. I realize most of us are ill-equipped to remember a cultural zeitgeist any longer ago than Full House, but I assure you we had even older eras. Think back to elementary school, when you learned about Abraham Lincoln. Can you imagine how the Gettysburg Address would read if written today?

Four score and seven #$%^^& years ago
Our fathers, those sons of @#$%!-es, brought forth...

But you know what's really weird, when you think about it, is that most people nowadays use bad words without even being angry. This is really jarring to me. I grew up in a house where no one used foul verbiage except in the case of a seriously rage-inducing event, such as a severely backed-up toilet. But now I hear people use these words in completely temperate situations, situations where no plunger is even thought of. ("Ya goin' to the &#$%-ing store?"  "Yeh, I'll pick you up some @($%^-ing Rolaids."  "Thanks, @#$%-er %(#%-er.")

This bothers delicate lilies such as myself. I was raised to believe you never use these words without just provocation, such as you are being garroted or have just been presented with tickets to Wicked. That's why our language needs to change. Only when we "up our game" verbally can we pull ourselves out of the current linguistic dark age. One good option would be to hearken back to the verbal modes of Shakespeare. Consider the following exchange, before enhancement:

PERSON A: I think Football Team X is a %^$*#-load better than that pile of %($^ Football Team Y.
PERSON B: Oh YEAH??? C'mere, you @$*%#&!
(They pull each other's ears off)

Whereas with a few Shakespearean tweaks, voilĂ ! Iambic pentameter:

PERSON A: My lord, my liege, in sooth I do aver
That worthiest of entities, Team X
Doth kick real good the nutties of Team Y.
Dost thou agree?
PERSON B:      Thou prick, c'mere, let's fight.
(They pull each other's ears off)

No, wait, that's no better. Plus, this option requires training, so that you'll be able to pull out those Shakespearean flourishes at a moment's notice, and who among us has that kind of time? This is why machetes are useful, in a pinch, but that is not my point.

Another, potentially less time-consuming alternative would be simply to give well-considered, articulate voice to your every waking thought. I will use the example of a person I know whom we will call Mrs. R.,* who was once bitten on her finger by her dog while feeding it (the dog) (not the finger) bits of meat. Whereupon Mrs. R. unleashed the following stream of bad words:

MRS. R.: (Feeding the dog)
DOG: Omnomnomnomnom (BITE)

Pretty unimaginative, am I right, folks? Now think how much more articulate of a contribution Mrs. R. could have made to human discourse if she had verbalized her emotions as follows:

MRS. R.: (Feeding the dog)
DOG: Omnomnomnomnom (BITE)
MRS. R.: I feel great rage at this moment, as manifested both literally and in a sense symbolically, by the seeping wound upon my finger. A curse upon you and all your hairy little ancestors.
DOG: Boy, are you ever an ***hole.

Yes, verbal communication is extremely important. You see how they hashed that out? Just think of the pent-up feelings that might otherwise never have been communicated. Can you imagine, for example, the pain and suffering that might come of never cursing your dog's ancestors, let alone never knowing that you're an asshole?

This is why my dream stands strong of one day living in a world devoid of emptily used dirty words. Yes, granted, they are an instant and handy thoroughfare to emphatic self-expression. But I urge you to take a brave first step by using them at least sparingly. When, you ask? To make it simple, let's limit your bad-word use strictly to the following extreme situations: (a) when evil ninjas attack your house; (b) when you burst into flames, and of course (c) those Wicked tickets.

* This is so you will not uncover her true identity as Mrs. D.


playingintheworldgame said...

Don't forget this wonderful commercial, you @#$%.


Nicola McEldowney said...


Pessimistic Shrink said...

Hi, Nicola. I have a client, a young man with a drug and alcohol problem, a full beard, and an ominously wayward kind of thinking. The bad news: He wants to become a puppeteer. So I thought of you. Otherwise, you may enjoy knowing there is a good use for Atlas Shrugged: Blog, "Atlas should shrug." -- Fr.

NW Dryad said...

Please, I would like to know. I have always adored Soleil (I am sorry, losing my memory due to medical reasons and I can't believe I wouldn't be correct any more) and I notice that she is no longer in your cat vignettes. Has she passed away and you have adopted a new kitten? And who is the orange tabby?
If it is true that Soleil has gone, I mourn greatly indeed.

Nicola McEldowney said...

Sorry for the delay responding! Solange is still around. She's a work of fiction so she has no expiration date. :) We did adopt a beautiful orange tomcat and a little black kitten late last summer.

NW Dryad said...

Thanks for letting me know about Solange. I always think that there is just a little reality behind some of the story lines, in particular the animals. Like your red tabby and the kitten.
Is the black cat Edward real? I too have a black cat named Edward, and my vet bestows kisses on his head for no real reason as well.
As well as the morning bladder wake-up call.....