Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Obscenities of Truth & Clarity

I was raised in a home without vulgarity. The most extreme language verging on obscenity was ‘Holy Cow’ or ‘Drat It Anyway!’ Similar to the old book I am now reading that repeatedly says, “Go obscenity thyself”.

But our neighbors, when I was a kid. That was a different story. Theirs was a democratic household where they spoke obscenities openly and eloquently without guilty hesitation or a catch in the throat. Oaths and obscenities rang through the house from morning to night like a never-ending catchy little tune.

And yes, the expressions they used were shocking. Their words made my heart pound in my chest. But at the same time, I couldn’t help but admire their freedom of expression that surpassed all rules and regulations. It was to be admired. The daring bravery of it all.

When one of the kids wandered into the kitchen in a pair of baggy jeans, the other sneered. “You’re not going to wear those, are you? Go look at your backside in the mirror, you look like you sh_ _ yourself.”

The obscenity of the remark was shocking as always, but even more shocking, was the fact that the expression was one of absolute unadulterated truth. From the back, without a doubt, that is exactly what those baggy jeans looked like. Like they were masking a very firm finely formed fecal log (or two).

And that only added to my amazement of their vocabulary. That such sinful expressions could carry a level of absolute accuracy and, at the same time, concerned goodness. In this instance, good advice and concern that would prevent a sibling from walking around town looking like they messed themselves.

Goodness in obscenity. Quite remarkable. But I silently observed and listened and found an endearing feeling in this exchange. Concern of one sibling for how the other might look.

Now many of the expressions so prevalent in everyday conversation in that household were never defined for me. And of course I refused to ask. I would appear far too ignorant, far too non-worldly, and if I were to question the meanings, such an exchange might force me to have to say the word. And furthermore, I pretty much believed that if I did ask, the neighbor’s kids (parents included) would roll on the floor and laugh until they literally fecalled themselves.

And so, I knew I must circumvent their style of speak by giving it a wide berth. By skirting it entirely. And truly, since these were words I was not allowed to use, what matter the meaning? What use to me? When applied?

In our house – never. Not unless I was hell-bent on nursing hurt feelings and a blistered backside.

And so, because of all this, I cast my own connotations and definitions on the expressions I heard.

But one of the more frequently used words, I found rather confusing. I wasn’t sure if a donkey was a reference to testes, the penis, the vagina, or the anus. Was it all or one? What was it anyway?

And so here I am, some fifty years later, and still not certain. And still, resolved in mind to never ask.

But now I don’t need to. The meaning has suddenly become crystal clear. In the past, without certainty of what a donkey was, I likewise never knew if a donkey hole was a penis, an anus, a vagina or a combination of all three. But now I know.

I’ve seen enough cops on TV using guns and tasers irresponsibly to know what a donkey hole is and it is not any of those things that for more than fifty years, I thought it was.


joared said...

I like your word discussion here. Interesting how "fecal" can be an acceptable word to say or write but we avoid that other s-word. When I was in a rebellious mood during a period of my youth, I sometimes would deliberately say "sh-h-h," extending that syllable however long it took to elicit a warning from my mother to which I could retort, "I was just going to say shoot." I'm not too keen on the use of donkey hole.

Yeah, we had to be careful to whom we allowed our worldly ignorance to show. Not much worse than to be ridiculed, laughed at and made fun of.

Kate said...

I love the way your mind works. You can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. (I hope you've heard this expression.) My early family never used obscenities either so it was quite a shock to marry into a family that did freely. (Not during courtship but once the deed was done.)

Roberta S said...

hi joared. Thanks for commenting about some other interessting aspects of life the way it used to be.
We'ren't we all a whole lot more cautious, timid, and reserved?

P.S. I never use the dh expression, I only used the term 'donkey hole' to prevent my blog from being sensored because of word content.

Roberta S said...

oh yes, kate, I'm familiar with the sow's ear expression. It is one of the more common ones in my neck of the woods.

Thank you for letting me know that you found some enjoyment in this totally off-the-wall rant. (maybe, it would be more accurate to have said, "bathroom-wall rant"). And thanks again for the enjoyable visit.

Joy Des Jardins said...

It;s funny that I didn't grow up with a complete potty mouth. My mother came from a hot-blooded Italian family that spouted off some four-letter words fairly regularly; but not my dad...and I think that's where I took my lead since my dad was my hero. And...my mom mellowed-out considerably in that area as she grew older.

I pretty much followed suit in raising my kids until they got to be adults; and now we joke comedically with each other and let some things fly; but NEVER EVER around my grandchildren or any other children. That's just rule of thumb and something none of us would be comfortable with.

Roberta S said...

...and I agree with that, joy. I totally agree.

(despite the contemptible content of this rant).

Dick said...

Another thought provoking meditation, Roberta. It provokes once again the larger debate about the power of 'bad' language within a culture that will accept so much more readily both the language and direct representation of violence. I remain baffled (although not short on theories) about the visceral horror with which so many respond to the utterance of sexual and lavatorial language.

brad4d said...

How words are used show personal freedom to neutralize translation or become victimized by the way reflexes upset reality values. Racist words were the most obscene in my house so to watch the movie Lennie, when Dustin played the N-word routine, relieved a fecal-load of tension in my family.

Roberta S said...

dick, it is surprising to me when I provoke you to some new meditation. And then, what do you do? You provoke me to new and intriguing multiple meditations.

There is much meat in what you have said here. Makes me wish to know what your own theories are and what baffling questions remain about society's "abnormal" interpretations of potty-mouth speech.

It would be an interesting discussion for you to post about -- if you perchance agree and have the time.

Roberta S said...

brad4d, Thanks for commenting. In your comment you express interesting observations that most people are too fecal-bound to realize or even contemplate.

I love the special talent you have for picking simple, yet stunning, yet obscure, truths out of complexity.

Pauline said...

You make me chuckle. I never heard of fecalled before but it works...

We were taught to say, "Curses, swears, and dirty four-lettered words," a mouthful to be sure but it covered all situations.

Roberta S said...

hi pauline. I knew 'fecalled' wasn't an accepted word but I felt it fit the occasion, trying as much as I was to avoid being a potty-mouth.

I like your substitution for vulgarity. More creative than that book I'm reading, that substitutes the word 'obsenity' for every vulgar expression the author would like to make, but doesn't.

In fact I think I'll pass that one along to the grandchildren when their parents aren't around. It's really cute. I laugh when I think how my daughters and son-in-laws will react when they hear the kids come out with that expression. (chuckle).