Sworn oaths. Slippery slopes

Published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette July 20, 2022

Fox Noise is missing an opportunity to not only blame Joe Biden for inflation, gas prices, border crossings and the ongoing Ukrainian war. His worse sin may go back to 20l0. The ACA or Obamacare passed by a whisker following intensive lobbying and arm twisting by Barak, Biden and citizens being bankrupted by out-of-control healthcare costs.

Joe Biden (sotto voce) to Barak, “This is a big (effing) deal!”

“Writers now who once knew better words  now only use four-letter words, writing prose, anything goes.” Songwriter Cole Porter observed the world as it was before turning English peccadillos into words and music, Cole’s words are easy to love. In contrast, as he noticed, strong language overtly expressed loses its power.

Where to begin? 

I could go back seventy years to an Air Force recruit whose drill sergeants reminded us that we were theirs for four years because we took an oath ending in, “So help me God.” My nearly-blank foul-word dictionary was soon enhanced in the ancient oral tradition. 

If, as the saying goes, the French have a word for it, I don’t believe that “f’ing” in a recent Opinion piece was it. I prefer to think it was an editing error. Let’s put theory to the test.

I want to say I’m not a prude, but would be lying. Is my antennae always up for language and pronunciation? Guilty! Like Boston’s selfish anti-vax jocks, I do research.. My dictionary was published in 1984–the time of newspeak said Orwell–and he was right. 

Regarding today’s overuse of the English intensive ‘frigging’–Webster says it’s vulgar. To quote my New World Edition: “it’s still confined largely to reported speech.” Well, that’s all right then, not!

Because, it’s 2022, and the January 6th Committee is on the loose with louche language by MOGUL as our former president was code named by his Secret Service guardians. 

Norman Mailer’s postwar novel, The Naked and the Dead, came out during my discovery years. The title alone piqued reader interest. Inside its covers was a new use of the  word “fug.”  A British term for “oppressive air in a closed room, or warm and cozy.” In a dramatic sign of changing mores. Mailer’s editors would not print the quotes he credited to common soldiers. The publisher’s action “pissed off” Mailer. Humiliation followed. Mailer was introduced to Actress Tallulah Bankhead; smirking, Tallulah questioned the novelist’s ability to spell.

That was long ago; Joe Biden has a lot to answer for right now. In red states he’s the object of NASCAR fans and clumsy GOP funnymen taking to the microphones, braying, “Let’s go Brandon.” 

Obviously, fueled-up PBS racing fans are confusing their favorite drivers with Masterpiece Theater’s handsome Irish chauffer: Branson, in Downton Abbey. A predictable error in the fugue of Trump-world. 

Boston sports fans praise themselves for being savvy about the finer points of games. Nowadays, Boston Garden and  Fenway Park have better food and foul-words fans. Family Friendly? Not so much. 

The January 6th Committee seeks and subpoenas eyewitnesses to the failed coup. I felt grandfatherly shame for Cassidy Hutchinson 25. “Cass,” has turned into a White House Zelig, on hand January 6th, 2021. What bothered me was her having to repeat the “Oval oaf’s” words: “Let them in, they’re not here to hurt me.” This was right after he learned that the mob was armed. “Take down the (effing) magnetometers, let my people in!”

The insurrection’s opposite Moses!

In the armored SUV: “I’m the (effing) American president, take me to the Capitol.” 

Cassidy, cool as a cucumber, is braver than the whole White House cast of characters: Disgraced General Michael Flynn took the fifth on every question, including this softball: “Do you believe in America’s traditional peaceful transfer of power?” Called to account, Benedict Arnold Flynn tried to forget that a private soldier’s oath is meaningful. 

Swearing is a different kind of oath: effing, fug,  execrable m-f, frigging, and the cartoonish Irish feck are examples of the Anglo-Saxon expletive, dating to the 4th century. One researcher concluded that it wasn’t written down before then, “because it was just too damn rude to do so.” 

Time marched on to the 20th century when publishers of The New Yorker and other slick publications decided sophisticated readers could handle off-color words in print. 

Regretfully, common language has moved into newsprint.

It’s hard to beat the reasoning of Shaw’s Alfred P. Doolittle when he met Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady. A dustman with a thirst for drink, Doolittle cadged five pounds by claiming  he was one of the “undeserving poor.” Higgins, to win a bet, vowed to teach the dustman’s daughter, Eliza, excellent English to supplant, in his lights, her Cockney clang.

God bless our teachers for coaching millions to speak respectfully in the hearing of children who, by nature, know right from wrong.

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