The golden shower

Say, what is now th’ ambition of the great?
Is it to raise their country’s sinking state;
Her load of debt to ease by frugal care,
Her trade to guard, her harass’d poor to spare?
Is it, like honest Somers, to inspire
The love of laws, and freedom’s sacred fire?
Is it, like wise Gondolphin, to sustain,
The balanc’d world, and boundless power restrain?
Or is the mighty aim of all their toil,
Only to aid the wreck, and share the spoil?
On each relation, friend, dependant, pour,
With partial wantonness, the golden shower,
And, fenc’d by strong corruption, to despise
An injur’d nation’s unavailing cries?
[The Poetical Works of George, Lord Lyttelton, 1801 (pages 137–138)]

How prescient Lord Lyttelton was! Corruption! Wantonness! The golden shower!

This is one of those moments where, if you’re a politician, you may get a sense that urine big trouble: Continue reading

What’s this sack of shit?

Have a look at this sack of shit.

click to embiggen
click to embiggen

Ain’t that some shit? For some fucking reason, shit seems to come mainly in sacks, less often (lately) in bags and buckets, rarely in boxes or cans, and never in bins. So why the fuck is that? Continue reading

Before Twitter, there were Rees’s pieces

Before there was the World Wide Web, there were libraries and bookstores. In high school I loved crawling the shelves of the Banff Book and Art Den, discovering books that would shape my view and style. Kurt Vonnegut, for instance, and Spike Milligan.

Before there was Twitter, there were bathroom walls and similar public surfaces whereon could be etched – or markered or spray-painted – comments on life and sundry witticisms (often recycled).

At the junction of these two was Nigel Rees and his series of books of collected graffiti from around the world, published 1979–1982. I discovered them in the Book and Art Den. They informed my sense of humour (I still use some of the jokes from them) and they instructed me on British swearing patterns and cultural references (such as the “[name] rules, OK” graffiti common around the Sceptred Isle at that time).

Nigel Rees was – is – a BBC luminary, host of the Radio 4 quiz panel show Quote… Unquote. He has collected books of quotations and phrases and anecdotes and such like. Quite a few books, in fact; somewhere north of 50, I believe. I don’t have most of them. But I’ve read Graffiti Lives, O.K., Graffiti 2, Graffiti 3, and Graffiti 4 quite a few times (although only once in the past decade).

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The possessed fuck

Possessive pronouns – my, your, his, her, our, their – modify nouns. Pretty much any nouns. The English possessive shouldn’t even really be called “possessive,” since it also describes so many more and other things than possession. The thing “possessed” can be an individual item: My dick and your cunt should really get acquainted. It can be a mass object: Don’t waste my time or touch my shit. It can be an act: How was your run today? As good as my performance last night?

Obviously some things are more likely to be “possessed” than others: his book is going to show up far more often than her neutrino. But pretty much any noun, including any sweary noun, can be possessed.

And yet.

A fuck almost never is possessed. Continue reading

Frankly Useless Crank “Knowledge,” Only For Fools

Have you heard where fuck comes from? For Use of Carnal Knowledge. No, um, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. No, wait, Fornication Under Consent of King. No, it’s…

…It’s Frankly Usage Crank “Knowledge,” Only For Fools. Or FUCK OFF for short.

Sorry to shit on your party trick – don’t worry, it won’t Ship High In Transit, because FUCK OFF – but no swearwords ever in English (or probably any other language) have been created from acronyms. This is for two reasons:

  1. Acronyms are intrinsically euphemistic. They are used to camouflage rude, offensive, or otherwise unendurable things (often just unendurably long).
  2. Acronyms have only really been used to generate words since the mid-20th century.

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