Having been the recent receiver of some "verbal abuse" and "obscene
language, I feel comfortable making one comment. Mr. Carlile makes the
excellent point that "Abusive language and swearing are a legacy of
slavery, humiliation and disrespect for human dignity- one's own and that
of other people."
As socialists we should pay homage to this struggle, and not defile
it. One way of defiling it is swearing badly. There is nothing more glaring
and embarrassing than reading a sentence with badly formed bad language.
Unfortunately, (and I make no specific references here) there have been
examples of awkward and juvenile use of obscenity on this list. Indeed, hip,
white America seems to be intent on taking the music and meaning out of
curses by using them constantly and inappropriately.
A true master can use streams of foul words without creating a hint
of cacaphony in the educated ear. At the same time, a badly placed "fuck"
can make a sailor cringe.
It should be noted that learning to swear is no easy thing. Young
people spend many fruitless hours trying to utter the gutteral in a way that
conveys emotion and poetry. Learning to write in bathroom dialect is even
harder - and rarely achieved. Yet, the emotional person, one who knows that
he is inclined to make an impression with plain talk, must attempt to learn
this language with seriousness.
My own suggestions would be to begin with well known media
foulmouths. Robert Deniro is an excellent choice for the beginner.
Actually, anything directed by Martin Scorcese can be a primer. Eddie
Murphy can be excellent. However, avoid Richard Pryor in the early
stages. In fact, it is best not to begin with heavy Afro-American
dialect. As with most things, African Americans really define the state of
the art in folk culture, with a peculiar style that sets the tone for the
universal. Attempting to internalize this specialized area of culture is
overly ambitious for those unable (whether through inadequecy of talent,
or misfortune of ethnicity) to dedicate a complete effort to it. Unfit
students may fall embarrassingly short of the mark.
Now the step is to take one's knowledge of the vulgar vernacular
into a real-life setting. The inclination, on watching "Goodfellas" for
the fourth time, would be to run to the nearest Italian neighborhood.
Instead, caution must be used. Many persons of Italian ancestry,
especially along the eastern seaboard, are coprolalics of exquisite
skill. I myself have enjoyed an amazing audience of conversations held
in Bloomfield and Newark, New Jersey which consisted solely of the words
"No" and "Fuck you." The depth and breadth of meaning these young
Italians were able to conjure with such a limited vocabulary should put
the most accomplished Haiku artist on notice.
Instead of jumping into the obscenity frying pan, try absorbing
your naughty talk by easy stages. First, try to be a fly on the wall when
tradesmen such as mechanics and carpenters are faced with challenging
tasks. Then, step into a working class tavern when a particularly lively
discussion seems to be taking place, particularly if you find a local
sports team to be losing a contest televised therein. Go to an Islanders
home hockey game. If you feel that you are getting the rudiments, try
visiting the kitchen of your favorite restaurant during a brisk weekday
dinner rush (warning: this is not for persons who will be overly sensitive
to the conditions under which their food is cooked). For a fun and
informative outing, try Bike Week at Daytona Beach, Florida. In fact,
Biker publications are a good way to get a feel for profanity in a prose
setting. Then, you'll be ready to develop an appreciation for the
trendsetters on American bad language by lending an ear to the
conversation in a barber shop or basketball court frequented by
African Americans with proletarian sensibilities.
At the end of this process, you should be well rounded enough to
try some things on your own. Pay attention to emphasis, force is more
important than frequency. Don't try to be too creative, simplicity is
always preferable. Adhere to colloquial rules of placement - the tried
and true is always a beginner's best bet. Finally, remember that attitude
is the key, irony over outrage, mocking over insult, and, always, sarcasm
--- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---