Archive for the ‘Taboo language and slurs’ Category

Don’t ask!

January 31, 2021

Today’s morning name, but it comes with crucial context. The Don’t ask! in question is not the neutral use of the negative imperative, advising the addressee not to ask someone about something (Don’t ask them about the ducks in the kitchen; that just makes them crazy), but instead is a formula of Yiddish-influenced English, normally used only by (American) Jews (or gentiles culturally close to this community), when someone has in fact just asked about the matter in question (the tsuris tsores ‘troubles’); the speaker doesn’t go on to avoid this sensitive matter, but instead embraces it, launching into kvetching ‘complaining’ about it.

The formula Don’t ask!  then serves as an announcement — a kind of alarm bell, if you will — that the speaker is about to go off on a (perhaps extended) kvetch.

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euphemism ‘replacement expression’

January 26, 2021

In preparing yesterday’s posting “Garment vocabulary”, on the purported Victorian tabooing of the word trousers, I looked at the actual tabooing of the word breast (because of sociocultural anxiety over the female bodypart), even in reference to a type of chicken meat (from the breast of the bird), and found a small number of euphemisms for the female bodypart: bosom, bust (and for some people, also chest). Not a big haul, so I thought to do a search on “euphemism for breast” — and found long lists of vulgarities (mostly used by men), nothing like my idea of a euphemism, and nothing like the definition of euphemism in standard dictionaries.

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Garment vocabulary

January 25, 2021

What do you call an outer garment covering the body from the waist to the ankles, with a separate part for each leg? The referentially and socioculturally least restricted lexical item for this purpose, in both AmE and BrE, is the plural noun trousers. (The gloss in my first sentence is in fact the definition of trousers given, without restriction, in NOAD.)

It’s then remarkable that the Quite Interesting Twitter account maintained on 8/14/18 that

The Victorians thought the word ‘trousers’ so vulgar and rude that they used euphemisms such as ‘sit-upons’, ‘inexpressibles’, ‘unutterables’ and ‘unwhisperables’ instead.

The result of such an attitude would have been that there was literally no everyday expression to refer to such a garment — even one originating as a euphemism but naturalized as ordinary vocabulary — as has been the case for white meat as a replacement for (chicken) breast, for some speakers, and in many other cases.

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Hola Queridx

August 28, 2020

Back on 3/4 on Facebook, from Peruvian linguist Ernesto Cuba, with a photo of him

[Cuba phrase] con mi queridx Iván Villanueva Jordán, traductor queer … lingüistica marica


(#1) Ernesto (right) with his Peruvian student Iván (who’s studied drag queens in Lima)

(Google at the time didn’t try to translate queridx but translated lingüistica marica as ‘faggot linguistics’)

Cuba’s queridx posting led me to discover Dario Cocimano’s song “Hola Queridx” from his 2018 Digno album —

(#2)

— and so to query Cuba about the linguistic usages involved.

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Zippy philaconfusion

August 9, 2020

(There will be a brief dip into a mansex-steamy Tom of Finland drawing, which might offend some readers.)

Today’s Zippy, in which philandering and philately are confounded:

(#1)

Word confusions are very common; sometimes they are momentary failures to retrieve the intended word; sometimes they are misapprehensions about the target. Zerbina’s error is apparently of the first type, but she nevertheless has a complaint about Zippy’s attentions to her, though the cause isn’t philandering but philately.

The two words share an etymological component, the phil(a)- (originally ‘love’) part, seen also in philosophy, philodendron, pedophilia, Philadelphia, and much more. But this is scarcely obvious to modern speakers of English.

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Nuancy Nancy

August 1, 2020

For we will sit together as happy as can be
For I’ll tickle Nancy, and Nancy’ll tickle me

— Uncle Dave Macon’s “I’ll Tickle Nancy” (apparently first recorded in 1935)

Yesterday’s (7/31) Wayno/Piraro Bizarro strip, in which Ernie Bushmiller’s Nancy character takes up textual analysis (Wayno’s title:”Beating Around the Bushmiller”), explaining the intricacies of cartoon characters to her buddy Sluggo (and of course the three rocks):


(#1) On the Bushmiller rocks, see my 9/2/17 posting “Three rocks”, with a Zippy strip in which the rocks talk (and if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

Pretty much the purest form of cartoon self-reference: a cartoon character expounding on the nature of cartoon characters. (Also note Sluggo’s body language, with his hands in his pockets, often conveying disaffection or suspicion.)

What follows is about Nancys and, especially, nancies.

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Exulting in Pride

June 18, 2020

This afternoon my grand-daughter Opal arrived at my house (dutifully standing about 7 feet away and wearing a mask (as I was) to deliver two items: the DVD of Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run (“It says GUB”), which she’d borrowed from me, oh, three years ago; and a celebratory Pride t-shirt from my daughter Elizabeth, whose bold NSFW message in Pride rainbow colors I defer to under the fold.

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Smearing and taunting

June 17, 2020

(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.

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Scatological advice

June 3, 2020

(Consider the title; perhaps not to everyone’s taste.)

Recently, a message from Steven Levine, adding to my stock of euphemisms in the Gray Lady, as we know the New York Times. The paper is famously meticulous about avoiding taboo vocabulary, to the point of doing its best to eschew even asterisking (on the grounds that that’s virtually spelling out the offensive words). Their circumlocutory euphemisms are sometimes entertaining, but often baffling. (See the Page of postings on Taboo vocabulary on this blog, which tags avoidance discussions, including many from the Gray Lady.)

Steven’s exemplar: From the NYT on 5/30, “In Days of Discord, a President Fans the Flames”:

The turmoil came right to Mr. [REDACTED]’s doorstep for the second night in a row on Saturday as hundreds of people protesting Mr. Floyd’s death and the president’s response surged in streets near the White House. While most were peaceful, chanting “black lives matter” and “no peace, no justice,” some spray painted scatological advice for Mr. [REDACTED], ignited small fires, set off firecrackers and threw bricks, bottles and fruit at Secret Service and United States Park Police officers, who responded with pepper spray.

Yes, yes, scatological advice. I guessed this was SHIT ON [REDACTED], which is certainly scatological, but not in fact any kind of advice: it looks like an imperative, exhorting people to defecate on Grabpussy, but is in fact a derogatory dismissive, a more obscene version of (THE) HELL WITH [REDACTED] (admittedly, perhaps by suggesting that putting feces on him would be justly deserved).

But no. Shit was not involved.

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Crochet me a word

April 28, 2020

Every 5 or 6 years, Kathryn Burlingham sends me a piece of outrageous fabric art tailored to my sensibilities. In 2014, it was the COCK cushion. Saturday, it was FUCK crochet art with a design from Not Your Grandma’s Crochet.

(In case this isn’t obvious: this posting is not suitable for kids and the sexually modest.)

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