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.
For one thing, they told me, I was seriously overusing “fuck” instead of making actual jokes. I’ve already written about that, so there’s no need to discuss it further. More importantly, they told me that certain words I’d considered harmless were in fact offensive to potential readers.
The most surprising of these – to me – was “pansy.” Given my privileged background, I hadn’t even considered that the word might have its origins in homophobia. To me, it just meant “wimp.” I actually got mad at the editor who told me I had to stop using “pansy,” because it seemed like such a harmless word to me. Even worse, I had no idea what could replace it. I’d long since given up “pussy,” and while “wimp” means the same thing, it doesn’t have nearly the bite, and it’s only one syllable. I was at a loss, until a friend opened my eyes to one of the greatest insults of all time:
If you heard a chorus of angels sing out upon reading that word, then you are a weirdo. No angels sang just now. You are hearing things. But if what you want to do is insult somebody’s gumption, “weenie” is a gift from the gods. It diminishes your target with the help of the “-ie” diminutive suffix, it has two luxurious syllables, and the only thing it makes fun of is penises, which are already pretty funny. In short, “weenie” is everything I thought “pansy” was, just without the history of homophobia.
Even better, “weenie” comes with a companion word, “wiener”, which is even more useful. Sure, you could call someone a dick, a cock, a tool, a wanker, or a prick but the hard consonants in those words make you sound like you’re trying too hard. A weiner, on the other hand, is a person who is unpleasant in the way that a shitty four-year-old is unpleasant. The current president of the United States, for example, is a wiener. Or a dildo. Dildo works too.
There you have it friends: the story of a journey of self-discovery that lead me to discover something outside myself: weenies. So many weenies.