Sometimes the smallest thing will set off a chain reaction that leads to an epiphany.
Sarah Jane Woodall, a fellow blogger (blogette? blogina? blogogyne?) and my favorite wonderhussy, got a private message from a reader the other day, and posted about it on Facebook:
The message said “If you want people to take your reviews seriously you should tone down the language. Just a thought.”
Sarah Jane replied to the reader:
“Thanks, but I’m not a serious person!”
To her Facebook friends, she continued:
Maybe she has a point, though….I’ll never get that gig with Town & Country at this rate. I’ll end up writing for Town & Cunty instead 🙁
Like Sarah Jane, I myself am rather free with my more colorful phrase-turnings, especially in casual conversation. Is that a fault? It isn’t that I’m unable to refrain from peppering my pontifications with profanity; I can be downright great-grandma-level genteel when I want to be. It’s just that the blue stuff is so useful; profanity is flavorful, and immensely versatile.
Those of us who habitually flex our linguistics to the fullest extent allowed by law know that we will, from time to time, be frostily confronted by people who wish to hear less of the dreaded ‘F’ word, along with an entire triple alphabet of other utterances they find distasteful, like the unspeakable ‘C’ word, which can actually cause a small stroke or even a dangerous attack of stabbiness in more extremely control-freaky prudes (which is how I got that horrible scar). There are settings in which you might well expect such an awkward encounter; at a funeral, for instance, or while dining with the Queen or Jack of England. But at Burning Man? And yet I’ve seen it happen there.
Above and beyond those who simply have delicate ears in general are the people who complain in particular about DPW’s roughneck talk, enshrined forever in the motto coined by the Jub Jub tribe: “Fuck Yer Day.” It’s a little hard to believe, but there actually are people who can handle the harsh environment of the playa just fine, yet wilt and shrivel, bacon-like, under the oppressive and baleful influence of someone in a black shirt calling them a fuck-knuckled son of a sack of piece of shitsucker, and demanding that they go eat a bowl of fuck, or sleep on a bed made of duck dicks.
As Burners, we are people who are supposedly free, to a greater than average extent, of the kinds of societal constraints that prevent people from playing effectively, the way children play, in untrammeled self-expression. If we can’t cuss a blue streak when we feel like it without having to feel responsible for someone overly-sensitive choosing to take offense – or perish forbid, Mary, being seriously traumatized – then we are being prevented from fully engaging with our most precious burner privilege.
You might think that the unmitigated freedom to spew obscenities is only something that some people want or need; you might see it as a sort of special interest, for vulgarians only. Consider, though: every natural human language – every single one – has profanity. In some languages it’s much more highly-developed than in others; the Russians have an entire sub-language called mat in which it is possible to express pretty much anything, using only words whose roots are no-no boo-boo words. The versatility that seems so impressive in English profanity – “fuck the fucking fucker, it’s fucking fucked!” – is laughed at as amateurish and dull by Russians fluent in mat. . . but I digress. The point is, the only human languages that don’t have filthy swears in them are artificial ones, like computer programming languages, High Elvish, and whatever the hell you call that weird gibberish that TV evangelists speak.
What’s more, different regions of the brain are involved in generating pottymouth than are used for non-profane language, which is why Tourette’s happens. Unlike normal language, which relies on the outer few millimeters in the left hemisphere of the brain, expletives come bubbling up from evolutionarily more ancient structures of the limbic system, deep inside the right hemisphere. Profanity is more primal than ordinary language; clearly, it serves not just some purpose, but some ancient and vital fucking purpose.
Dr. Timothy Jay, a psychologist at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts who has studied human use of profanity for over thirty-five years, says that doody talk has many functions.
“It allows us to vent or express anger, joy, surprise, happiness,” says Dr. Jay. “It’s like the horn on your car, you can do a lot of things with that, it’s built into you.”
There are also studies that say cutting loose with a good hearty expletive can help us cope with pain. There’s a reason you scream out bloodcurdling oaths and epithets when you hit your stupid thumb with the stupid hammer, and that reason is all tied up in a bundle with a whole host of instinctual actions and involuntary reactions that presumably kept your distant ancestors slightly safer from the dire woodchucks, saber-toothed clams, and other hominid-eating predators that roamed the veldt during the Flintstonian Era. If you choke back your unthinking cry of “Assballs McPoopshit von Porkerbastard the Third!!!” when you’re in pain, even if only to stop long enough to think and substitute “gosh darn it,” then you’ve short-circuited an evolutionary benefit that would have made the pain more bearable.
If erupting in a brief torrent of the most vituperative invective possible is a defense mechanism that helps ease our pains, then who could blame a tired, overworked, unpaid, sunstroked, insufficiently-fluffed DPW worker for firing off a farty salvo of conceptual nerve gas at the slightest provocation? And given that the human condition itself is a life sentence punctuated with pains and joys, who can fault a free-spirited young woman for seasoning her blog-sauce with motherfuckers, motherfuckers? If she cleaned up her language and excised the most primal elements from the text, she would be inescapably obfuscating a certain amount of frank, honest openness straight from the limbic system right along with it. She would be exchanging truth for mere versimilitude.
Friends, burners, and all you other pissfaced dickshitting bugfuckers, lend me your ears! I come to fill them with festering phonic filth; loosen your tongues in turn, and embrace the Dark Side. The language is on fire, and we must spit it out!