Briefly noted: famous or heinous?

Caught in passing on tv, a reference to heinous crimes in which the /h/ of /hénəs/ was so brief that the pronunciation came very close to /énəs krájmz/ anus crimes. I reflected for a moment on what those might be, passing over the obvious and distressing possibility ‘anal rapes’ to consider merely improper alternatives, like farting in public, or crimes that were only figurative, like anal bleaching, that crime against fashion.

But then my attention was caught by the rhyming phrase heinous anus, and I fell into musings about meanings for the expression — see below — until Famous Amos hit me (notes on Wally and his celebrated cookies further below). Oh my, now I had

the Famous Amos heinous anus

and my day was complete.

heinous. I’ll start with the most conservative definition, the one most evocative of the etymology in roots meaning ‘hate’. From NOAD:

adj. heinous: (of a person or wrongful act, especially a crime) utterly odious or wicked: a battery of heinous crimes.

The Cambridge Dictionary online softens this a bit, to ‘very bad and shocking’.

Then you can find cites for a substantial further softening, to merely ‘bad’:

She recently recovered from a heinous skateboarding injury that took more than nine months to heal. (link)

Or less grievous than that. From

heinous crime is very evil or wicked. Of course, some people only use the term as an exaggeration, claiming that their parents’ requirement that they write thank you notes after their birthdays is a heinous form of torture.

No doubt some have used it to convey ‘very good’, with switched polarity of affect (along the lines of US black bad conveying ‘especially good, wonderful’).

heinous anus. I was hoping to find at least a few examples of the phrase, but unearthed neither literal ‘wicked anus’ nor slightly euphemistic examples using anatomical anus instead of vulgar asshole ‘stupid, irritating, or contemptible person’ (NOAD).

But … a fair number of examples of heinous assholes (with the the vulgar slur asshole rather than the bodypart asshole). Two from Twitter, plus The Guardian citing Trevor Noah:

[Twitter] So *that’s* why I liked dio despite him being a heinous asshole [from Wikipedia: Dio Brando [also known simply as DIO] is a fictional character appearing in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hirohiko Araki. … As the series’ most prolific villain, his defining trait is his staunch ambition, which manifests in a peerless desire for power, no matter the cost.]

[Twitter] I have been actively fighting not to die for the last 3 yrs and choose not to watch everything to do with the heinous asshole in the White House.

[The Guardian of 2/11/21, “Trevor Noah: ‘Nobody expected that [X]’s lawyers would be so terrible’] [Lawyer Bruce] Castor’s teammate David Schoen, meanwhile, went with what [Seth] Meyers called the “heinous asshole” route, with hyperbole such as: “This trial will tear this country apart, perhaps like we have only seen once before in our history.”

Wally and the cookies. From Wikipedia:

Famous Amos is a brand of cookies founded in Los Angeles in 1975 by Wally Amos, a former talent agent with William Morris Agency.

Wallace “Wally” Amos was born in Tallahassee, Florida, United States, on July 1, 1936. In 1948 he moved to New York City to live with his aunt, where they often baked cookies together. As an adult, Amos, an Air Force veteran who worked as a talent agent with the William Morris Agency, would send his home-baked chocolate chip cookies to celebrities to entice them to meet and perhaps sign a deal with his agency. Amos hit a plateau working for the William Morris Agency and decided to strike out on his own.

On March 10, 1975, Amos took the advice of some friends, and with $25,000 from singers Marvin Gaye and Helen Reddy, he opened a cookie store at 7181 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, in Los Angeles, California, naming it “Famous Amos”. … The store proved so popular that the “Famous Amos” brand eventually branched out to sell cookies in supermarkets, a move that would later be emulated by other specialty stores such as Baskin-Robbins, T.G.I. Fridays, and Starbucks.

(#1) Early Amos: always a hat, always a theme shirt; plus the handsome creased face, the trimmed stache and beard, and the big entrepreneurial smile

(#2) Later Amos and some of his famous chips: different headgear and (matching) shirt, more deeply creased face of age and experience (he’s still alive, about 4 years older than me), grizzled stache and beard, still the entrepreneurial smile (though he no hasn’t controlled the company for many years)

… Between 1988 and 2001, the Famous Amos company went through more than five different owners. … The brand is [now] a part of Kellogg’s.

It’s a sad commentary on the state of my country that there are so very few black entrepreneurs like Amos; it takes someone with extraordinary energy and commitment (plus a flare for publicity) to succeed. So of course he moved into an extra career of motivational seminars and books; and is celebrated as a monument of black achievement, a model for others to follow. But there should be many many more.

(On something completely different. I am an appreciator of faces — I post about memorable faces on this blog every so often — and Amos’s (especially with its crowning headgear) has long been one of my favorites (though his red and green hat is too goofy even for me).)

2 Responses to “Briefly noted: famous or heinous?”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    On a deeply serious understanding of heinous anus, namely ‘colorectal cancer’ (though no one seems to have used the phrase with this referent, no doubt because the rhyming phrase seems so light-hearted), a comment about this posting on Facebook, by Bob Boutwell:

    Here in Fort Lauderdale, we have a colorectal surgeon (Elie Schochet) who specializes in screening for and treating anorectal cancers in gay men. He claims to have the only anal dysplasia clinic of its kind in Florida, utilizing the anal pap smear and high resolution anoscopy (anal colposcopy) in order to identify and treat potentially precancerous intra-anal or penal lesions. He regularly gives “Happy Hiney” talks at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors/Fort Lauderdale.

  2. Robert Coren Says:

    There’s also the couplet from Cole Porter’s “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”:

    “If she says your behavior is heinous,
    Kick her right in the Coriolanus!”

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