February 21, 2005

Me Talk Ugly Some Days

OKAY well, I could tell you about going over to Birmingham this weekend (we stayed with my folks so my little children have been spoiled beyond endurance) to attend a lit conference where I LEARNED SO MUCH about what to do (and what NOT to do, heh) when I get to SPEAK (!) events like this in the spring, and tell you why these things are actually pretty dern fun to attend as a eater-of-lunch and how I met some of my HEROES in person --- !!!! I got starry-eyed and humiliatingly tongue-tied and GUSHED, GUSHED I say, and WORSE than gushed: When I met Cassandra King and thanked her for THE MULTITUDE of kindnesses she has shown me, a total stranger, and my book, I got a TEAR in my EYE! GAH! Like the world's biggest geek meeting Spock at a STAR TREK CON*, and I was so embarrassed I prayed that a wandering anacoda would pop its head in and swallow me whole and then puke me back up dead but at least UNWEEPING before I made a total ASS of myself, but alas, they don't HAVE anacondas in Alabama, so I BLINKED it away and sniffed my nose theatrically to indicate that I had ALLERGIES, but she was SO kind and said "Hey---when I wrote my first book people did it for me...so," Then I felt better BUT STILL, one day I hope to not be such a DORK, yish!--- and what books I bought OR...I could apropos of nothing hare off to the left and yammer about cussing.

What do YOU think is going to happen now? ...Yup.

My brother doesn't cuss.

"Do YOU cuss?" you ask me, having wisely abandoned all hope of hearing anything USEFUL about lit conferences....And I say, WELL, UM, YOU KNOW, HEY! LOOK OVER THERE! SOMETHING SHINY! Or, in other words, if you possess a delicate nature and are in the same room with me when I hit myself in the thumb with a hammer, allow me to suggest you plug your ears and hum. Or just RUN.

He DOES have a pretty good argument for cussing as a vocabulary-limiting thing (an argument I usually dismiss out of hand as SILLY because I know UNSTOPPABLE cussers who have such fine vocabularies that they are licenced to use the word HEGEMONY in multiple states) but he makes his case because he has used NOT CUSSING to come up with the MOST innocuous and yet FOUL replacements for swear words. These invented phrases would never have been invented if he would just cuss, and that would be a shame because I LOVE THEM! They SOUND OBSCENE when said aloud, but are actually as bland as whole milk.

He will call someone, for example, "Butt Chuck." It means NOTHING, but it sounds awful. Try it, out loud. Say, "That man is a complete Butt Chuck." Ugh, sounds NASTY, but..isn't. It isn't ANYTHING. Or my favorite, and possibly the FOULEST sounding non-foul thing invented since Yvonne and I perpetrated the spine-shuddering phrase "SUCCULENT VINES." Are you ready? I do not think you are... GET ready, and then read the two words after the colon aloud and see if you don't make a face at the sheer REVOLTINGNESS of how they sound. Brace yourself, Bridget, here comes the colon: Pony Hole.

I used to cuss like a veritable FLEET of sailors, cussed constantly and with little provocation because I was in graduate school in Chicago and profanity was like the Native Tongue. Having kids cleaned my mouth up quite a bit. Toddlers aren't up on the idea of APPROPRIATE VENUE. If they learn the word Ass, they will use it, and they don't care if the venue is alone with a friend drinking beer and discussing the obvious merits of the back end of George Clooney, or at, say, a Christening where the tiny guest of honor experiences Unfortunately Timed Diaper Slippage. In my opinion, one of these venues is an appropriate spot for the word ass to make a judicious appearence. One is not.

My brother would disagree. He has this thing on his TV that CUTS out the sound whenever a bad word comes on and then puts a subtitle at the bottom, silently replacing the word with an innocuous synonym. It's called TV guardian. It does a good job, and also is amusing in that it cuts the sound on homonyms so every now and again the sounds cuts out and you get a subtitle like, "Jerk-a-doodle-doo."

I am thinking of getting one for the play room TV to encourage the idea of NOT CUSSING in my children. This is not hypocritical; I NEVER think "in front of one's mother" is an appropriate venue for bad language. EVER. Profanity is a vocabulary that I use strictly with my close peers, not my parents, not my kids. I NEVER cuss in front of my mother even though I THINK SHE PROBABLY SUSPECTS by now that I do not always keep my tongue as white and blameless as vigin lamb's wool. My mother has read my book---she knows what vocabularic heights ---and depths --- I am willing to plumb. But only in theory. I hope my kids will see that boundary or else they will find themselves brushing with Life Boy.

But as a writer, respecting one parents aside, I don't believe in the idea of "bad" words. There is only a word that is right for the moment. My characters all have their own vocabularies. Some of them wouldn't say ASS to mean anything but Balaam's furry friend if you offered them 500 bucks. But others, well, they are cussers, and that means *I* as the person sticking the words in their paper mouths need to be willing to use those words.

There's one line in gods---I won't say the line here, appropriate venue and all---but I will say that it is (FORGIVE ME) a perfect line for the MOMENT, for the characters, and there is NO WAY I could ever have CUT this line even though the idea of my MOTHER reading it makes me go looking for that 'Bama Anaconda again and even though it cost me being a guest speaker at a VERY cool local event because one of the things they do is read the ENTIRE book out loud over the course of a week and this ONE LINE...no one was willing to SAY this one very explicit (excuse me, forgive forgive) VERY funny line OUT LOUD. They didn't think they COULD say it wiuthout all the blood rushing to their heads and exploding them. If I get excommunicated from my church it will be over THIS line. If a truck hits me tomorrow and I die and the pearly gates are closed to me...this line will be featured in the paperwork for my transfer to hell.**

*I realized as I typed that if I DID get to meet Leonard Nimoy at a Star Trek con it would probably be a BIG HIGHLIGHT of my life, so. It is hopeless.

** If you got your hands on an ARC because you are a bookseller or whatnot, the line in question is very close to the top of page 138. Although, if you have read the book, you probably knew EXACTLY what line I meant without the page reference.

Posted by joshilyn at February 21, 2005 8:42 PM

But...but...but....you mean those of us who are ARCless peons have to wait until mid-April to know what the "sending you to hell" line is?? Aaaarrrggghhh!

I have two words for you, Joshilyn.
Pony Hole.

Posted by: DebR at February 21, 2005 10:42 PM

What an unbelievably unfair TEASER!!! Shame!

Posted by: Dana at February 21, 2005 11:46 PM

Oh, Joss. You are a MUCH better mother than I could ever hope to be. Since we knew it would be PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for us to REFORM our language, Phil & I have agreed to get charged 25 cents per swearword. It's actually quite a moneymaker for the kids...

I live in terror that I'll get a call from school that one of my kids has been giving vocabulary lessons.

Page 138, eh... When I get your book, I'm gonna skip right ahead to the good part. :o) xxo

Posted by: Martha O'Connor at February 22, 2005 1:16 AM


Posted by: Martha O'Connor at February 22, 2005 1:17 AM

DebR -- Oh, (muffled). *laughing with glee*
You know what, Joshilyn, I know a guy who issued almost THAT VERY STATEMENT in retort to a complaint from a fellow who, upon seeing his out of state license plate, accused him of coming there to hunt and kill all their animals. (Okay, now they're REALLY curious, huh.)*tee-hee, snicker, snicker*

Posted by: David at February 22, 2005 7:33 AM

DISCLAIMER: David got an ARC off e-bay so DO NOT SPANK ME, I am not passing them around to friends-who-are-not-you...

BUT Disclaimer aside, I would like to point out that David mailed his ARC to me for signing so he could not LOOK at page 138, and yet he knew EXACTLY what line I meant. HA!

Posted by: joshilyn at February 22, 2005 7:51 AM

This is why I shouldn't do much until after morning coffee . . . when you said get ready for "the two words after the colon", I still had the "Butt Chuck" image in my head. For a moment there, I said to myself: "What comes after the colon. Hmmm, isn't it small intestine, then large intestine, then colon, then outta there? OH, OH, she means colon as in ":", punctuation mark." Maybe I need two cups of coffee today.

Posted by: KarenB at February 22, 2005 9:08 AM