Archive for the ‘Taboo language and slurs’ Category

More British slurs

July 17, 2016

A follow-up to yesterday’s posting on “oiks, yobs, and prats”, about British social slurs, especially in the tv series Midsomer Murders: Facebook comments from John Wells (on the slurs in my posting, plus chav) and Don Steiny (on the status of cunt in British (also Australian) English).


oiks, yobs, and prats

July 16, 2016

Three British slurs, widely used on the ITV detective mystery show Midsomer Murders (broadcast since 1997 and still going on), which I’ve been watching on Netflix. As far as I can tell, all three are primarily insults directed at males.


Levels of taboo language

June 26, 2016

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, on a linguistic theme:

Aside from the meta character of the strip — the dogs know they are characters in a cartoon — there’s their avoidance of the word bitch, as unsuitable for the strip, because the strip is carried by “family newspapers”, where women and children (notoriously delicate and easily damaged by words) might come across bitch (even used to refer to a female dog, not to mention in the idiom son of a bitch).


Annals of invective: tweets from Scotland

June 25, 2016

… over Herr Drumpf (the German candidate for POTUS)’s arrival in Scotland, just after the Brexit vote. Herr Drumpf’s tweet:

Just arrived in Scotland. Place is going wild over the vote. They took their country back, just like we will take America back. No games!

Problem: Scotland was very much in favor of Remain, and the Scots are indeed wild, but over what they see as betrayal of their earlier vote to remain in the UK, where they could continue getting the benefits of the UK’s membership in the EU. So the tweets were vicious. From the Barstool Sports site yesterday, by Feitelberg, “Donald Trump Was The Victim Of Some Vicious British Insults, Which Are Incredible And My New Favorite Thing”:


The FUCK card

May 18, 2016

Passed on a while ago by Ronnie Grishman on Facebook (from what ultimate source I do not know):

Something you can carry around to express surprise / astonishment, sexual invitation, emphatic assertion, rejection, dismissal, insult, whatever. Details in Jesse Sheidlower’s The F Word (now in its third edition)


May 17, 2016

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, with neither Mother Goose nor any of her animals in it:


To understand this strip, you have to  know about the varieties of Pebbles breakfast cereals — one of which is Fruity Pebbles. (And then, of course, you have to recognize fruit as an anti-gay slur and recognize the abbreviation LGBT.)


The news for penises, snickerboy edition

April 23, 2016

Premiering on TBS on the 11th, with the pilot and an episode “The Hotel”: the comedy series The Detour:

The principals: Jason Jones as Nate (the father), Natalie Zea as Robin (the mother), Ashley Gerasimovich as Delilah (the daughter), Liam Carroll as Jared (the son)

This posting is triggered by the character Jared, thanks to his voicing the question (in the pilot episode), “Why are we in Penisylvania?”

Jared is a Snickerboy, primed to find “dirty words” (like penis) and allusions to sex everywhere, and eager to snicker loudly over his findings. It’s a stage in American male development — I can’t speak for other times and places — that comes after simple gross-out humor (boogers and peeing and all that) and before beginning to come to terms with something resembling the realities of sex and girls. In the hormonal rush of middle school. Roughly 10 through 14, with the Terrible Twelves in the middle.


The watermelon files

April 4, 2016

Yesterday, this startling ad from the Daily Jocks firm, specializing in premium men’s underwear from various companies — in this case, from the cheeky Australian company Supawear, offering its Fruitopia line in the color Watermelon:


Startling, because it shows a black man in a field of watermelon slices — an image that will evoke a racist stereotype, no matter what the intentions of the creators were.

[Added a bit later, with a note of mitigation. It turns out that not only Supawear but also the Daily Jocks company itself are Australian, and Australians can hardly be expected to appreciate the peculiarities of racial history in the U.S. (I’m not sure that Canadians will see the black + watermelon problem.) You might argue that a company that markets itself so heavily in the U.S. should be aware of sociocultural sore points, but frankly I think that’s asking a lot. So I suspect that Supawear and DJ have inadvertently fallen into a sinkhole, when they merely meant to be playful, colorful, and sexy.]

My main text here  is a December 2014 piece in  Atlantic magazine by William Black, “How Watermelons Became a Racist Trope: Before its subversion in the Jim Crow era, the fruit symbolized black self-sufficiency”. The full story is full of historical twists and turns, which Black’s account treats in detail, so it’s hard for me to avoid quoting most of it here. But I’ll put some material from 20th-century black culture, including black pushback against the stereotype, early in my discussion.


Orifices for talk

March 24, 2016

Today’s Dilbert has the pointy-headed boss talking to Dilbert about listening to his gut instincts:

The covert punch line is prefigured in the first panel, with the word analysis. Then in the third panel, Dilbert (recognizing that his boss’s gut instinct can’t literally be telling him anything, since it can’t literally speak) slyly suggests, via his question, that his boss’s gut is figuratively speaking through an orifice closer than his mouth, namely his anus — that is, that the boss is, as we say in vulgar slang, talking out of his ass.



March 19, 2016

On the 14th on this blog, the posting “Unnerving Chicano art: Vincent Valdez”, which looked at Valdez’s powerful and sometimes unsettling art, with digressions into other artists and musicians, and a passing mention of Cheech Marin, who’s nurturing a Chicano art movement (one of Valdez’s works was featured in an exhibition set up by Marin).

As background, I note that both Valdez and Marin proudly identify themselves as Chicanos, from Chicano neighborhoods (for Valdez, in San Antonio TX; for Marin, in Los Angeles).

After a note on the label Chicano/chicano, I’ll turn to Cheech Marin, with a digression on that nickname Cheech.



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