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Not exactly topics for this holiday season, so if you want you can note it in the back of your mind and come back to it after the New Year when you’re hung over and thinking along these lines anyway.
So what got me going on these subjects? I went to the movies. The youngest person in the audience was my daughter Grace. She’s 25. There weren’t that many people there, probably fewer than 20. None-the-less, I expected a certain level of decorum. We were after all in a public place not in someone’s living room. Or den. Or garage.
As usual the theater starts with advertising their treats – popcorn, soda, Starbucks. Then they go to the next standard fare and we hear from the white-haired man behind us “Now we gotta sit through the damn trailers.”
“I didn’t know Dad came with us,” My witty daughter said. He had not. Though in defense of my husband, he may have thought it, but he’d never have said it out loud in a movie theater.
And ‘damn’ is certainly not the worst thing I’ve heard in public. The *f* word bandied about in McDonald’s will get me to say something pretty quickly. Usually it’s young people that need to be spoken to. But more and more often it seems profanity is used by all age groups and genders, not so much to shock but as common conversation.
Okay, I admit it. I’m old. I have white hair and I grew up believing that people who resort to profanity have limited vocabularies and no imagination.
I’m not a complete prude. A flat tire in the middle of I-whatever during rush hour. Stepping barefooted into the dog’s accident in the hall in the dark. A heavy vase dropping within inches of you from the upstairs balcony. Unpleasant surprises especially if they carry a sense of danger are all well worth an expletive or two. And the simpler, the easier to bring to mind and quicker to say.
One can be trained to say acceptable things in lieu of what they really mean. Like Winnie the Pooh and his “Oh bother!” or my Grandmother’s “Fiddlesticks!”
I started this as a rant against, but I seem to be warming to the subject.
I think of Shakespeare’s insults and curses. While gentle and obtuse by today’s standards, they were apparently rude and obvious to his audiences.
From Henry IV, Part 2
“You scullion! You rampallian! You fustilarian! I’ll tickle your catastrophe!”
I don’t know exactly what it means either, but it sounds really bad. Maybe I could use it the next time Sonic messes up my hamburger and puts mayonnaise on it.
Though I don’t appreciate profanity in public, I do think it has its place in literature, movies, music, etc. When I told Grace the original title of this blog post (Perversion, Profanity, Blasphemy, and Sacrilege) she asked if I was writing a review of one of John Irving's books. I love John Irving's writing. He is brilliant and I enjoy his juxtaposition of tragedy and humor shot through with the absurd. Considering my stand on socially unacceptable language and behavior in public, I cannot listen to his audio books in Oklahoma's summer time at the drive-in hamburger joint. Can't roll down the windows without turning off the book, dontcha know. Hmmm. Can you get earphones for the speakers in your car?One of the more fun parts of writing my books is making up profanity. If you've read Murder on Ceres, you know I write Science Fiction/Murder Mysteries. Just as time and tide wait for no man, language changes whether we want it to or not. Which gives me a wonderful opportunity to make up my own profanity for my future world.
Certain bases for profanity will continue into humanity's out-migration from Earth. Excrement and bodily functions come to mind. *sh* will still be quite useful, but generations of knowing chicken only as brewed protein rather than a two-legged, feathery creature will do away with any connection between the words 'chicken' and *sh.*
The concept of a religion-defined 'hell' will probably be dropped from human consciousness as various religion-defined forms of marriage are being dropped now. So there's another opportunity for a new word for where you can damn someone to.
The concepts of blessings and gods will change, too. The greatest of gods will probably continue to be the creator of human life. We humans have always recognized light as the symbol of that god no matter his name, though not always because we understood the Sun provides energy for life -- human or otherwise. At least as we know it.
Another religious symbol will be water. Already among desert peoples (including the Judeo-Christian culture that grew up in the deserts of the Middle East) water symbolizes life and is used as an important part in religious sacraments. In our move into Space where water is rarer and more difficult to obtain in life-sustaining quantities, humans will probably continue to use water as a symbol of a life-giving creator.
No doubt, the new blasphemies will malign the Sun and Water. Humans hurling curses at their fellow humans will threaten to cut them off from Sun and Water.
These will also be the bases for blessings.
In Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time series, the Aiel, a desert people used to too much sun and too little water, say "May you always find water and shade." In the darkness of Space the blessing may come to be "May you always find water and sunshine."
A blessing I offer to you.
Sun and Water
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