Our last bitch chronicle ended by observing that son of a bitch is semantically poetic. The sounds of son of a bitch can be poetic, too. It takes stress at different points for different expressive purposes: son of a bitch is different from son of a bitch is different from son of a bitch. So, there’s value in the full and precise articulation of the phrase, but also pragmatic value in truncating the phrase, or extending it, or playing with it euphemistically.
Diving into muff
On Twitter, Merriam-Webster lexicographer Peter Sokolowski reminded us:
The most remarkable etymologies are the ones that have been staring you right in the face your whole life.
— Peter Sokolowski (@PeterSokolowski) May 14, 2015
As he explained in subsequent tweets, Peter was wide-eyed over the origin and evolution of secular, including its French cognate, siècle. His remark was a resonant one, prompting many of us word lovers to offer our own instances. For me, his remark was right on the nose, shall we say, especially concerning some stronger language.
Boogers, buggers, and other bugbears
“I almost forgot, fellow babies: Boogerrrrrrrr.”
Ready for your close-up, booger? You got what may be your greatest moment at 17:03 in the first episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.
The backstory (see 8:30 in the episode): Johnny Fever lost his job as a star DJ for saying booger on the air. Now he’s at a dead-end station playing dull music for the funeral-home target market. But the station has a new program director who’s changing the format to rock… and Johnny Fever can say booger all he wants.
Yes, yes, OK, revolting, but not downright vulgarian. Is it? It’s snot, disgusting, but it’s not so disgusting that you can’t say it. Can you? I mean, if you’re going to pick a bugbear, a verbal bogeyman or goblin, you’re better abjuring the nasal goober and centralizing the vowel to bespeak the backdoor: not booger but bugger. Continue reading