Thursday, April 26, 2007

Of F-bombs and piss in boots

WARNING: Mildly offensive terms used with the best intentions.

I worry that our language is suffering. Yes, there's the degradation that comes with the race and gender slurs that have become part of everyday conversation, the kind of thing that got Don Imus in trouble. And there's the overuse of the f bomb ad nauseum. (A friend long ago would offer a one-word comment when someone reeled off a particularly good swear - "crisp," he would say. But you could only keep it crisp if you didn't pull it out of your pocket every five seconds. Overused, it became stale.) But my greater concern is the loss of color in everyday language as all our great colloquialisms and figures of speech fade away.

For example, I'll bet it's been awhile since you heard someone say "He doesn't have enough sense to pour piss out of a boot." Or " it's colder than a witches' tit." Or since we're on the subject, someone with their "tit caught in the wringer," which would be a good description for what happened to Imus actually. Back in my days on the radio, I once got lambasted for describing a heavy rain storm as "what we might have called, back in the Ozarks, a real turd floater."

All of these vividly descriptive terms, and ever so many more, were things I heard my Daddy say when I was growing up. People knew how to put some style in their dialogue back then. But today, most of the references don't make much sense. People don't piss in boots in the night to avoid going out to the privvy, nothing gets caught in the wringer because we all have washing machines, and you don't have a problem with floating turds after a storm when you have indoor plumbing. If the pitcher is wild, you won't be likely to mutter that he "coudn't hit a bull in the ass with a handful of sand" because the size of a bull's ass is not a contemporary reference point, no more than the side of a barn would be. Your friends would just think you're weird and you talk funny.

So little by little, we're loosing all these vivid, if coarse, images as we lose the people whose heads are full of them. My Daddy would drop these jewels of descriptive language into every other sentence, they flowed out with no effort. He never searched for the right phrase, it was always there. His skill with the sayings, as he would have put it, "stands out like a diamond in a goat's ass."

1 comment:

Sister 3 said...

Yes, Daddy's language was uhh. . colorful indeed, but it sure kept us listen'. One of my favorites was "jumpin' around like a fart on a hot griddle."
How's the weather there? We had a real gully washer yesterday.