F**k You, Penguin

A gift from my friend Ellen Evans: Matthew Gasteier’s 2009 book F**k You, Penguin: Telling Cute Animals What’s What — combining my first totem animal (the penguin), taboo vocabulary, and taboo avoidance, all in one package.

Two different covers for the book, with two different avoidance schemes:

The blog from which the material in the book is derived is called, straightforwardly, Fuck You, Penguin, though the book is usually referred to by one of the titles above. From an interview of 8/26/09 with Gasteier:

Last October, 27-year-old Matthew Gasteier got fed up with all the cuteness of animal blogs such as ICanHasCheezburger and CuteOverload. The result was the creation of the devastatingly funny “Fuck You, Penguin” – “A blog where I tell cute animals what’s what.” Flash forward to present day, where the blog gets 10-20,000 hits daily and Matthew’s blog-based book, “FU, Penguin” hit store shelves yesterday.

The book is written in smart-ass wise-guy (and I do mean guy) dude talk; it’s best appreciated a few bits at a time. Fuck is all over the place, and shit, asshole, crap, dick, etc. are pretty heavy on the ground — but only in their expressive and not in their literal uses (dick, for example, means  ‘contemptible guy’, not ‘penis’).

Three linguistic finds:

One, the last word on talking dogs:


Dogs can actually talk, but they know it would change the whole dynamic in their relationship with humans if they let on. The best way to convince your dog to talk to you is to start up a conversation about obscure nineteenth-century Russian poetry and misquote various verses. Your dog will be unable to resist correcting you. (p. 37)

Two, on non-transparent compound nouns like porcupine fish (p. 125) and sea horse (p. 127):

Oftentimes animals with combo names are total crap, like that porcupine fish from the last page. (wtf? Still not over it? Get a real name, loser.) But this fucker really lives up to his billing, and I’m not going to let him get away with it. (p. 127)

And three, a deliberate confusion of words and things:

You are so weird, Platypus, that they don’t even have a universally agreed-upon word for the plural form of you. (p. 189)

(Though editors seem to have guided Gasteier to avoiding choices between -ise and -ize spellings, and between -our and -or spellings, so as to satisfy readers on both sides of the Atlantic, Britishness occasionally obtrudes: in money measured in p and £, in references to wankers.)

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