Wednesday, April 11, 2007

May you grow like an onion, with your head in the ground

Technically, I believe that would be an imprecation
Languages excellent for swearing (colloquially in this region known as "cussing," or more correctly "cussin',"which is how I grew up calling it):
Yiddish (creative, earthy); Russian ( wonderfully specific - a Russian can tell you in a word, or possibly two, without breaking a sweat what to do, with whom, how and when. A fabulous language for swearing as I learnign back inthe days when I was fluent and er. Nevermind how I learned to swear in Russian. I've forgotten it all now anyway); Arabic; English. Hebrew and Aramiac aren't so good, but the talmud records a few - yoshvei kranot is one of my favorite talmudic insults.
But what the...?

Naamah's Swearing Workshop begins with a screamingly funny explanation, and continues with a relatively serious essay on the value and process of swearing. Very worth reading. But not if your panties bunch at foul language.
A (work safe) example:

The articulate approach is always popular with the intelligent. If you are the sort of person who tries not to use actual foul language, or if you especially enjoy confusing your enemies, then this is the style for you. It is quite possible to swear articulately and never use a single off-color word. Using this approach, it is also possible to swear copiously without anyone realizing it.

That said, when swearing at someone (not just near them) you should never be so purple that the meaning of your words is not immediately apparent, unless you are trying to get away with insulting someone to their face (in which case you had best watch your tone of voice and hope that they are very stupid – and that you are out of reach once the meaning filters through).

If you ever get someone to say "thank you" after you have insulted or threatened them in this fashion, you deserve a medal. Truly, you are a master.

The articulate blends easily with all classes of swearing, from imprecations to plain old profanity. It is, however, stultifying for anything other than short bouts.

Take this example, composed by my dear sister many years ago, and memorized by me for use in junior high:

"You intoxicate me with the exuberance of your vociferance, but your highly grammatical prognostications are a trifle too copious for your diminutive intellect."

I rest my sesquipedalian case.

...Swearing is not something you employ as a last-minute way to try to save face. It is how you end a conversation. Completely. Rarely, and I do not advise this, it is how you provoke someone into a fit of apoplectic rage so that they will escalate, embarrassing themselves and/or giving you an excuse for walking away. It's possible that they might die of an aneurysm.

If more people swore this way, deliberately and with inventiveness, it would be respected, instead of relegated to the linguistic ghetto reserved for drug dealers, pirates, prostitutes, villains, teenage punks, unfashionable minorities, and the Punisher.

hattip to D. Glenn Arthur

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