It’s the Year of the Cock. No, no, not that Year of the Cock, when TIME named Donald Trump its 2016 Person of the Year. Today marks Lunar New Year, and for many of its Chinese celebrants, 2017 is the Year of the Rooster – or, if we’re not so prudish, Cock. But what’s all this cockeyed rooster/cock cockamamie about, anyway?
Up yours: The gesture that divides America and the UK
Sometimes a gesture can convey a message more satisfactorily than words. Why tell someone to fuck off when you can just give them the finger? We like to think that gestures can transcend language, or that they are a more universal form of communication, but we only have to look at the difference in the offensive gesture repertoire of North American and UK English speakers to know this is not true. In fact, Americans are deprived of a particularly satisfying offensive gesture, and it causes much mirth for Brits, Australians and New Zealanders.
The ‘up yours’ gesture is made with the index and middle finger raised and parted, and the palm facing towards yourself. It has similar connotations to the ‘middle finger’ gesture, but with an added element of defiance. The hand may be moved up and down for added effect. The gesture is demonstrated by this besuited chappie:
(Image from Morris et al. 1979)
Cooters and hooters
Dear Dr. Strong Language,
Can we get cooties from a cooter?
But if you do get cooties from a cooter, there’s a good chance they’ll be crabs.
Getting our hands dirty
Taboo words and expressions are usually among the first things second-language learners want to learn—a fact not lost on sign language instructors like Barry Priori (first introduced to Strong Language in a Sweary Links roundup), who ran “swearing workshops” at the Adelaide Fringe Festival to boost awareness of Australian Sign Language (Auslan). Swearing in sign language is incredibly nuanced and is about much more than learning a simple handshape or gesture. Get it wrong, and you might alienate an entire community, as Kristin Henson found out.
Henson hosted videos on the popular YouTube channel Dirty Signs with Kristin in which she taught her interpretations for signs representing profanity or crude phrases in pop culture, including skullfuck, cunt punt and twat waffle. Her notoriety landed her a book deal, but members of the Deaf community  launched a petition urging the publisher to drop the book because, according to sign language instructor Andrea K. Smith, Henson’s signs were “woefully inaccurate, poorly performed, and completely misguiding to those who may be seeking to learn more about American Sign Language.”
So what did Henson do wrong? How do you swear in sign language? Continue reading
And adults did it too? A brief reminiscence
“Fuck the children!”
Growing up in the late 1950s I was naive enough to believe that adults did not curse—for a while. In fact, like so many other kids back then, I even thought that perhaps some of them did not know how to swear. No, not my parents, for sure. I recall an incident one evening in our tiny Queens apartment over a Laundromat when my folks were hosting a party. There I was, a second-grader serenely playing in the corner of the living room, having my toy soldiers killing each other off, when I overheard my father’s friend Pat say to him, “Ha, ha! Grand pricks.” Continue reading