Thursday, June 07, 2007

Swearing like a tailor

On Buffy's current 'must-see' television show, a young dancer responded to hard-to-believe news using the exclamation "shut the front door!" For a split second I thought she was trying to stop an escape. But knowing that I'm old and uncool I've learned to reconsider my first impressions when young cool people speak. I learned this trick years ago when my students kept telling me how fat I was. Learning about the ph- spelling helped me with some deep-seated esteem issues. Those students must have thought I was so cool. I kept overhearing them in the hall saying "go ask the phat bald teacher..."

So shut the front door pretty quickly made sense as a replacement near-expletive phrase. A similar rhythm is important. Some examples:

Shut the Front Door!
Mother Father!
Cheese and Rice!
Cheesy Crust!

I'm not sure how I feel about these. Their over-eager use can carry a wink and a nudge that begs for attention. As if the speaker is demanding that's clever eh? Isn't it funny? But they really can work very well to get that release that only the right metrical foot can provide. And they can be hilarious. I remember a high school teacher threatening (teasingly) my friend Tim "I'm going to flunk you!" to which Tim responded without hesitation "Flunk me? Flunk you!" Even the teacher had to laugh.


  1. I heard an interesting segment on my favorite radio show last week (Roe Conn--WLS, 890 AM 3-7 weekdays) about the new FCC indecency ruling... his point was to wonder aloud what the heck is the deal with swear words? And who hasn't wondered that before? I mean what is it, exactly, about the word fuck that should be censored, other than the fact that we've decided to censor it? Especially in the case of swear words that have acceptable synonyms. We shall not say shit, but the FCC has no problem with using the phrase "doo-doo" or "Number 2" or whatever. So the concept is not unacceptable, only the word. Which is bizarre to me.


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