Every now and again I begin my own modest campaign to upgrade my use of the American version of the English language. This is accomplished by a refusal to use "adult language", although it might prove just as valuable to try to rid my personal lexicon of euphemisms. When I refer to 'adult language", I mean obscenity. Or what we used to call obscenity.
I'm old enough to remember when such language was used mostly between men in private. It was not to be used in front of women or children. I don't believe that this was sexist or ageist in intent. The main reason had to do with how we used to define civility.
Certainly, as a teenager I was all for the loosening of societal strictures. At some point I became aware of Lenny Bruce and the legal problems he had from the use of expletives. His adult humor was a disguise for some occasionally insightful social commentary. While I did think that society needed to be less "uptight" about such things, I also understood that if it became acceptable to use such language in public, the floodgates would open and we would be inundated with a veritable tsunami of obscenity. The effect of such a change would be to devalue the use of those words. Back in the late 50's and early 60's, if one uttered a "damn it", people knew you were upset. If you uttered a good old fashioned "Goddamn it", the shock value was such that people scattered and stayed out of your way. I miss that.
Over the years, such language proliferated in fiction, in movies, in music, on TV. Now one can barely escape it on a day to day basis. And I am tired of it. I'm not only tired of it, I'm sick of hearing very young children curse like the stereotype of a sailor. I don't know why it really bothers me all that much when I also hear 8 year olds singing, or to be more precise rapping, sexually explicit material with great attention to detail. I got used to young girls dressing like Madonna in the 1980's, not quite understanding that the kicky outfits they were wearing were the accoutrements of exceedingly cheap ladies of the evening. But just because I became used to such things doesn't mean I enjoy them. (Well, maybe occasionally.)
It is good that we can now freely use real adult words, not just obscene ones. If my Aunt Mary had been able to talk about her female parts, her cancer might have been discovered before it took her life. As a people, we talk openly about sex now. It was good to demystify such things.
But that doesn't mean that I want to hear a constant stream of obscenity everywhere I go. Sometimes it can be funny (the character of Deb in 'Dexter', most any early Quentin Tarantino script), sometimes it can denote character, sometimes it can still shock.
Now, all of that having being said, I have to observe that today is an "oh, fuck" kind of a day. I'm not referring to the US Supreme Court, although they are certainly worth an "Oh, Fuck". It's all the little things, the heat, the humidity, the carrying of the vase with the peonies to refresh the water and having a thousand and ten petals shed all over the floor, the realization that the only thing cool I have for desert or late night snack is the jello and I'd forgotten to make it for the third day in a row. The discovery that the bananas intended to go into the jello had passed any acceptable edible standard in this heat. Well, they would make a great banana bread (especially my cranberry walnut banana bread) but it is really just too damn hot to have the oven on. I was a little extra pissed off as I had paid a tad more for organic bananas which really do taste better than the regular ones. Then there was the discovery that the refrigerator has been stressed in the heat and that the grapes had grown more fuzz than a teenage boy with Cro-Magnon tendencies. The discovery that the forever sharp paring knife I purchased to support a co-worker's shilling for the efforts her child should have put out for that school project won't even cut any of the useable grapes anymore. It's been the kind of day when one attempts to make the bed only to discover that somehow during the night a corner of the pushed aside sheet and blanket combo got under a container with a couple hundred home burn CDs which with the slightest flick of the sheets went sailing through the air spilling its contents far and wide. (That was a slight exaggeration - it merely turned over and spilled a couple hundred home burned CDs far and wide.) It's the kind of day when I had an appointment at the radio station, requested by the non-profits' vice president, and when I showed up at the requested time discovered that the person it was imperative have a chance to meet me had already left. So I did close to two hours of work and chores that needed doing, walked home in weather meant to crush the spirit of jungle ants, arrived home just in time to experience a power outage, which meant I had to return to the radio station to restart password protected computers that govern our automation and web stream. I have to admit, I was okay with all of this until about 4pm or so, when I heard myself utter a loud, plaintive "Oh, Fuck". And you know what? It's the perfect description for my day so far - it's been an "oh, fuck" kind of day.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Sunday, June 23, 2013
criminy - used as a mild oath or to express surprise. probably euphemism for Late Latin Jesu domine Jesus Lord! First Known Use: 1681
Uh, oh. After using that divider I'm having a sudden flashback to Dover Books and their volumes for decoupage and copyright free Victorian illustration. Sigh. I loved those books and always made sure to carry them in bookstores I ran. Most people never knew it, but Dover had their own bookstore - if memory serves it was on 7th Avenue South in New York City, and on a second floor. Of course I just had to go online and see if Dover still exists, and gloriosky and beJesus they do. They're in Mineola now, poor things Thankfully, they have a website - where one can sign up for free samplers! (I just did, woo-hoo.) Suddenly visions of my younger self slaving over graphics presentations, using fine edge tools to cut stencils for the hand cranked Gestetner float through the air... it's the heat.
Forget what the calendar says. Weather wise, over the last couple of days we jumped from early May right to late July. Well, in their "old school" incarnations anyway. It's cooler outside than it is in my apartment, which is a toasty 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Criminy! My head is full of images of older adults in sweaters, always feeling cold, moving to Florida where it's warm. That stereotype does not fit me, I'm afraid. With each passing year I take the heat with lessening degrees (!) of equanimity. I used to love basting in the sun, but that activity was often accompanied by a cool ocean breeze. Now I find it difficult to work in the garden after 10am. Double Criminy!
My garden is a mess. Back when I lived in Boston, I was lucky enough to get a plot in the community garden in the Fenway. To anyone who lives in Boston, those are the "Victory Gardens". During World War Two public lands, including parklands, were turned into "Victory" gardens. Food was needed for the war effort, for feeding soldiers, for our allies in Europe, and for our home front. Of all the land across the United States given over to such use, the only one left is the Victory Gardens in Boston. After the war, the cranky old Yankees of the Back Bay and the Fenway refused to give them up. When I left Boston to move to Brattleboro in 1995, that was still an ongoing fight. The city has finally stopped trying to get the land back, and the Victory Gardens now have a website! And if you've noticed that they are in the "Fenway" and are wondering, yes the classic home ballpark of the Red Sox is just a block away.
To be continued...