Beyond Garbage

Recently it has become fashionable to call people, things, and events “garbage.” Within the last few years, we have taken to calling shitty people “garbage people”, and bad television “garbage television.” Garbage isn’t a new pejorative – one might say the recent trend represents a return to vogue rather than a brand new development – and its popularity is understandable. It’s simple, gracefully evades the censors, and has a full, luxurious mouthfeel. I believe, however, that there is another motive for the resurgence of garbage as an insult; a motive that may yield further swears for our collective use.

We live in a world beset with actual garbage. Nuclear waste, agricultural runoff, mill tailings, waste carbon. There is a literal island made of literal trash in the middle of the literal ocean. We are confronted, constantly, with the fact that every moment we spend living and consuming adds to a pile of festering garbage which we will eventually drown in. This anxiety, I think, is part of what makes garbage such an effective swear these days. Garbage is our eventual death sentence. It is what we shit out as a society. Nobody wants to be garbage.

Unfortunately, slang wears out quickly. Already, garbage has been robbed of its initial sting by overuse. But the principles behind garbage as a swear can yield words to replace it. First, most straightforwardly, we can simply adopt other words for industrial waste. Some options:

  • Scrap
  • Chaff
  • Waste
  • Refuse
  • Runoff
  • Smog
  • Spoilage
  • Offal

… As well as the incredibly useful “pink slime.”

Of course, the grand-daddy of all these terms is the ever popular “slag” - literally waste rock filtered out during the smelting process. In addition to its unbeatable mouthfeel, slag also gives us the compound swear “slag heap”, which illuminates the second principle of waste-based swears: excess is insult.

A few months ago I wrote an article on hole-based suffixes to insults. I said that holes were useful for building compound swears as they could either imply an absence, or a cavity to be filled with a bad thing. I did not, however, address the similar utility of “heap” and other words that imply an abundance. Just for starters, we can concoct such gems as:

  • Shitpile
  • Cocktower
  • Buttmound
  • Fuckmountain
  • Clitbarrow

… Not to mention -hill, -knoll, -hump, -lump, and -clump.

Combining these two principles, we can see our way to a swearology that casts its victims as nexuses of pollution. We can call an opponent a “festering mound of pink slime,” a “smog-belching chaff-humper”, or “a greasy hog lagoon.” If we truly wish to usher in a new era of conservation, we must work together to make pollution a seriously dirty word. Or, I mean, a collection of seriously dirty words.

Really, I’m just trying to come up with a social justice related reason to call someone a “greasy hog lagoon.”