Thursday, March 10, 2016

Giving a Bit More Polish to Your Invective

There was a time, many years ago, when people were more refined. When presidential candidates didn't brag about the size of their genitals. When day-to-day language didn't consist of four letter words and seven- and twelve-letter combinations of other nasty words. Things have gotten so bad that my daughter has gone from "Dad!! Language!!" around her own daughters to "They've heard it all in school." George Carlin's famous routine "Seven Words You Can't Say on Television" is meaningless nowadays, because all seven of those words and more can be heard routinely on prime-time TV.

I generally try to control my language, particularly around women and children and in professional environments. Some times, though, call for the employment of full-on, vivid, blue-streak cussing ... and when you really don't want to cut loose with the foul language, you need to be creative.

Here are a few ideas ...

In my study of Russian, I picked up three words that are perfectly innocent, yet can sound unbelievably foul and nasty when uttered in the right tone of voice. They are ptitsa ("bird"), chemodan (suitcase), and karandash ("pencil").

Having trouble with Russian pronunciation? There are a lot of old-fashioned swear words and expressions that have fallen out of favor in modern English, but can serve quite well in time of linguistic need. You can read a list of classics in this article from Mental Floss magazine, including: thunderation!, great horn spoon!, and by Saint Boogar and all the saints at the backside door of purgatory! My mother* was fond of Great Caesar's Ghost!, which I often use myself.

Many years ago I worked with an Air Force NCO who was also a Baptist minister. He was a giant of a man, but as even-tempered and gentle as he was huge and intimidating. Whenever he got particularly upset about something, he'd cut loose with a deep, rumbling, Goodness gracious! We gots to do somethin' about this! ... which, for him, was the equivalent of a drunken longshoreman screaming invective.

Need something else? There are always the old standbys like Holy Mackerel! and Godfrey Daniels! And I remember a line of dialog from a novel** in which a really, really upset lady shouted at someone, "You loathsome piece of industrial waste! You toad!"

So, Dear Readers, you have a lot of options that will let you curse imaginatively, without using gutter language and sounding like a boor. And if all else fails, you can fall back on any of a number of Shakespearean Insult Generators that are available online ... like this one.

Have a good day, thou churlish, fly-bitten joithead! See you tomorrow, when we honor the March Right-Cheek Ass Clown. More thoughts then.


* Mom's view was that if you needed to use foul language, it was a sign that you weren't smart enough to think of anything more appropriate to say. Dad would use the occasional four-letter word (although I never heard him drop the f-bomb); for him, the ultimate put down was to call someone a "horse's ass" ... which I've always found to be a particularly quaint and useful expression.

** I think it was The Mephisto Waltz, by Fred Mustard Stewart.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Well......gosh darn! Holy mackerel there, I am chagrined!

Bilbo said...

Well, bless your little heart, Angel!

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

I still prefer WTF!

Mike said...

It's been a long long time since I've heard 'Great Caesar's Ghost'. And shouldn't you have said to Angel 'Well, bless your little pea pickin' heart'?

John A Hill said...


Bilbo said...

I'd forgotten about "sacreblue," John ... my father used to shout a version of it - "sac'reliac!" which is, I believe, a bit more elegant term for a pain in the ass.

allenwoodhaven said...

As a teenager, I went through a phase of saying "cripes!". Don't remember where it came from.

Great Caesar's Ghost immediately makes me think of Perry White, Clark Kent's boss.

Big Sky Heidi said...

Zounds! Or merde!