I Can’t Be Arsed

I don’t usually use George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” in public and rarely write them.

Mr. Carlin’s original words are what we now call “vulgar slang,” seven nouns, two of which often stand as verbs. Two excretory functions, four that denigrate, two action terms, and one that is every boy’s favorite body part. I’ve never been fond of bleep-censoring but it is still used by American network broadcasters to titillate us.

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
–Mark Twain

Although Twain pretended he did not have a typewriter, he was a pretty smart feller. The modifiers we use in writing can take away from the message. That doesn’t stop us from specially crafting flowery, robust, descriptive text.

Some simply avoid the “dirty words” by substituting clean ones.

Liza Arden has said she “couldn’t be arsed” at work more than a few times this week. Ms. Arden is an engineer and no relation to the cosmetics conglomerate. Her cow orkers were unmoved by her phrasing which surprised her and sent me on this flight of fancy. Thanks to PBS and the Internet, there are probably few British substitutes for bothered that we haven’t heard before.

Substitutes? Google offers about 210,000 results for alternate swear words.

Bleep and fweep and meep and yeep are popular.
RedDwarf adopted smeg as an all purpose curse.
The movie peeps use airhead for rectally enhanced individuals.
Freak (and the ever popular freak off) explain themselves.

As Andy Rooney might say, “Gosh is for people who don’t believe in heck. Who the frell do they think they are?”

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports on “Y U Luv Texts, H8 Calls.” Teens send 3,339 texts a month. Adults, just 323 per month. Me? I get two or three incoming texts in a busy month and those are usually mistakes.

Although Ms. Arden calls me a Luddite, that’s not because I cannot text.

“Yeah, right,” she said. “You’re too cheap to buy a data plan.”

Texters started abbreviating to save space and stay under SMS limits or to encode the looming presence of authority (LTTIC). Unlimited text plans have largely eliminated the need for brevity but typing on a micro keyboard is still typing on a micro keyboard.

I don’t text because I see brevity, misspelling, malaprops, and corruption replacing the richness of language. And I hate the tiny keyboard, not to mention picking out letters on a phone keypad.

“I sooo no ur thinking about me. So I thot I wud say hi! LH6”
“My luser cat did the CRZest thing. Off to vet.”
“Orf to home garden sho. I luv U. TBL”

DQMOT: I think the Brits do this better than we do but sooner or later it’s so satisfying just to have a good fuck.

5 thoughts on “I Can’t Be Arsed

  1. I heart britspeak (when it’s done properlike). Fuck’s one of my fave words, though I try not to overdo. I don’t have many taboo words except for the racial slurs and I allow people to nudge me toward PCness (‘cept for swearing). I sometimes make up new words when I think they sound right and try to avoid boring fillers like “very.” Effect trumps rules, though it’s always subjective, natch.

  2. Scrunching words together — brunch and guesstimate and anecdotage and frenemy come to mind — sometimes sounds right. My favorite made up word of all time is finiptitude which means exactly what it sounds like.

    I used it in a high school English paper once, just to see if Miss Gearhart was paying attention. She was. She circled it in blood. I got an A-. She had no sense of humor.

    I got even, though. I sat at the Quarry all of one Sunday afternoon before the English final and memorized all the birth and death dates of the authors in our Lit survey text book. Didn’t reread a single story. Aced the final. Don’t remember a single date.

  3. Hah! I love stories like that. I had THE most boring history class of all time freshman year of college and kept dozing off. My notes were atrocious. For the final I didn’t know what to do, so I memorized the one legible section of my notes: the 8 points of fascism. I kept reading those over and over since I had nothing else. Guess what the essay Q was? Got an A!

    Don’t ask me nuffin about fascism though cuz I don’t know. :)

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