Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor Update

Apr 03, 2012

Every Tuesday, Gene publishes weekly updates to his chats.

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On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

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Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

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Ed's Note: If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them.

Need a good definition of that word.

Ah, yes.  Caught me.  In the last chat I discussed a bat getting around by "echolocution."   I meant "echolocation," as Pat The Perfect informed me seconds after the chat ended. 

But if I must define "echolocution," it would be yodeling into a canyon in the Alps.  

Just to clarify and also probably useful info for tourists, I'd like to add a few words on the c-word. I'm American, living in the UK and the c-word is used with reckless abandon here. I would also point out that it's used for shouting at and insulting both men and women. It still has the genitalic (I know that's not a real word,it's Oxford - there are dictionaries everywhere) connotations but they are faint. Fanny, on the other hand, is a slang term for the female genitalia, not commonly used as an insult. If Sarah Palin were being insulted in England, she would probably be called a twat, rather than the c-word. Also slang for female genitalia, but more commonly used to mean idiot.

I contend that almost all vulgar words appropriated as insults have lost their original meaning and should be judged on non-sexual terms.    The s-word, in my mind, has completely lost any relation to its literal meaning; it is used so ubiquitously, as virtually every part of speech, that it's nothing more than a verbal tic.    Same with the f-word;  when used as an adverb, it's not even negative.   It basically means "very."    In some cases, this is recognized.  A "shmuck" is literally a penis in Yiddish, but no one even knows that anymore.   I was recently shown a short porno clip, made in German, where a dominatrix was ordering the hooded, manacled guy to do something with his "schwanz," and I burst out laughing.   The curse words that are -- or should be -- most offensive to me are not scatological or sexual but those that are belittling of groups of people.  

Having said all that, I respect American women's discomfort with the c-word.  I don't UNDERSTAND it, but I respect it.  

Now, a-hole, used as an insult, is a word that has no bearing on its literal meaning, but still carries a sting.  I think it is because it is very descriptive of a certain type of person.   When you call someone an a-hole, you get a pretty good idea of what that person is like, and it's bad. 

It's all, of course, subjective.   Many years ago,  The  Post's Richard Leiby did a terrific story about the hateful derivation of The Redskins team name.   One of his Native American sources told him that he was not particularly bothered by the term "Redskins,"  but that there was another term, a two-word phrase, that he found so humiliating and offensive he couldn't say it aloud.   He told Richard only its initials; Richard had to figure out its meaning.   When he did, we laughed -- it seemed completely silly.   But of course we didn't print it, and I won't do so here for fear of giving injury.   The initials are "b.a." and no, I doubt you can guess it.    

Another fact I still remember from Richard's story is that "squaw" means "Indian wife" only because white people foully gave it that definition.   To Native Americans, "squaw" meant "vagina."    

American Indians have a lot to be justifiably angry about. 

George Carlin was right. Words carry no freight themselves. It is we who inveigh them.

Lenny Bruce had a great riff on this.  It's long and complex, and like all of Lenny, it is jazz age free-association, but worth reading.

Oh, I like you, and if sometimes I take poetic license with you and you are offended...now this is just with semantics, dirty words.  Believe me, I'm not profound, this is something that I assume someone must have laid on me, because I do not have an original thought.  I am screwed.  I speak English. That's it.  I was not born in a vacuum.  Every thought I have belongs to somebody else.  Then I must just take, ding ding ding, somewhere.
So I am not placating you by making the following statement.  I want to help you if you have a dirty word problem.  There are none, and I'll spell it out logically to you.

Here is a toilet.  Specifically - that's all we're concerned with, specifics - if I can tell you a dirty toilet joke, we must have a dirty toilet. That's what we're talking about, a toilet.  If we take this toilet and boil it, and it is clean clean, I can never tell you specifically a dirty toilet joke about this toilet.  I can tell you a dirty toilet joke in the Milner Hotel, or something like that, but this toilet is a clean toilet now. Obscenity is a human manifestation.  This toilet has no central nervous system, no level of consciousness.  It is not aware - it is a dumb toilet - it cannot be obscene - it's impossible.  if it could be obscene, it could be cranky, it could be a Communist toilet, a traitorous toilet. It can do none of these things.  This is a dopey toilet, Jim. So nobody can ever offend you by telling you a dirty toilet story.  They can offend you from the area that it's trite - you have heard it many, many times.  Now all of us have had a bad early toilet training - that's why we are hung up with it.  All of us at the same time got two zingers - one for the police department and one for the toilet.  "All right he made a kahkah, call a policeman.  All right, OK.   Are you going to do that anymore? OK, tell the policeman he doesn't have to come up now."

All right, now we all got the "Policeman, policeman, policeman," and we had a few psychotic parents who took it and rubbed it in our face, and those people for the most, if you search it out, are censors.  Oh, true, they hate toilets with a passion, man.  Do you realize if you got that ranked around with a toilet, you'll hate it, and anyone who refers to it?  It is dirty and uncomfortable to you. Now if the bedroom is dirty to you, then you are a true atheist, because if you have any of the mores, the superstitions, if anyone in this audience believes that God made his body, and your body is dirty, the fault lies with the manufacturer.  It's that cold, Jim, yeah. You can do anything with the body that God made, and then you want to get definitive and tell me of the parts He made, I don't see that anywhere in any reference to any Bible.  Yeah, He made it all.  It's all clean, or all dirty. But the ambivalence comes from the religious leaders, who are celibates. The religious leaders are "what should be."  They say they do not involve themselves with the physical.  If we are good, we will be like our rabbi, our nun, our priests, and absolve, and finally put down the carnal and stop the race.

That was my favorite part of the whole story, that Rush is so ignorant about women and their bodies that he doesn't know how birth control works. Somehow its a comfort that he is so incredibly socially ackward and/or repellent to women that he's never learned this simple fact at his age.

One point I didn't really make as strongly as I'd have liked is that Rush WAS trying for humor.   Taking the fact that Fluke wants insurance to pay for contraception, and concluding that means that she "wants to be paid for sex,"  ergo she is a "prostitute,"  is a funny, obviously satirical point.    Had he not COMPLETELY INVENTED the idea that she spoke about her own sexual activity, I would have actually reluctantly defended him on grounds of intended satire.    But you cannot launch into satire about a fact you made up.   That's slander. 

Oho, you say, you raging conservative apologist.   Didn't Maher "make up"  that Palin wanted to "invade Tsunami"?  

You are a fool.    That was obviously made up.   A joke.   What Rush said was more than plausibly true: Most people ASSUMED it was true.   As he clearly intended.   Apples and chewing gum.  

Dilemna or Dilemma. I, a grade school product of the late 50s was taught the former and as an aid to remember used the NA sound to remember. The other day as I typed dilemna on my computer i saw it had a red underline. I Binged it and discovered a massive controversy. Wha' happened? and when?

There is only one correct spelling -- dilemma -- it comes from the logical term "lemma."     However, this is one hugely common misspelling, and some people of a certain age claim they were taught it incorrectly in school.   

but I really want to hate people who write letters and comments like these: Link

So much self-righteous judgment aimed at people in the depths of a horrible personal tragedy! God forbid these hate-full people ever find themselves in a similar situation.

Just yesterday I sent an email to a blogger who wrote this sort of thing, only even more obnoxiously.   Her blog contended that urging compassion in this sort of case is "typical liberal thinking."   That it's a denial of personal responsibility, parallel to excusing people for  "murdering" fetuses.   This is what I wrote to her:

"You sound like a really scared person.   Terrified people tend to be absolutists about things.  Life begins at conception!  Abortion is murder!  Mistakes are murder!   It makes life less terrifying when you think there are hard and fast rules, and if you play by them, you will be safe. 

"Bad things happen to good people, kid.  Un-harden your heart.  It's a sweeter world.   And less scary.    
"You're also deeply religious, am I right?   Fundamentalist, in fact, right   Good behavior guarantees heaven, right?" 
She has not responded. 

On this note, I bid you farewell till next update.

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.
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