I have long been intrigued by our attitudes towards “dirty words,” For starters, I am not quite sure what makes a word “dirty.” Why is it socially acceptable to speak of one’s behind,buttocks, derriere or gluteus maximus, but to hesitate to refer to one’s ass. I know, I know. Ass has found acceptable use in recent years, but was taboo not so long ago.
Some time ago, I was interviewed by Leonard Lopate on WNYC radio. Since I was discussing a book of mine on the subject of words, I asked what terms would be taboo during our conversation The answer amuses me and annoys me to this day. I could say “ass,” for example, but “ass h*le” was forbidden. Fortunately, the word “Damn!” has recently come out of the closet. One no longer has to say, “Darn.”
When dealing with politically incorrect words, the use of the symbols (*), (_) or (-) instead of vowels is a silly deception. Everyone knows what the disguised word means. For those who feel that this device protects children, you are being naive. Almost every child over five who hasbeen exposed to movies and TV knows these forbidden words and recognizes them immediately
What the heck (h*ll) is going on here? What kind of blue-nosed bowdlerizers are servingas our word police? Don’t they know that all of us, kids included, have had contact with numerous”ass h*les” and know what the word means? Why must we be limited to synonyms such as idiot or incompetent? (Is schmuck allowed?) Just because one replaces a vowel with an asterisk, breve or dash does not make the word less understandable.
These ramblings set me off in search or other words and phrases which have been sanitized by word police. It’s O.K. to say. “Oh shoot!” but not “Oh sh*t.” Someone recently wrote a best- selling book entitled . “Bullsh*t.” He spelled the word out in the title but,when reviewed on the air, all they could say was, “Bull.” This for a book fully exposed in any popular bookstore. Of course, one could say “B.S.” a favorite term of Chris Mathews. The same rule goes for ”horsesh*t.” “Horsepucky” is apparently allowed, since few recognize the term. “Chickensh*t” provides a great example of the restrictions these stupid rules put on our language. The dictionary meaning is “dictatorial insistence on rules, details and discipline.” So, we must now voice this mouthful, when the terse, distinct term “chickensh*t” says it all.
While still on the subject of bodily functions, “pee” is now in, but “p*ss” is out. This P*sses me off (makes me furious), since it deprives me of the use of vivid expressions such as p*ss poor (extremely poor); full of p*ss and vinegar (very lively or vivacious); or not having a pot to piss in (dirt poor). “Fart” has recently gained acceptance, probably because, when used as a noun, there is really no polite alternative. Even as a verb, “to pass gas” is weak-kneed
“C*nt” and pr*ck” are of course totally taboo. This presents obvious problems.Describing body parts, one can always say”vagina” or “penis.” Even those two words were taboo in polite conversation for many years. Moreover, if you want to use these terms as derogatorypejoratives, calling a woman ” a filthy vagina” or a man ” a stupid penis’ doesn’t quite cut the mustard.
There are hundreds of other highly descriptive , pithy terms in the English language. —terms which add vitality and spirit to both conversation and writing — which you will not see in our newspapers or hear on prime time TV or radio, strictly because some assh*le finds them offensive.
If we can’t say sh*t,, circumlocutions are required for such pungent and highly descriptive termsbrains (stupid idiot); sh*tfaced (drunk)); sh*tlist (people one strongly disapproves of); in deep sh*t (in real trouble); etc. Our former President, George H.W. Bush frequently used “in deep doodoo”; everyone of course knew that he meant in deep sh*t.
The list goes on: the sh*t hit the fan (something catastrophic happened); sh*t or get off the pot (do something about it or forget it); to get one’s sh*t together (to get organized); to sh*t bricks (to becomeextremely worried or frightened); happy as a pig in sh*t (self explanatory); a crock of sh*t (a bunch of lies or nonsense); etc. All os these are in common use and can be found in any decent dictionary.
Even more restricted are terms dealing with sexual intercourse . You can use a scientific substitute such as copulate, a prissy expression like make love, or a silly euphemism such as frig or flog. But, don’t you dare say f*ck. This of course forbids the use of all f*cked up (completely confused and in trouble); what the f*ck!? (what the Hell is going on?); I’m f*cked (I’m completely undone); f*ck face (derogatory term for someone totally disgusting); f*ck’n job (it stinks, but I cannot afford to quit); f*ck up ((an incompetent bungler); f*ck over (to treat unfairly or take advantage of); take a flying*f_ck (get the Hell out of here).,… Need I go on?
All these colorful expressions — and many more — tossed into the dustbin for no damnedgood reason.Come to think of it, my Mom and Pop would probably never have even spelled these terms.
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