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A Dirty Word Gets Some Respect

All my life, I remember an old family anecdote about my older sister running down the street, screaming at the top of her lungs, that our cousin had called her a dirty name.  “Dougie called me a SHITASS!!!”

Two weeks ago, if I needed to kick off a column with that story, I would have veiled the language, perhaps using something like “‘s***a**” to give you something to translate.

But thanks to Donald Trump, I don’t have to do that anymore.  And neither does Newsweek, Washington Post, Time, The Guardian and Huffington Post, all of whom had blaring headlines containing the word “shithole.”  As far as I can tell, only The New York Times and the NPR website resisted the temptation to put THAT word in a headline, instead using it only within the text of the article.  Such restraint these “anything goes” days is downright quaint.     

And one could see the joy in the faces of news anchors, commentators and all the talking heads when they got to say the word with impunity on television.  “Well, I’m only quoting the President now, and he referred to these nations as ‘shithole countries.’”  Don’t it feel good?

Senator Dick Durbin, who was actually in the room for the conversation, clutched his pearls and talked about the “vile and vulgar comments” used by Trump.  Vile? Vulgar?  Where are we?  Victorian England?

Oh, Dickie.  Come over for drinks, and we’ll pull some folks together to demonstrate just how “vile and vulgar” people can be talking about elected officials.  I’ll provide the smelling salts.

Let’s face it –“shit” is the little black dress of coarse talk.  I can’t think of any other vulgarism that can be dressed up or dressed down so easily.  Look at how it works when added to animal nouns.  Take bat, bull, horse, or chicken to derive new words meaning crazy, a lie, an even bigger lie and wimpy.  Such versatility should be applauded, not hidden away as “vile and vulgar.”

Our little word works well at the beginning of vulgarisms, too.  Just add face, load, head or list to get new words meaning drunk, a large quantity, a jerk and the names of those who are out of your favor.  

Honestly, even a cursory review indicates that we have for far too long denied those four little letters their due place in our language usage.  “Shit” works harder and gives more meaning and nuance to English than any other base word that comes to mind.  After a lifetime of thinking of this word as distasteful, I now appreciate the job it has been doing for us all along without getting any credit at all.

In fact, it seems to me that “shit” is a word with a dream.  It wants to come out of the shadows, to be accepted and appreciated for its talents and abilities.  It wants to contribute meaningfully to our national conversation.

And just look at how well it can describe what really happened last week.  Here goes:

The dipshit in the Oval Office said something batshit crazy about Haiti and the entire continent of Africa.  And, strangely, it was the Republican Senator in the room who called the shithead out on his horseshit comment, while the chickenshit Democrat in the room didn’t say jackshit.  When word got out about the bullshit that was said, Trump ended up on a lot of people’s shitlists, America ended up in the shithouse, and some of us who still care about such things had to get shitfaced.

Don’t it feel good?

But there is one thing we all know about Trump—it never ends.  So, I’m already working on a list of derivative words when he inevitably drags another vulgarism out of the closet.   

So, please let me know if you can think of something other than “off” and “up” to go with the word which he might get caught using next.  



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