January's Swear of the Month
The holidays have now come and gone, but food is still on my mind – how delicious it is, how fraught, but most importantly, how sweary. For whatever reason, it seems that almost every commonly consumed meat is also some kind of swear. Don’t believe me? That’s stupid. Look:
Beef – as in “to beef with,” or “who beefed?”
Chicken – as in “what are you, chicken?”
Turkey – as in “jive turkey”
Pork – as in “I’d pork her.”
Fish – as in “bargain busted basic fish.”
Even the word “meat” is dripping with euphemistic potential. This can’t be a coincidence.
So why is English like this? Possibly because of all the weighty and carnal connotations of “flesh”, generally. Meat words automatically objectify flesh, by turning it into an inert object meant to be consumed. And since we’ve all got a lot of feelings about our fragile, quivering meat prisons, words that objectify flesh automatically pack a punch.
Now that you possess this forbidden knowledge, the world is your prairie oyster. Spice things up by calling someone a turd-ducken or – if you crave a meatless option – a to-fool. Go nuts. Or better yet, go hog-wild. And if anybody finds a sweary use for “venison,” let me know.
December's Swear of the Month
This month’s swear is stolen from the future - specifically, Back to the Future 2. Since the movie takes place in 2016, and every other chilling prediction it makes has come true, we should long since have been using this swear in our daily conversation. Well, two years late is better than never, so feast your eyes on this beauty:
Some kind of absolute god damn idiot who doesn’t even know how a hoverboard works.
A lot of things are disappointing about the future - hoverboards don’t actually hover, Biff is actually Donald Trump, and we are all doomed to boil alive inside our own atmosphere. But at the very least, we can take some solace in this pleasing swear. But because we have stolen this swear, as it were, through time travel, one great challenge remains: we must invent an origin for it.
Is it, as some say, a contraction of “bone jockey”? Or is it a contraction of Boris Johnson’s name? Did a celebrity get too drunk once and try to say “bozo”? Or is it the sound of someone trying to say “blowjob” while simultaneously performing a blowjob? The choice is yours, my little bojos!
November's Swear of the Month
With the US Midterm Elections coming up on Tuesday, I figure now is a good time to talk about lying.
Lying is bad. We know it’s bad, in part, because the words that we have for referring to liars are not good words. “Liar”, for example, is not a word anyone wants applied to them. But it does not stop there, my friends. Lie too much, and the very anatomy of your face may be called into question. You might be labeled “two-faced,” or “mealy-mouthed.” You might be accused of “talking out of both sides of your mouth,” or of having a “nose longer than a telephone wire.” Such a nose would be unsustainable. You do not want a nose of that length attached to your face, my friends. It would be a medical disaster.
Progressing beyond mere facial disfigurement, we arrive in the realm of the creatively scatological. A liar might playfully be termed a “bullshitter,” or – less playfully – accused of being “full of shit.” I have, from time to time, accused a dishonest scoundrel of attempting to piss or shit in my ears – an extremely rude and unsanitary activity. But when a lie is particularly brazen and malicious, only one admonition will suffice:
“Don’t piss on me and tell me it’s raining.”
That one phrase paints quite a picture, doesn’t it? Urine, dispensed from a great height, presumably by someone with other convenient piss receptacles available to him. And when the pee-soaked masses complain, the scoundrel attempts to pass it off as a mere meteorological phenomenon! Is there a more potent metaphor for our current political climate?
Look, I have a confession to make: I set out today to come up with a better swear to use on liars, because our current swears don’t seem to be working very well. And I tried, friends. I really did. But the problem is that a swear is only as powerful as the cultural taboo associated with it, and right now … our culture doesn’t seem to agree that lying is a bad thing to do. In ancient Persia, liars used to be punished with death. Now they’re punished with … high political office? I can’t believe I’m saying this, but at this moment, in 2018, swearing alone is not enough to solve this problem. We have to make lying bad again, so that calling someone a “liar”, or pointing out the unusually high temperature of their pants, will once more be the dire insult it deserves to be.
So, this Tuesday, don’t just swear with your mouths and typing fingers. Swear with your ballots. Vote the liars out. Maybe then they’ll stop showering us with their mendacious piss.
October's Swear of the Month
HEY: The thing I’m about to talk about originated in the black community, in AAVE, and was later co-opted by others. I’m going to analyze it, because I think it’s interesting, but this isn’t something I invented. I just think if we’re going to be using this, we should understand what it means and where it came from.
One of my hobbies is attempting to pronounce things I see on the internet out loud. “Lol”, “fffffff”, and “upside down sad face emoji” have all posed unique challenges – but there is a purpose to this exercise beyond mere amusement.
September's Swear of the Month
Long-time Swear of the Month Club subscribers may remember my paean to the archaic swear “dog-botherer.” In my previous essay on the word, I described it as a “forever insult.” At the time, I did not realize just how right I was. My intention with that first essay was to revive dog-botherer as a modern swear, but what I failed to notice was that dog-botherer has already been revived. It has merely taken on a more contemporary form.
August's Swear of the Month
It is, of course, my responsibility as a prominent swearologist to use my platform to raise awareness of certain underutilized swears and swear techniques, but from time to time I must allow my ego free rein. Today is just such a time, and so I give you a brand new, piping hot swear:
July's Swear of the Month
E3 was a couple weeks ago, and while most people were there to scope out hot new games, I was searching for cool new swears. Lo and behold, as the convention center closed on day one of the event, I overheard a beet-red bald man scream into a mobile phone:
“For the love of Christ, Ted, I don’t want to walk into my bedroom and see you lying there with your tapioca suitcase hanging out!”
June's Swear of the Month
In the study of morphology, linguists often examine “minimal pairs” – that is, morphemes which are identical in all but one respect. This allows researchers to gauge the purpose and effect of isolated phonemes in a controlled environment. The field of swearology, too, has its minimal pairs, and by examining them, we will today explore how syllable count influences the potency and purpose of a naughty word.
May's Swear of the Month
English is lousy with acronyms, and the only thing we like more than acronyms … is lexicalizing our acronyms. From LASER, to DARPA, to the U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act (Seriously, look it up), us English speakers will shove our forearms straight up our own assholes in the quest to turn a bunch of smaller words into one big word.
April's Swear of the Month
Happy Easter. Here’s a list of all the ways I know to say “Jesus Christ” without saying “Jesus” or “Christ”:
March's Swear of the Month
Several years ago, a New York publishing house was foolish enough to offer me a book contract. I got a lot out of that deal – money, a bunch of free copies of the book, and a smug sense of superiority to name just a few. But possibly the most valuable thing I gained was an unexpected lesson in swearing. Until that time, I’d only had the readers of my website to answer to, and so I’d mostly used whatever words I felt like using. The editors at the publishing house, however, pointed out some things I hadn’t consciously realized.
February's Swear of the Month
Minced oaths get a bad rap. To self-respecting swearologists, they’re often looked down upon as low-fat, sugar-free swear substitutes. To many of the prudes they’re supposed to placate, even minced oaths are too rude. But to me, an intellectual, minced swears are friggin’ cool as heck, and ruddy interesting to boot.