End the word (was: a word from "Huck Finn")

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Mar 3 16:29:01 UTC 2012

>Are you sure people using those two pairs were from the same planet?

As whom?  As each other, surely. The torrent of foul language I first heard
in the 7th grade was a world apart from anything I'd ever heard before.
That it was a boys' school may have had something to do with it.

But if you mean "the same planet as us today," recall that "The past is a
foreign country. They do things differently there."

"Fag" and "faggot" were fairly routine insults that nobody, so far as I
could see, took literally, though everybody (except me at first) knew
the literal (i.e., originally metaphoric) meaning.  Unless said in obvious
anger, nobody bridled much at "motherfucker," either, etc., etc.  One kid
got furious at being called a "son of a bitch" because, like speakers of
decades and centuries past, insisted on interpreting it as a slur against
his mother. AFAICT, the bystanders thought he was nuts and simply spoiling
for a fight.

"Bastard" was almost as common as "motherfucker," with "son of a bitch"
third.  There were also "turd" and "little shit."  "Stupid fucker" was also
in use. Nothing as surreal as what can be found at Urbandictionary.com.

Note to future generations: though it was clearly occurring beyond my
ken in 1959 (see HDAS), I don't recall hearing  "asshole" used as an insult
until 1964.  Point: nowadays one hears it several times a day - as English
imperceptibly evolves.


On Sat, Mar 3, 2012 at 10:57 AM, Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: End the word (was: a word from "Huck Finn")
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Are you sure people using those two pairs were from the same planet?
> Because they certainly would not be today--they are separated by several
> degrees of magnitude on the insultability scale. It's like a difference
> between "snotnose" and "motherfucker".
>     VS-)
> On 3/3/2012 8:23 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> > When I was in 7th grade in NYC (1959-1960) _spaz_ (n.) and _spastic_
> (n.&  adj.) were the dismissive male insults of choice, with_fag_ and
> _faggot_ tied for fourth.
> >
> > I hadn't heard any of them before. But I hadn't heard "motherfucker"
> before
> > either, which was also up there in popularity.
> >
> > JL
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