Page Stephens's "rant"
hwgray at EARTHLINK.NET
Fri Jun 18 19:26:56 UTC 2004
It is so refreshing to see the use of "unprintable" words, jokes, etc.
Most of you under 50 or so probably do not ever remember a time when
scholarly journals would self censor themselves thus distorting the
Believe me that it was not that long ago that such prohibitions
that I lived through them.
If anyone is interested in a discussion of this problem they should
Gershon Legman's review article "'Unprintable ' Folklore: The Vance
Collection" In The Journal of American Folklore
The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 103, No. 409. (Jul. - Sep.,
I am putting up this citation just so that you will be able to evaluate
sources since quite often I have met younger scholars who are not even
it even existed and thus are often too willing to accept intentionally
corrupted texts at their face value.
When I was a young graduate student in anthropology quite often we would
pass jokes which we would never dare to publish even though we all knew
them. When I was doing my PhD research in Arkansas, Vance Randolph's
territory, I constantly heard such exressions as "As stiff as a
prick in a cow's cunt", but I would never have dreamed of publishing
Or how many of you know that one of the verses to the old fiddle tune
"Leather Breeches" includes the line, "standing up against the wall
cunt hanging out"?
I could give you a thousand of these but for the most part they do not
appear in the literature.
Most of them due to self censorship have disappeared from the record
you read folklore texts you quite often can reconstruct them from what
evidence is available.
Oh well. Enough of my rant but believe me when I tell you that Legman's
article is worth reading as a guide to the subject.
I found Prof. Stephens's "rant" to be of sufficient general interest
that I thought I'd give it its own thread.
The whole point of this self-censorship was to protect the ears and
minds of women and children from spoken and printed "filth," I believe.
Of course, this was a totally fruitless endeavor. I learned "fuck" at
the age of six from a five-year-old neighbor boy. Naturally, neither
the neighbor boy nor I had any understanding, at that age, of what
"fucking" really was or why anyone would have any interest in doing it.
We understood only that it was something "bad" that parents knew
nothing about. Years later, when I was finally told the truth re human
reproduction... Well, talk about "shock and awe"! When I was in grad
school, I chided my otherwise lovely girl friend wrt her constant use
of "fuck" and "shit" in casual conversation. I asked, "Would you want
your mother to hear you talking like that?" Her reply: "Who do you
think I learned it from?"
I had no idea that Gershon Legman was a true scholar. I've been
familiar with his name and some of his work since the late 'Fifties or
so, when I was involved in the pursuit of independent research in the
field of pornography. [All right, so I was hanging out in dirty-book
stores. Let him who is without sin etc.]
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