The last time I remember being slapped by my father, I had spoken out-of-turn to him at the dinner table. I was thirteen or so. The conversation went something like this:
“What did you say?”
“I said damn. Sorry.”
“That’s too bad,” he said. “I thought you had a bigger vocabulary than that.”
I was going through a phase at the time.
“So,” I said, “if I took that word out, my vocabulary would get bigger?”
Wham! I hadn’t seen it coming, even though a blind man could have, and it hurt. He didn’t answer my question and I didn’t ask him why he hit me. It was a concealed incident like a covert military action in a third-world country. It was neatly concealed. It was politely concealed. And the question posed to my father, to my society, slipped into quiet obscurity like a sailor’s fumbled cigarette.
It’s a question I still pose to certain people — a very certain sort of person who disdains some words because they are considered bad, immoral, or vulgar, yet has retained the capacity for reasonable discourse. So far, nobody’s done anything but agree with me that using fewer words must result in a smaller vocabulary, but strangely, no one’s ever argued to me that the resulting vocabulary, while smaller, is still better somehow. Certain people must believe so. No one’s ever told me so, and for a long time I wondered why. This week’s “In a Real World This Would Be Happening” discusses the causes of small vocabularies through the history of cussing, rails against the wagers of the war on words, and champions that holy grail of English, the Largest Vocabulary.
With no further ado, let’s get the fuck on with it, shall we?
Throughout history there have been people who decide how you need to talk in order to look cool for the rich pricks in power. This verbal prejudice trickles down to socialite fashion fucks, magazine-cover types who also decide you need to mimic the way the rich pricks talk to look fashionable. Let’s have a look.
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We don’t have to go all the way back to 3,000 BC like we did in last week’s piece. No, the good words versus bad words war wasn’t in full swing until Latin became a language known only to the clergy, pictured with their favorite books above. In medieval Europe the churchies had control of the Western world’s knowledge and money. Nobody but the rich could afford the time necessary to read, or to learn to read for that matter, so the only people who had any education outside their family trade were churchies, most Catholic.
Well the Catholic church had decided that Latin was the Holy Language, so these rich bastards hoarded all the sciences, maths, philosophies, histories and what-not and made sure that they had perfect control over it by speaking and writing in Latin, a language nobody but churchies could understand. In England and France the language was that of the indigenous people, the common speech, and the Largest Vocabulary of the common people included all the same “bad” words we use today, like arse, cock, cunt, et cetera.
Of course the churchies had need for alluding to these grand specifics of anatomy just like anyone else, and they used their own ecclesiastic lingo to describe them, ergo: anus, penis, vagina, from the Latin. This trend continues today, as anyone can see. What can get a person sued for saying aloud at his or her workplace in Anglo-Saxon is perfectly fine in Latin. You can tell your boss to self-fornicate. It’s fun. People get a kick out of it. Try telling him to fuck himself, though, and you’ll get fired for speaking such vulgar language.
Oh, that reminds me. That so-called “vulgar language”? Yeah, ‘vulgar’ comes from vulgaris. It’s Latin for ‘common’. So the next time some old bat tells you the movie had too much vulgar language for her liking, just remember: she’s echoing the disdain of rich bitches who found last year’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” too provincial! filthy! so — so — so common!
Now one of my favorite inconsistencies concerning the church’s war against the Largest Vocabulary is the name of the Judao-Christian god, who goes by the ingenious name, God. In the early days of worship, the only word that was a sin to speak was the Holy Unspeakable Name of God, so you had to say the Holy Unspeakable Name of God, or HUNG, for short. Of course, the Jews have 72 holy names for God, all of which come from their holy books, and I don’t think they are all bad to say — just HUNG. Why? Because it would be vain to try and label an omnipresent being like a god. That’s why Moses commanded his crew to stop using his Lord’s name in vain: naming God was logically impossible to do, and diminutive — therefore blasphemous — to try.
But churchies today use “God” all the time, calling him by name just as if he were “Mike” or “Bill” or “Bob.” Churchies today have reams of other words you shouldn’t use and topics you shouldn’t talk about, though, and preachers warn congregations against reading from strange doctrines and fraternizing with non-believers, effectively censoring all manner of information but their own single-minded, near-sighted interpretations of a single text, their Bible, which is already a selection of books from a much larger selection of books, thus censoring the largest portion of Hebrew thought and theology before the churchies even get started censoring everything else.
The next time you take shit from some self-righteous religious zealot, ask them what it means to “take the Lord’s name in vain,” and while you’re at it, ask them what God is. When they regurgitate the line that God is love, tell them, “Nope! God is HUNG,” and revel in your superior Sunday school skillz.
Following in the footsteps of the medieval churchies were the aristocracies of the 19th century. At that time the richies had moved from Latin to French as their code language, because the population of France in the sixteen-hundreds had been the largest in Europe, which had its lasting political effects. To be fashionable, one affected une air de francais, so one was expected to speak in French. Once again, if you weren’t in the know, then you weren’t allowed into the party, so we get such endlessly annoying historical crap as the great Russian dynasties speaking French to one another in books like Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and at diplomatic foo-foo balls such as the one pictured above. Of course, in neither language did these fuckfaces take advantage of the Largest Vocabulary.
Can you imagine going to a party and getting snubbed when all the fashion fucks start speaking in a different fucking language from a different fucking continent? Ah bien, très désolé (gee, I’m sorry). Vous êtes un bâtard (you are a bastard). Baisez-vous (fuck you).
God I feel so cool when I speak French.
But the 17th century had other lasting affects, too, such as the development of etiquette in France. This is another damned password used to separate the aristocrats from the common people (vulgar people, don’t forget). The French courtiers had absolutely nothing to do but amuse themselves in those days, and they amused themselves mainly with drinking, fucking, and making up complicated little fads to differentiate themselves from the middle and lower classes. Once again and of course, they did not use their Largest Vocabulary.
“Look! Bertrand’s wearing his ruffles agog!”
“Dear me, can one wear ruffles — agog?”
“Indeed! Oh, I quite like it. I think I shall turn my bourdalou buckle to one side.”
“But Marie, simply all of Paris is wearing them to one side — hadn’t you heard? Oh, it’s positively how it’s done this season.”
“And you never thought to tell me? How gauche!”
Marie has been wronged, for sure. I mean, how is anyone supposed to look cool without a friend on the inside to alert one to sudden changes in the language of fashion and the fashionable language? I mean, look at these secret signals:
The blade of the butter knife is to be turned inward and closest to the plate on a folded napkin. A man’s shoes are to be matched to his belt and briefcase, his tie matched to his handkerchief which is also a patterned, folded napkin. A woman’s heels are matched to her purse and hat band, and she must have her initials sewn onto a lacy handkerchief so that she may snare cute, rich, fashion-fuck boys by the well-timed drop of a monogrammed folded napkin. Hundreds and hundreds of little passwords, and any tiny slip would give a vulgar person away as a poor bastard from no wealthy upbringing at all.
Today, these passwords include firm handshakes, the car-salesman eye-contact contest, and the utterance of corporate lingo like “proactive,” “touch base,” and “on the same page.” But the real victims are teenagers, trendy little dickheads and posh little cunts. They don’t even know how pathetic their fashion-groveling looks to nerds, dweebs, geeks and weirdos who don’t fit in and don’t want to, who don’t vote for homecoming queen, want to be cheerleaders, or try to look like the cutey pies on the cover of Sixteen magazine. Sad, sad, sad. What do you think: nature, or nurture? Either way, it’s a shitty way to treat the offspring of humanity, mindfucking them like that, even if it is just the backlash of 600 years worth of class warfare.
The stinking relation between fashion and censorship is only a matter of degree. Some words and discussion topics are unfashionable enough in wealthy circles that these jerk-offs can actually look cooler to their friends by banning certain words and themes from society. Tipper Gore made the Parent Music Resource Center in 1985 because she thought Prince sang about sex too openly, something the Catholic church made uncool hundreds of fucking years ago.
She’s responsible for the “Tipper Sticker,” that insulting little rectangle of hate that says, “PARENTAL ADVISORY — EXPLICIT LYRICS,” which is now a music industry standard. Last I heard, Walmart doesn’t even carry music with the Tipper sticker on it, and I know my mom used to throw away my cassettes and records if the local youth minister told her they were of the devil.
The war on the Largest Vocabulary steals our fucking music, goddamnit. As far as I’m concerned, that’s reason enough to want to cuss as much as I can fit into a cohesive conversation. You know what I want to do? I wanna make a sticker that says, “CONSUMER ADVISORY — INSIPID LYRICS,” and plaster them all over the pop industry, all over the country music industry, slap one on every worthless, safe little Miley Cyrus album produced for blonde daughters and make the independent record stores boycott them.
But of course the boycott wouldn’t be necessary, because those stores don’t carry that nonsense. I guess their clientele’s too — highbrow? Elite? You bet your fuckin’ ass. That’s the kind of knowledge money can’t buy.
Words have meaning dictated by context; everyone knows that. Out of context, they’re like nails without a hammer, like paints previous to their painting. To get excited over words because they are “cussing” is to show ignorance of, or disrespect for, denotation. Cussing is just an American Mid-Western mispronunciation of cursing, not a group of unspeakable words. “Fuck you” is not a curse cast upon someone’s head like some hick pagan voodoo juju. “Fuck you” is not cussing. “Fuck you” is an open threat thrown right into your enemy’s face, the way we like it.
So join the ranks of the fully vocabulated! Use euphemisms in making fun of aristocracy, and vulgarisms in defending Democracy! Embrace neologisms and thicken that dictionary up. Slang is fun! Ever notice how the people who get offended by the words you use are people you wouldn’t want to talk to anyway? Fuck that medieval bullshit! Drive their linguistic prejudices back into the Victorian Age where they’re still fashionable. Defend porn as the front line of free speech, attack censorship and disinformation in all their forms, and never, ever, ever forget the most important principle, the most invaluable precept of all. . .
Fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.
Sincerely and Utterly,