Friday, January 14, 2005

Call Me "Pablo"

 Prior to the highly covered criminal trial of O.J. Simpson I had never heard anyone say "The 'N' word".

 That is to say that while I had obviously heard the notorious racial epithet they were referring to plenty of times I had just never heard anyone use the phrase "The 'N' word".

 Now while I did understand that those involved were trying to acknowledge people's individual sensitivities the thing that I found ironic about the use of the phrase throughout the trial by the attorneys, the news media and everyone else who was hoping to avoid having their mouth washed out with Lifebuoy was the fact that everytime they uttered the politically correct term the very word which they were avoiding would immediately spring to everyone's big, bold, Times-Courier style letters.

 Prior to all of this the only word which I had ever really heard folks tip-toe around in quite the same manner was the "F" word and of course we all know what that word is.

 If you don't then I'd suggest you try stubbing your big toe against a kitchen chair leg in the dark. I Think it will come to you.

 But if the "F" word is the queen mother of bad words then surely the "N" word must be the Adolph Hitler of bad words since any actual use of it is enough to end a career or bring down the wrath of both the press and the ACLU.

 One thing I've noticed since those light hearted days of ill-fitting gloves and size 13 Bruno Maglia shoes is that I'm constantly hearing radio personalities, public figures and just plain folks around me referring to the "S" word, the "F" word and just about every other letter of the alphabet in this context.

 I wonder;

 Should this trend continue will we eventually come to the place where we never hear anything but the initials of words deemed offensive by society?

 I can just picture an angry defendant jumping to his feet in the courtroom and shouting, "GD your honor! Ain't no way any N is gonna get any justice in this MFing court!"

 Now I ask you, would that really be all that much better than simply using the words themselves?

 I mean, you would know exactly what those letters represented, right?

 And after all, shouldn't it be the meaning and intent behind the words that we find offensive?

 I see some other potential problems with taking this present route as well;

 Once we all have become accustomed to the idea that certain letters represent certain vulgarities then won't that naturally lead to the letters themselves being seen as offensive?

 I can think of at least nine letters right off the top of my head that would be considered "fightin' words" and a couple of others that would be viewed as grounds for divorce!

 And can you imagine a classroom full of grade schoolers reciting the alphabet?

 They'd all be giggling so much that the poor, underpaid teacher would never be able to get them past the sixth letter.

 Come to think of it, with the exception of "E" those first six letters are all naughty...and two of 'em are downright filthy!

 I remember when I was small, before I could spell, how adults would sometimes spell out certain words in my presence that they didn't want me to hear.

 I had no doubt that some or all of those words that they were spelling were bad ones although I couldn't actually prove it.

 Hey! Like I said, I couldn't spell at the time!

 The important part is that I knew that they were saying something naughty.

 So now why, I wondered, if these words were so wicked that they couldn't even be uttered aloud in my presence, did these adults like them so much that they simply had to use them...even if it meant stopping mid-sentence to spell them out?!?

 Bad language, I reasoned, must be a lot of fun!

 Of course, if we go with the single initial "F" word technique the whole spelling words in front of the kids thing would no longer be a valid option.

 After all, one can't spell exactly spell out "F" without actually saying it...just try it.


 Personally, I really don't have anything against using bad words, or should I say, those words which society has told us are "bad" words.

 Don't get me wrong, I do have enough brains to know not to use them in church or in the work place but they are, after all, only words.

 If you really want to shake things up do a little research on the vulgarity of your choice and you'll probably find out that it started out as perfectly respectable word and it was only with time that the word, or at least our perception of the word, evolved into something seen as crass, vulgar and wicked.

 By the way, can I take one hot minute to dispell a popular myth?
That bad word among bad words did not start out as a legal term in the courtrooms of merry old England; "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge"
It is, however, the title of a rather mediocre album by the rockgroup VanHalen

 What I was getting to is that in all actuality I must admit to a certain fondness for dirty words.

 I've even at times thought of myself as a sort of Pablo Picasso of curse words, creating one unique masterpiece after another which, while not always being perfectly logical in the classical sense, do succeed in conveying a certain unmistakable mood and message.

 Just ask my wife. Or my kids. Or my neighbors.

 So why, you may ask, would anyone admit to having any appreciation for those words deemed as unspeakable by clergy, educators and mothers everywhere?


 Bad words just have a type of flare...a certain Jenna c'est quoi if you will...that nice words just don't posess.

 C'mon, admit it;

 Most of us have a sneaking admiration for people and things which we've been taught were "bad" or "naughty".

 Oh no?

 Then you tell me, who do you think would get more girls;
Ernest Borgnine's "nice guy" character in the film "Marty" or Marlon Brando's swarthy bike riding rebel in "The Wild Ones"?

 There's a very good reason that we all chuckle about Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello (as sweet as they may have been) but speak in hushed reverant tones when referring to James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.
And the reason is that while Frankie and Annette were...well, nice, Jimmy and Marilyn, by contrast, were!

 There's another reason that I like bad words and yes, I am including those reprehensible racial epithets;

 When someone uses bad words I generally know exactly what they mean and where they stand.

 If a black guy, for instance, angrily calls me a cracker I know precisely where he's coming from;

 No wondering, no second-guessing.

 It's all laid out right there in front of me.

 Besides, he really doesn't have the option of reverting to calling me "the 'C' word" in place of cracker as he would be running the risk of someone overhearing him and thinking he meant that other "C" word and that, my friend, could mean big trouble.

Oops upside yo head!

 Now lest ye think that I'm actually advocating the use of curse words, crude sexual terms, racial slurs and bad language let me assure you that I am not.

 I'm simply pointing out that perhaps we should make a conscience choice to use bad words or to not use bad words.

 Either clean up your language and find other ways to express yourself or just say what you mean.

 Don't spell it or use the innocent letters of the alphabet to do your dirty work for you;just say it!

 ...or don't.

 Trust me, those kids that you are trying so hard to shield from profanity probably have a knowledge of blue language which could rival that which one may find in a sailor's love letters so if you truly believe that certain words are really so terrible then maybe you should just remove them from your vocabulary altogether for your own conscience's sake.

 Just lose 'em!

 But hey; that's just how I see it...and who in the hell am I anyway? last thing;
You know all that stuff I said earlier? You know, about me being the Picasso of bad words and all?

 If you run into my mom please don't mention any of that stuff to her, OK?

 I mean, she may be getting up there in years...

But she can still slap the S out of me if she D well wants to!

Apples And Allen Wrenches

"We can _BLANK_ but we just can't seem to _BLANK_."

Ever hear someone use this phrase?

Let me explain but please don't be offended if you happen to be an individual who has said this sort of thing yourself as you obviously didn't know what you were saying at the time so you're automatically forgiven, OK?

  I'm talking about what is, in my humble opinion, one of the dumbest things that I ever hear people say which is the phrase above with the blanks filled in;

  "We can make all them fancy computers but we don't seem to be able to keep our kids off drugs"

See what I mean?

Now of course I realize that the intent behind this type of comment is to point out that we don't always have our priorities straight which may sometimes be true but the problem is that the comparisons they make never seem to have ANY relationship.
 Using the above example, I have to wonder if the person who said it understands that it's NOT the drug counsellors or the D.A.R.E. officers who are necessarily the same folks who actually build computers.

  Now if one were to say, for instance, "We have plenty of time to yell at our kids but we sure don't seem to be able to find time to just talk with them"... now THAT would make some kind of sense.

And don't you wish that you had a buck for everytime you've heard someone say "We can put a man on the moon but we can't find a cure for the common cold" if to imply that the development of velcro alone wasn't enought to justify the money spent on the space program!

I mean, sheesh!

  I've also noticed that whenever I hear someone saying something along these lines, using the "We can _BLANK_ but..." formula it's often some idiotic comparison but the person who said it has a proud look on their face as though they have just said something profound.

  The other day I heard someone say ; "We sure can make all these remote controlled planes and high tech surveillance devices but we can't find a cure for AIDS".

Big proud smile.

 Umm....You are aware, of course, that the guys who know how to build planes DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE HUMAN AUTO-IMMUNE SYSTEM, RIGHT?

Trust me, if I ever come down with a potentially fatal disease or suffer a serious physical injury I do NOT want to look up from my hospital bed to see Gomer Pyle and Sgt. Carter looking down at me as they discuss how to proceed.

"Um...uh...nurse? What are these guys doing here?"

"Don't worry Mr. Moffitt. They're taking time out from their duties back at the military base to operate on you".

"Gee...don't they have something else they could be know, like working on remote control planes or something?"

Here's another good one I overheard;

  "We can sure make good DVD players but we just can't seem to cure cancer once and for all".


 Hey Ace. I doubt that Mr. Chang has time in between assembling remote control units at the Samsung factory to work on that cure for cancer.
But hey, maybe when orders slow down a bit after the holidays.

 One of my all time favorites was the 40 year old guy who works in the gymnasium of our local community center and his comment a few weeks after 9/11;

  "Yep, we sure can make all these fancy flat screen TVs and we can send satellites up into space but we can't seem to figure out a way to just sit down with that Bin Laden feller and talk things over".

Big proud smile.

 I had to hold myself back from responding;
 "I know whatcha mean. Take yourself for instance. YOU, on the one hand, can assess how the government and world leaders should be dealing with issues of global peace and international terrorism but at the same time you JUST CAN'T FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO BETTER THAN A MINIMUM WAGE JOB GUARDING THE EXERCISE EQUIPMENT AT FORTY YEARS OF AGE."

 Is that like what you mean?"

I've decided that since so many people like to make these tired out lop-sided types of observations I'm going to start playing along with them.

In fact I think that the next time I hear someone utter the all-too-familiar observation "They can put a man on the moon but they can't find a cure for the common cold." I'm going to say, with a completely straight face,
"Well, you know, that's exactly where our space program went so very wrong.
The Russians had lead us to believe that the cure for the common cold was actually to be found on the moon!.

Then we got there and realized we'd been had!

Man, were the faces of the high-ups at NASA red!

And of course those damn Russians had been laughin' their butts off the whole time knowing that all we were going to find was a bunch of rocks and stuff".