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July 13, 2006

It Just Leapt Out of Me

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The Communicatrix bravely 'fesses up to her preferred swear-words. Funny stuff, as well as sweetly personal. As Colleen notes about one of her goofier faves, "Honestly, I have no idea how I came up with this one."

Which prompts a question that has interested me for years: Where do the expostulatives we're prone to use come from? How do we settle on the funny/sexy/absurd vocabulary we use when we swear? Or, for another example, during sex? God knows that we aren't usually taught how to swear or how to make erotic-passion grunting-gasping talk, at least not by the usual responsible authority figures. Maybe it's that we get exposed to these lexicons somehow ... Our emotions and appetites somehow zero in on a few ... Our imaginations somehow do their embroidery-thing ... And then, when the provocation arises and the impromptu moment comes along, these crazy, often unexpected words pop out of us. Is there such a thing as a vocabulary of the unconscious?

I won't make anyone cringe by exposing my usual (and alas banal) erotic-passion vocabulary, but I will risk a little embarrassment by volunteering the words that my unconscious has settled on in another field -- as fond nicknames for the beloved Wife: Babypie, Sweetness, Sweetiepie, and Lovebug. Honeybunch and Cutiepie make the occasional appearance, but are definitely not first-string players. I didn't try to come up with these silly words; as I got to know The Wife, they just started leaping out of me, feeling completely appropriate as they did so.

What are some of your own unconscious' preferred words and phrases? Do you have any idea where they came from?



posted by Michael at July 13, 2006


Long ago I had a conscientious and virtuous female high school student who was always careful what she said and did. One summer she rode a horse in the Indian Days parade and for some reason fell or was bucked off so that she hit the back of her head hard. When the emergency room doctor leaned over her, she blurted, "God, your breath smells stink!" In the subsequent days her opinions and vocabulary were similarly colorful. The endearments and cuss words are the first to come and the last to go.

Tourette's Syndrome, which Oliver Sacks has explained so well, has a similar effect, causing people to call out indecencies in public -- all the dark little fishes that swim on our slimy subconscious mud-bottom.

It's just the wiring.

But then besides that, feminists have pointed out that we use endearments for those we love and those we own in an intimacy sometimes more political than entitled. So the Portugese boss I once had, a caddish womanizer, kept calling me "dear." I asked him not to. "I'll call you anything the hell I want to," he flared.
"Okay, sugar," I said, leaving quickly as he was trying to climb over his desk in order to strike me...

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on July 13, 2006 1:25 PM

My goofier comments actually came out of me when speaking to (yes, that's what I said, don't make fun) my beagle. My child substitute. It's thoroughly humiliating, but I called her plumpkin pie (she was chubby), goofy gums, and sweet pea. Of course, this was when I wasn't calling her "dammit, no, we can't go for a walk right now..." Now, I have to go change my name.

Posted by: annette on July 13, 2006 1:30 PM

"Jesus fuck!" is particularly satisfying to me when in need of a curse word. Both profane and sacreligious. So efficient. I don't know how it ended up as my curse of choice, although it's primarily used when I'm alone in the car. I think solo driving curse words are an entirely separate category of language. The isolation and solitude of the car allows our most primal utterances to come out.

As for bedroom grunts, mine are fairly pedestrian. It's been my experience that they change depending on the partner.

Posted by: the patriarch on July 13, 2006 1:40 PM

I call my wife Babe. It's a generational thing. I fantasize I'm a Bogart and she's a Bacall. She calls me Sweetie, God knows why. I say, "Here's looking at you, Kid." She smiles and pushes her glass toward me, signaling a wish for a Manhattan-on-the-rocks refill.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on July 13, 2006 1:46 PM

Here are two good ones:

wife: Dagsnabbit!

mother-in-law: Dingbustit!

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on July 13, 2006 1:49 PM

Here's another equally interesting question: when in the relationship do we start custom-fitting endearments, or uttering them at all?

I am "c" to The BF, which started out fairly early and which I was very comfortable with (and even flattered by). On the other hand, a year and a half into the proposition, I still have no set nickname for him (he's only The BF in print, but since those are his initials, too, I figure it counts).

On the other hand, there's probably a reason for my not wanting to rush things. The merciless slaughtering my college roommate suffered when his then-girlfriend called out from the kitchen, "Sweetheart, where's the knife?" spelled early doom for that relationship--something I've clearly never forgotten...

Posted by: communicatrix on July 13, 2006 2:27 PM

Since we're letting our hair down a bit and going all R-rated in this thread ...

One of the things that amazes me is how people know how to make sex-talk in their own language. I don't mean wining and dining seduction talk but the real sweaty stuff: "Oh, yeah, baby, fuck, go for it, do it, do it now!" That stuff. It's not language in the sense of "an attempt to make sense" anyway. And no one really teaches us how to talk this kind of talk. It just kinda happens, at least when things get urgent and hot enough. Given that there's no real language-making urge behind it, how is it that (for us, anyway), it comes out in English? I remember watching some French porn once and being amazed by two things. 1) The French female porn performers never lost their Frenchwoman-ness (poise, style) even in the most extreme circumnstances -- how is that possible? And 2) they have their own grunting, urgent, hissing language of coition -- and it comes out in French!

How to account for this?

Annette -- "Goofy gums"? "Goofy gums"???!!! Actually that's pretty cute. Plus: the way we talk to babies and pets is another great topic. Where does all that babbly nonsense come from?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 13, 2006 3:07 PM

One of my dearest friends calls her [6 yrs junior] husband "Fondly Beloved Spouse", in print and on-screen, and "kissyface" in his (not so kissy, if you ask me), face. I can only imagine what she, a belle lettre professional, had invented for curtain-down situations.

It's funny though, when you look into the literal meaning of the nicknames and compare Russian and American, you will be under impression that Americans are 1) always hungry and 2)have unhealthy appetite for human flesh. How, otherwise, is one to explain all those honeys, pies and muffins?
And Russians exhibit fondness for little birds, bunnies and fishies...but the tiny ones...something incestious/pedofhilic about it?

Posted by: Tat on July 13, 2006 3:18 PM

When you initially mentioned cursing, I was reminded of a small piano concert I attended a couple of years ago. A few 13-14 yr old girls were sitting ahead of us, and we overheard one utter such a glorious insult about someone not present that we had to ask her to repeat it. She told us a few, but the one I recall most clearly was: I'm gonna jam matchsticks in your eyes and light 'em on fire.

Swear words are fine- I'm prone to using them myself- but they're common. Her use of language was imaginative and vivid in a way I have to admire.

Posted by: claire on July 13, 2006 4:43 PM

Words uttered in a sexual circumstance always seemed to me to be erotic or not depending more on the style of delivery than the content. "Hand me my shoe" or something similarly boring (actually that particular example is kind of kinky, now I think of it) could be wildly exciting delivered in a desperate, breathy moan. It's like there's some kind of implied, world-weary experience going on there.

Every person/animal I've ever been fond of has been "Honeybee." Stupid, silly, makes no sense, but at a certain point in a relationship (with humans) it just feels right. Never had a complaint about it.

I find "bastard" used as an adjective fits the bill for cursing at inanimate objects: That bastard window is stuck again...The bastard car quit on me today, etc. "Jesus H. Fucking Christ!" helps in traffic (only with windows up & no gestures - I'm not crazy). There's the satisfaction of the blasphemous, with a little irreverence (the "H") mixed with the profane. It's totally inane and moronic, I know, but "shit" or "fuck" repeated over and over rapidly work well, too.

Posted by: Flutist on July 13, 2006 6:46 PM

Now I'm getting all worked up thinking about that shoe ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 13, 2006 6:49 PM

M. Blowhard, you open up about the big C and now your own terms of endearment but do not say how that wife feels about being so endeared. That, protecting her privacy in that way, is so noble and romatic that I am almost compelled to rush out and create a myspace fansite.

What blowhardies should not know about me is that my use of swear words, obscenities, and detailed and specific "word pictures" would make Ari Gold blush and hide under a bed. Election times are especially difficult, as is Oscar night. Dinner with friends is also trying as I am just awful in this way. (Yet I don't even say "heck" at work. )

On the other hand, being utterly unable to remember names I have an arsenal of "cute" things to call people. Lamb-britches, you little honey moondog, absolutelely the most elegant valet parker in the whole city, Uncle Studly Muffin, you dashing Tennesse Tuxedo, the only woman in the world who should ever wear that dress... and of course, an amused, "Hi, how y'a doin'" goes a long way with certain types, as do compliments about lipstick choices.

So far, no one has punched me in the face. But I'm due. Way overdue.

It's not, I think, the vocabulary of my unconscious but an artiface, like a dancer's posture or a hand model's gesture.

With animals, I stick to mare, horse, dog, good dog, good kitty, good boy, good girl, and when they're naughty either damn it or hey. But then, with animals I want mutual respect.

Posted by: j.c. on July 13, 2006 9:01 PM

FuckFace. Got it from Dad. Feel free to add this to your lexicon.

Posted by: MJ on July 14, 2006 9:29 AM

Jumpin' Jesus on a fuckin' pogo stick (first heard it in a Dead Milkmen song)
Fuck me gently with a chainsaw (from _Heathers_)

As for romantic stuff... well, I actually get no attention from the ladies. But if I did, the ideal talk would be mock-sublime, play-chase kinda stuff. E.g., I once heard a dirty-mouthed porn star say something like, "Yeah, look at that meaty ass. You want that? Suffocating your cock with that big ass?" -- did she just say "suffocating?" Holy hell that's hot! I only wish I had been there to reply: "That's it, choke the life outta my cock with your tight pussy."

Hmmm, maybe my preference for this faux-dangerous talk explains why I get no attention!

Posted by: Agnostic on July 14, 2006 9:31 AM

When did cursing with style go out of date?

Speaking of which: the greatest curse of all time: Godfrey Daniel, Mother of Pearl!

Uttered by, who else? W. C. Fields.

Posted by: ricpic on July 14, 2006 10:19 AM

I'm cheating and posting this on both blogs, but:

Mine are:
Hot Damn on a Cold Rock. - mild dismay
Fuckin’ B! - when it’s not an “A” class Fuckin’
Holy Cow on a Sacred Stick! - my kid friendly expression of shock, but only Hindus seem to get it

Posted by: Yahmdallah on July 14, 2006 10:56 AM

Will Ferrell had some hilarious exclamations in the movie Anchorman:

Sweet Lincoln's mullet!
Great Odin's raven!
Knights of Columbus!
By the beard of Zeus!

Stay classy...

Posted by: the patriarch on July 14, 2006 12:05 PM

I'm a fan of "Christ on a bicycle" myself, and the more obscure "Jesus prune". A South African friend used "Fuckety, fuckety, foo". I once had a diagnosis of a dysfunctional machine delivered to me "The fucking fucker's fucked".

Posted by: dearieme on July 14, 2006 12:18 PM

One of my alltime favorite internet posts was the morning after the 2004 election. I forget which pro-Bush blog had it, but it was headed up "Can I Gloat Now?" It consisted of a photo of a pretty beefy guy wearing a baseball had with a giant penis head, and a shirt which read "Fuck you, you fuckin' fuck!!"

kind of said it all...

Posted by: John Cunningham on July 14, 2006 1:07 PM

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