September 15, 2008
Good bad words
Originally published January 10, 2002
While Blogger was sick last night, I visited a site where the blogger wrote of being worried about going home to see his mama. He was afraid that he would say the word "fuck" in front of her and cause her to drop dead of a heart attack at the shock, or else slit her wrists with a kitchen knife because of her failure to raise a decent son. He had a "comments" button at the end of his blog (HEY, SCOTT? HOW ABOUT A COMMENTS BUTTON FOR ME?), so I sent him an e-mail about how to explain any slippage of the lippage he might experience. I learned this in college, and I am not making this up.
What makes a good dirty word a good dirty word is its linguistic structure. The ones that express your feelings the strongest, that feel the best tripping off the tongue and give you the most satisfaction to say are built exactly alike. They begin with a strong plosive sound, such as the letter "F," and end with a hard consonant abruptly cut off, such as a "K." Try it. Say "FUCK!" You have the plosive beginning, followed by the abrupt hard consonant at the end, and the word is perfect. Admit it; when you're angry, frustrated or at a loss for any other word, it feels good to say it. "SHIT" and "CUNT" fall into the same category. Just parse them, using the rules outlined above, and you will see what I mean.
"BITCH," on the other hand, is close, but it does not measure up to the ideal because it has a plosive at each end. It's a good dirty word, but it will never reach the realm of "FUCK" because it lacks the last hard consonant to throw the knockout punch. If you intend to use strong, effective dirty language, close enough is not good enough. The same problem occurs with "PISS," which starts out with a great plosive, but then peters out, for lack of a better expression, into slow, sibilant sounds at the end.
Forget "SONOFABITCH" or "MOTHERFUCKER." A good dirty word has only one syllable.
"DICK" and "COCK" would qualify as excellent dirty words, because they satisfy the criteria, but they can't really be considered good dirty words because we once had a president named Dick and a rooster is a cock. The double meanings take away from the effeciveness of the words. You would never vote for a guy named "FUCK," and you would never eat anything called "FUCK." But a lot of people voted for Dick and don't think twice about eating cock, even if they are not into oral sex. In certain situations, where the context is clear, both are excellent dirty words. But an ideal dirty word needs no context to be dirty. That's why "FUCK" stands alone as the best dirty word of all time.
If you don't believe what I am saying, just think about the substitute words people use when they don't want to offend anyone or be considered a potty-mouth: "DRAT!" "SHOOT" "DANG!" "HECK!" They all fit the formula.
I told the blogger that he should just walk into his mama's house and scream "FUCK!" at the top of his lungs. That would relieve all of his anxiety, get the problem out in the open and make for a much better visit.
Especially when she reacted by saying "SHIT!"
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