Four-Letter Words

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / Survival / Social Semiotics /

 Scrapbook on Dirty Language

“Four letter” words, basic words, dirty words: what a subject! I have no time and only a little attention to budget, but I’ve got to make a start on this subject. (Typical.)

I remind us that our mapping of our language habits often has things backwards: we call the ancient verbs, the core actions of our ancestors, “the irregular verbs” and the unimportant newcomers “regular.” No, no, no: they’re regular only because they’re johnny-come-latelies. The core works flexed down to their roots in the old umlauted grammar. The old words, the core words, also tend to be the easiest to say. That’s why they’re generally short, easy in the mouth: Ma, Pa, dad, mom … Sing, run, go …

“Ma” is easily the first “word” an infant will utter. The ease precedes the “meaning.” The easiest consonant combines with the easiest vowel. Ma is inevitable. The idea of mother should be the easiest and most inevitable thing social big-brained mammals, doomed to a long time in the nursery, would say. Ma. It’s not just English; it occurs again and again throughout the Indo European language family. (I bet it expresses in other language families as well.)

Ma is sacred in our culture: with reason. Then why are so many of the other ancient core words — fuck, cunt … — so typically used to be ugly, insulting … a curse?

“Sexual intercourse.” Half a dozen syllables, hard to say: awkward, without euphony. “Fuck.” In a nutshell. Easy to say. Emphatic in its essence: a fricative, an upper back vowel, and a hard, clear consonant. A pleasure to say, the ultimate physical pleasure to do. Then why is it so often used as a weapon? an insult? something degrading? degraded?

“Vagina.” “Vulva.” Three exploding syllables, the initial fricative voiced. Not easy to say, not a pleasure. “Cunt.” There you have it, short and sweet. A good, basic English word, been around forever. “

Pussy,” “quim” … There are a host of synonyms, also easy on the tongue: a pleasure to say, a pleasure to contemplate. Why should saying it put one at risk of a slapped face, maybe broken bones … a lost job, maybe jail time?


from Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon

2006 03 03 The candidates for illustration are rich and numerous. I choose one currently under my nose. Red Dragon introduces two immortal monsters: it sets the table for all of the Hannibal Lecter novels (of which I hope there’s at least one more to come), but gives a deep as well as complex portrait of Francis Dolarhyde, first known in the press as the Tooth Fairy, then as Dragon, or the Red Dragon. Masterfully, this miserable harelip takes his identity and his name from William Blake’s watercolor The Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun.

 Blake Reddragon
thanx wikipedia

First Harris establishes Dolarhyde unequivocally as a monster, then, once we fear him, he introduces him as a sympathetic, suffering, vulnerable, human victim. His childhood is gothic in its awfulness. He’s born with a severely cleft palate. His speech might be unintelligible to his family if he had one to pay attention. He’s dumped in an orphanage: the perfect institution for maximizing cruelty through centralization. Finally a grandmother shows up, asks him to say his name. The kid answers:

Cunt Face

Little Francis was named by his enemies, but was too inexperienced to recognize the insult or to understand its cruelty. The Red Dragon in his mind calls him Cunt Face till the end.

Tits, Ass, Cunt

I’m reworking the next section, and have made a balls of it. For the sake of the sense, here’s a short version of what I’m trying to expand:

I love the breasts, but not as much as the buttocks: and however much I love the buttocks, I like the blind oyster best of all; but not visually: you close your eyes when you’re in moist dark like that.

Bear with me while I experiment with expanding that simple progression (and contrast).

Now to me there’s nothing more beautiful in the human world (of heterosexual maleness) than a cunt. Any mammal, male or female, should like nice ripe breasts. The baby sucks on them to get milk, the aroused male sucks on them to stimulate the female, and to stimulate himself in the process, multiple feedbacks hurling the couple right into nature’s hands. I like nice pendulous breasts. I like tiny little pert breasts: of course I do. I like all kinds of breasts: short of their flowing down over the ribs and spilling off onto the sheets like liquid fat.

But I don’t love breasts, however pendulous, however pert, halfway as much as I love nice round buttocks: flexing buttocks, buttocks poised in pose: buttocks which exhibit the perfect blend of soft and firm. Indeed, don’t we all? Males go gaga for roundness, especially when it’s female-proportioned. But females do too: especially when it’s male-proportioned. (I doubt that I ever enjoyed holding onto a tit for an hour more than the girl enjoyed scoping out the coordinates of my balls with her fingertips: whether she did the whole survey in a tenth of a second, or took half the evening.)

Breasts stimulate visually, stimulate the male from a distance. Aphids would have no need for breasts. At closer resolution, breasts then also feel good. And when the male feels his suckle trigger something deep within the whole female lower belly area, here comes the Fourth of July.

The chimp sticks her reddened vulva right under the male’s nose: and he mounts her. She doesn’t have any pendulous breasts. But hunting humans stopped living so clumped. The buttocks are the best long-distance advertising of all, but standing upright, they might be hidden in the grass. The boobs telegraph ass from a much higher grass line. The boobs help the ass lasso the male at increasing distances. (A ‘copter can land on a patch, a small plane on a narrow field, but transcontinental jets need long runways and crews waving colored flags and flashlights. As we stood up, the ass elongated the length of the body, colonizing the female’s front along the way.)

Visual at a distance: tactile up close.

Now: the actual vulva/vagina duo work only up close. Sight is no longer important. Your eye brought you to the trap, the honey pot; now your other senses overwhelm you and hold you: like the dog, quick on, slow off: held fast by his peter.

fuzzy editing line I may relocate this section in another file.

even more than nice pendulous breasts and I like the blind oyster even more than the nice round buttocks.

Let me also repeat here my point that terms like “cunt” or “pussy” or “ass” do not necessarily refer to the vagina or the vulva or the buttocks or the anus or the tops of the thighs or the mons or the bottom of the belly. Often any of those terms “mean” all of that: the suite of organs, the female environment, her lower face, shown only to lovers or to health professionals (or invaded by the rapist).

How can such a wonderful thing come to be dirty or insulting or an instrument of cruelty?

The same way that Christians gave the priapus to Lucifer, along with cloven hoofs and a tail. For the Greeks Pan had been the god of sexual energy. He was depicted as related to the goat, the animal onto which some of us palmed our lust. (These days we say someone fucks like a bunny. We’ll learn more about humans than about goats or rabbits in monitoring these habits. Christians took all the gods and divided them into two. The Jews’ God they put in heaven, all others they put in hell. Once upon a time this or that group respected Moloch or Isis or Cybele or Thor. Into the Christian hell they all go without distinction (other than gender: one is a witch, or a she-devil, the other is a devil or a demon, etc.

In language studies the process is called pejoration: demoting things till they’re bad. The Persians had worshipped Mithras and credited him with dying and getting resurrected for their sakes. No, no, say the Christians, and hurl another demon into their hell. Take Mithras out of hell, look at him dispassionately, and you’ll have a hard time telling him apart from Christ. (OK, he wasn’t a carpenter.) These days we’re trained to worship Jefferson, Lincoln … Kennedy. When this culture dies those names my find themselves in the hell of the next culture.

But most important: there’s nothing in anyone’s hell that hadn’t been sacred to some predecessor. Does the god seem to hate blood? Maybe it’s because the god really loves it. Watch out for people who really really hate sex. Don’t be too quick to understand people who use “fuck” or “cunt” as dirty words.

2013 08 02 Aiyaiai, I was just going to borrow a pic of fireworks to evoke the Eisenstein montage for the mating bull’s climax from the Old & New. 1929, find it at UTube.

Social Semantics

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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