Smearing and taunting

(Adapted and expanded from a Facebook comment of mine a while back. Some coarse sexual language, notably from American newsmakers, but also enough about sexual bodies and mansex from me to make the posting dubious for kids and the sexually modest.)

Every so often, MSNBC commentator Ali Velshi tartly notes — alluding to the Imperator Grabpussy’s smears of President Barack Obama as a Muslim born in Kenya — that he is a Muslim who was born in Kenya (though he grew up in Canada).

There’s a linguistic point here, having to do with relevance and implicature. Why does Velshi say this? Yes, it’s true, but then “The freezing point of water is 32F” is true, but if Velshi had said that it would have been bizarre, because it would have been irrelevant in the context. So Velshi’s religion and nativity are relevant in the context. Cutting through a whole lot of stuff, I would claim that Velshi is implicating something like “Being one myself, I know from Muslims born in Kenya, and I know that Barack Obama is no Muslim born in Kenya”. And THAT brings me to a piece I’ve been wrestling with some time, about Grabpussy Jr. jeering at Mitt Romney, taunting him by calling him a pussy. (I have a Velshian response of my own to that.)

Hang on; this will go in several directions.

Note: smearing and taunting. Grabpussy’s fabrication about Obama and Grabpussy Jr.’s jeer at Romney. From NOAD:

verb smear: … 2 damage the reputation of (someone) by false accusations; slander: someone was trying to smear her by faking letters.

verb taunt: [a] [with object] provoke or challenge (someone) with insulting remarks: students began taunting her about her weight

The way the taunt definition characterizes the purpose of the insult — provocation or challenge — seems too mild to me. The Wikipedia entry captures harsher purposes:

A taunt is a battle cry, sarcastic remark, gesture, or insult intended to demoralize the recipient, or to anger them and encourage reactionary behaviors

Grabpussy Jr.’s intent in “Mom Jeans. Because you’re a pussy” was pretty clearly to demoralize Romney and to degrade him in the eyes of others. The 2/5 Instagram posting:


Pussies. The rest of my FB comment:

(Yes, schoolyard bullying, insulting a boy by indirectly calling him a fag, a mere receptacle for anal penetration, doing that by referring to him as a girl, and doing that indirectly as well, by treating her as merely a projection of her vagina, her pussy.) To which I want to say, Velshi-style, “Why, I am a pussy”. (This is fact.) Implicating something like “Being one myself, I know from [male] pussies, and I know that Mitt Romney is not one”. It’s also true that by mentioning it explicitly, Ali Velshi is conveying that he’s not ashamed of his identity. And I do the same.

In my 8/19/12 posting “The pussy patrol”, there’s a digression on on the tangled semantic web of the word pussy. A summary of material in OED3 (Dec. 2007):

— “colloquial” senses including ‘a girl or woman exhibiting characteristics associated with a cat, esp. sweetness or amiability’

— “slang” senses (chiefly North American) including ‘a sweet or effeminate male’;  ‘a weakling, a coward, a sissy’;  ‘a male homosexual’ (OED takes these to be historical developments from the feline sense, but current usage suggests that they are now primarily viewed as related to the genital senses (Note that historical sense developments do not necessarily align well with the sense clusters of the contemporary language; knowing the etymology doesn’t necessarily tell you a lot about current usage.)

— “coarse slang” senses including ‘the female genitals’; ‘a woman, or women collectively, regarded as a source of sexual intercourse’; in male homosexual usage: ‘the anus … of a man, as an object of sexual penetration’; also: ‘a man or boy viewed in this way’

The last two of these bring me to my own usages.

First, in the vocabulary of the anus, I distinguish my asshole, which is the anus viewed as an organ of defecation; and my pussy (or sometimes cunt), which is the anus viewed as an organ of receptive intercourse, an organ of sexual pleasure. Pussy is just a metaphor, not an assertion of identity; you want a word for the anus as a male sexual organ, you look for parallels, and vaginas are obvious analogues. That doesn’t mean you think your anus is a vagina, or that by using such language you are identifying as a woman.

(Bit of a digression. There are alternatives to metaphorizing. For instance, the N + N compound fuckhole lit. ‘hole for fucking’ — which has the advantage of being usable for both sexes, and having the powerful noun fuck in it.)

Second, in the vocabulary of reference to persons as sexual beings, there’s the part-for-whole metonymy, or synecdoche, in referring to someone via a term for their sexual parts, specifically in referring to a man who takes the receptive role in anal intercourse via a lexical item for his anus viewed as a sexual organ: pussy, cunt, or fuckhole. See my “Why, I am a pussy” above.

From my 2/17/20 posting “Preference labels and little pockets”

(#2) “the shameless effrontery of CERTIFIED PUSSY BOY [on a t-shirt], which I truly admire”

(On occasion, I have described myself as a full-bore pussy.)

And then, from my 5/17/18 posting “Deshagged and pedicured”, a note on the basis for this self-identification:

I’ve been long out of the fuck market, but not because I’ve renounced it as wickedness; in fact, getting fucked is the central event of my very rich fantasy sexual life. (Insert paean to masturbation here.)

“I know from X”. An idiom I used above twice, the second time in: “Being one myself, I know from [male] pussies, and I know that Mitt Romney is not one”. Heidi Harley admired my FB comment, adding that she loved my deployment of to know from. Indeed, it was carefully chosen; what I said to Heidi:

One of many gifts of Yiddish to English. The first time I heard it (long ago, when velociraptors scrunched up smaller creatures) I saw that it had a wonderful subtlety to it, a meaning component of great utility.

The history is wonderful. From HDAS:

[not] know from nothing [Yid tsu visn fun gornisht ‘to be ignorant’; lit., ‘to know from nothing’] to know absolutely nothing. Hence know from to know about. [1st positive know from example from 1977 (the film The Boys in Company C) He knows from baseball like I know from polo; later 1992 (in The New Yorker) Mr. Perkoff knows from bar-mitzvah parties … He has played at over a thousand bar mitzvahs

So, from the negative idiom to know from nothing, a syntactically back-formed positive to know from, loosely glossed ‘to know about’, but as you can see from the examples above, it conveys ‘to know about from personal experience’, and that accords exactly with the way I use the idiom: I don’t just know about male pussies (say, from having read the literature on male homosexuality), I know about them from my own experience.

More taunting. Around the same time as Grabpussy Jr.’s Instagram taunt, the folks on ADS-L were discussing a childhood game and its many names. From Wikipedia:

Keep Away, also called Monkey in the Middle, Piggy in the Middle, Pickle in a Dish, or Pickle in the Middle, or Monkey, is a children’s game in which two or more players must pass a ball to one another, while a player in the middle attempts to intercept it. The game could be considered a reverse form of dodgeball, because instead of trying to hit people in the middle with the ball, players attempt to keep the ball away from him or her. The game is played worldwide.

I suppose this game must have been played on the grounds of the West Lawn Elementary School when I was a student there, but I don’t recall it. What I do recall is the taunting variant of it, in which a pack of boys abuse a boy they perceive as inferior to them — geeky, artsy, unathletic, insufficiently masculine (probably a fairy), friendly with girls, small, unmuscular, funny-looking, wrong race or ethnicity, the list is endless, so many ways to be inadequate — surround him, grab some belonging of his (classically, a cap), passing it from one to another while he tries to snatch it back, all the time abusing him verbally. The immediate aim is to make him beg, if possible reduce him to tears. The long-range goal is to prove that he is worthless and contemptible in comparison to them, who are lords of their world.

Rarely does the target get his object back undamaged; sometimes it’s literally destroyed. And then the kid has to try to explain that away.

There are lots of good things in the world of boys in packs: cooperation in sports teams, all sorts of friendly but tough competitions, buddies doing all sorts of things in groups for companionship (and protection from the world). And then there’s the world of bully boys.

(These days I have trouble enduring any appearance by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who strikes me as a hateful grown-up version of a bully boy, with political power to boot.)

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