by Pat Pitsel
Remember “Son of a biscuit”, “h-e-double hockey sticks” “horse pitooty”, and “Jumping Jehosophat”? In a time, long, long ago, these were the sanitized version of cuss words that only the disreputable used. When we took French in high school, someone (definitely not the teacher, a rather ancient Nun) told us that the French said things like “Sacre Bleu”, and “Tabernac”. Personally, I couldn’t see anything profane, let alone sacred, about a colour, nor did I understand why a tabernacle would have to be said in hushed tones.
Today? Well. . .
Although I grew up in a home absent profanity (My Father’s expression if he got REALLY irritated, was “Hells Bells,” and that was the signal to quickly and quietly tiptoe into another room) that innocence quickly disappeared while I spent a year in graduate school in New York City. That was in the early ’70s but the infamous F word had already become commonplace among the younger generation-which I learned to my amazement when I did a practicum in a New York Experimental School.
The school was experimental in that the student body was 1/3 white 1/3 black and 1/3 Puerto Rican. In those days all Hispanics were called Puerto Ricans. In addition, students were expected to graduate from grade 12 with a minimum score covering the level of 8th grade in both reading and mathematics. That says something about New York City standards for high schools in the poorer areas of New York City.
The language was I might say fluid, flowing, and without censure. Consequently, I encountered the word as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and preposition. One day someone said “fanfuckingtastic” and I knew that I had heard the infamous word in all its iterations. I managed a rather cool and calm reaction to this language I must say. When one student invited me to go F myself, I calmly replied “Anatomically difficult don't you think?”
This brings me to the topic of today's blog: why we need a new profanity lexicon. Actually, I think this is an area where Canadians can play a substantial role in literature, films, books, and daily discourse. First, we need to reverse the process. Profanity has started out as an underground word. It was used by the “lower” classes or the disreputable, and eventually over a period of time (short or long) moved more and more toward the acceptable end of the spectrum. I suggest we reverse that process and use a word that’s already in common parlance and turn it into a profanity.
My candidate for Canadian profane word of the year is toque. Every Canadian knows what a toque is as do Americans who live in any of the northern States. This means that they are already saying it and can easily make the transition in times of distress, annoyance, or profound emotional states. I can hear it all now “toque you”, “toque off”, “no toquing way.” The applications are endless and open to everyone but I do think it will be especially relevant for Seniors.
Just picture it, fellow Seniors. People pushing ahead of us in line, giving audible sighs because we're too slow to find our credit card or coupons at the grocery store, forcing us into the street because we're not walking quickly enough on the pavement. No longer do you have to suffer in silence. No longer do you need to keep that rage carefully contained. Starting today my friends, just look at them, smile as befits the countenance of a kindly grandmother, and say clearly, “toque off, buddy”.