Wednesday, March 18, 2015

In Other Words


We are all of us poetic souls at heart, and given to abstraction. And that is why we can hear the phrase "he went to the bathroom in his pants" and understand exactly what has taken place, even though no one has an actual bathroom in his pants. Notwithstanding that a trouser toilet could be a real time-saver, most of us don't have that much room in our pants, and the tile work alone would put the project beyond reach. Nevertheless, when we hear someone has gone to the bathroom in his pants, we have a vivid mental picture. We know he isn't just in there to fetch the dental floss.

"To go to the bathroom in your pants" is a euphemism. Euphemisms are nerf words we can fling at the lamp in the room and make it wobble so that everyone can see what we're aiming at but no one has to clean up any glass. When I was a kid, we didn't use this euphemism, opting instead to ignore the entire subject, as well as any other topic that related to the pants region. My father used a perfectly serviceable two-hundred-year-old word when he absolutely had to. He would ask me if I needed to piddle. He might have preferred to not bring it up, but not as much as he preferred to not clean it up. I don't even remember if we had a word for the Big One. I do remember hearing Dr. Martin ask my mom if I'd had a B.M. "What's a B.M.?" I asked her later, and she told me Bowel Movement. It seemed fussy. Like calling a football a "brachial ejection." Now, of course, B.M. is the acronym Dave uses to describe his life Before Murr.

Other families were not so refined. I blush to report that several friends had mothers who asked them "did you make?" Pure strumpet talk.

On my own, of course, I did pick up some vocabulary, right out of the gutter. On the street it was Number One and Number Two, which were euphemisms for Tinkle and Boom Boom.

It is a delicately raised child who needs euphemisms for Tinkle and Boom Boom. I may have been encouraged to roll around in the dirt and catch frogs and stuff, but when it came to language, my parents shielded me from vulgarity with a united wall of couth. In sixth grade I got invited to a birthday party and we played a game where we all wrote down as many bad words as we could think of. I got my paper and pencil and printed out Hell and Damn right away, and managed to eke out Bastard after a lot of thought, but as I chewed on my pencil and listened to the other kids furiously scratching away, I drew a blank. Just before the timer went off, I added Heck.

Which meant I won the game, of course, because it was the birthday girl's mommy who was in charge.

But even now we are shielded from vulgarity in the public arena. I just saw instructions on the inside of
a bathroom stall to pull the flush handle up for #1 (tinkle) and down for #2 (boom boom). And these were graphically represented by a single droplet for tinkle and three droplets for boom boom. If your boom boom can be accurately represented by three droplets, you are not altogether well. But the public must be protected from turd depictions.

I'm a word girl, of course, and I set about spackling up the gaps in my vocabulary as soon as I grew up. Equipped with what some would say is an inordinate interest in what happens in the bathroom--where personal health meets creativity--Dave and I have assembled a regular cacaphony, as it were, of descriptors from "bowl sharks" to "squealworms." We need them for the same reason Eskimos need a lot of words for snow. Communication. I don't know what the rest of y'all talk about over breakfast.

60 comments:

  1. I really have not idea to comment. I am sure your other readers will have lots to say.

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    1. Most people with nothing to comment DON'T comment! Thanks for weighing in!

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  2. Fantastic definition of "euphemisms" as nerf words.

    Maybe there is a middle ground, but I suspect most people are like me, having swung from too delicate to too crude.

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    1. I often wonder if that tight rein was what made me go wild. In a number of ways.

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  3. Sometimes we talk about smegma over breakfast. Cute ass, by the way.

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    1. Thanks. Looks exactly the same now. And I prefer Hollandaise sauce.

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  4. So funny I almost went number 1 in my pants.

    My family was the same. Dammit and Hell were as bad as it got...and that was pretty bad. I attributed it to being a WASP family, but it may have just been the time.

    Not sure that it wasn't better in some ways. I think there would be less fights and second degree murders if people called you a "Silly goose" instead of a "F***ing stupid a**hole" Well, not YOU, but I have been called that and worse.

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    1. Oh gosh, I just remembered my sister saying "God damn it" at the dinner table, for some reason. And she STILL doesn't have a potty mouth. We were all so shocked nobody said a thing.

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  5. My family, when I was a child, straddled the line between too twee and too graphic. It was simply "pee-pee" and "poop". On the other hand, female genitalia was referred to as one's "pepeck" for some reason. Men's genitalia was never referred to. One's ass was simply a "heinie". Odd that humans seem to require these euphemisms to refer to something that is a simple biological function.

    On a related note, I was buying kitchen towels in B-cubed yesterday (Bed, Bath, and Beyond), and at the register were spray bottles of "Poo-Pourri". If you haven't seen the ads for this product, I suggest you Google it. The first time I saw one, I thought they were having me on!

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    1. Isn't "pupik" Yiddish? Or something like that? I still like ass euphemisms. And there are a lot of them. Once I tried to come up with one for every letter in the alphabet. "Fanny" is just plain nice.

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  6. My upbringing was such that I can't even comment on this post!

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  7. Ours were "go potty", which for years, I thought was "go poddy", and "stinky".

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    1. You said STINKY? That's pretty vivid. Strumpet talk!

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  8. My father was upset that his parents had named him so that his initials were "DAM." Too close to a naughty word. So there sure were no naughty words in OUR house when you have a father embarrassed by his initials. Which don't even spell anything bad.

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    1. Did I mention I was wading around near a beaver darn the other day?

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  9. For the life of me, I cannot remember any family word for poop. We said "tinkle," and maybe "number two"? And we never acknowledged a fart. Ever.

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    1. Me either, on all counts. I don't even remember anyone ever farting. I do remember one specific time I got away with a fart without being fingered (as it were) in first grade, and if it weren't for that little victory, I would have said it was possible I never did fart when I was a kid, and neither did anyone else.

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  10. How DID you manage to leave out farts, Murr? I'm just a bit disappointed it took 10 comments to get to that emission...uh, I mean omission. (Don't I?)

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    1. Um...that's a whole different subject? Face it, I can put out 4,000 words on any one of these topics.

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  11. Along these lines...When my daughter was about 2, I was babysitting a neighbor's son (about the same age) & giving them a bath together. He looked at her chest & said, "You have strawberries, too!!" She told him, "Those are nipples--everybody has nipples." He said, "Uh-uh. You may have nipples--I have strawberries!!"

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    1. Did he notice anything else different?

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  12. We went to the bathroom to wash. That particular euphemism didn't settle on this side of the world. And yes we piddled. Or widdled. That was all we did though. Decades of constipation...

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    1. You gotta wonder. Now that I think of it, I do believe I was familiar with the word "poop," although mostly it came up in the phrase "dog poop," which is what the neighbor called it. We called it Dog Doo.

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  13. Oh lordie. I had one of those dads who found it hilarious to say, "Pull my finger."

    On the other hand, my mom used to ask my dad if he was, "going to sit?" when he headed for the bathroom. For a long time I didn't know there was an alternative. I always sat when I used the bathroom.

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    1. You weren't supposed to know. I still think it's hilarious to pull a finger.

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  14. If we absolutely, positively had to, we "urinated" and "had bowel movements." Yes, even as toddlers. The glory of the big words was such that it partly occluded the embarrassment of mentioning such things. And yes, it did cause us to grow up weird. (Or anyway, something did, and we may as well blame that.)

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    1. I plan on blaming that. You had Fancy Parents. I still think "bowel movement" is a very strange locution.

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  15. FINALLY! When I was a kid I always thought Boom Boom should be called "more", because my mother was always asking me if I had to make more.

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    1. And how would you know? Sometimes that stuff can sneak up on you. Points for trying, though, Mom.

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  16. tinkle and aa (which I later learned is a hawaian term for a form of lava). And since we're in that area, the male and female parts were tata and vooshtee. Can't explain, but I survived.

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  17. Oh Murr, you are so cheeky!!! LOL Couldn't resist!!!

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  18. To "spend a penny" was common when I was a kid,alluding to public pay toilets. Can't recall any particular odd words at home, but I picked up quite a few when I started school!

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    1. I think pay toilets were a dime last I remembered. But until now, I'd forgotten about them altogether. (I could always go under.)

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  19. I was raised in the same house, apparently. I don't even remember hearing words for what we did. And now my little family has myriad vivid descriptors a-poppin', literally coming out of our ...oh well. You know what I was going to say.
    Remind me to tell you what an RC is. xoxo j.

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    1. I've got a good start on the RC. The mind boggles on the C, though.

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  20. No fancy euphemisms in my home. We were asked if we needed to wee or poo and I carried that through to my kids.
    To me, 'going to the bathroom in his pants' sounds completely ridiculous. As does 'going to the bathroom'.
    We simply say going to the toilet, there is absolutely no misunderstanding that.
    Going to the bathroom could mean so many other things; bathing, showering. brushing your teeth etc.

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  21. My mother used the nerf word, "Grunt," to refer to a number two. It had such poetry in it, succinctly describing the product, the activity and the noise. I've since wondered if she'd grown up in a family which was prone to constipation, but she's no longer here to ask.

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    1. Oh, I've heard of grunt too. In fact, when we decided to name my sister Margaret's septic tank contents, we named it Margrunt.

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    2. You named your sister's septic tank contents ...

      There has to be a post in that.

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    3. Don't worry. I'm not about to run out of material anytime soon.

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  22. "B.M." and ..."B.-water"(!) My mother apparently decided to follow the doctor's lead with the first, and then got - now that you've got me thinking about it - rather creative with the second. When our two daughters were small, it was "poop" and "pee" --- although I know we went through a brief phase where (in homage to my mother?) that was "heinie-water." Any particularly nasty Diaper Event was known as "pee-poo-poop."

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    1. B-water? Heinie-water? Y'all ain't hooked up right!

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  23. Always remember: sometimes there is no better word for what just happened than "meatloaf."

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  24. Best fart story ever: My younger sister's best friend in high school got assigned the last seat in the last row in English class. One day they were all supposed to be reading quietly on their own, when the boy sitting directly in front of her cut the world's loudest fart that resonated throughout the room. All heads of the other students in the class rotated around to that corner of the room, and the guy in front of her, the real guilty party, turned and looked at her! As you can imagine, protestation of your innocence at this point does not work. She "was so mortified that she couldn't even defend herself," as she reported later.

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    1. Actually, I started a fart story post a while back, and it included some equally good, but didn't quite add up to a blog post. Maybe I'll revisit it. Bet that kid is a lawyer.

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  25. I believe that when I was a child it was "wee wee" and "doo doo." And dog doo. But then for our kids it started with pee and poop (and dog poop) but poop became shit before too very long. The husband says his mother used to tell him to "go try" so we occasionally say "I'm going to go try!" But my real point is that I still vividly remember the rare occasion when I heard my mother, after the sound of a crash in the kitchen, shout "DAMNATION!!!" and also that the first time I ever heard the word "shit" come out of anyone's mouth was one day when I must have been about 14 (!!) and accompanied my father on a round of golf. I believe he missed an easy putt.

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    1. I didn't know "shit" until sixth grade. But I didn't think it was a real word. Just something people wrote on the bathroom stalls.

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  26. I remember wee-wee and poopy. Poopy, of course, emerged from one's bummy. The other went unnamed. No one in our household ever farted. I knew a man who would retire to "pinch a loaf". He also would point out untoward noises as the call of Montana Barking Spiders.

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    1. I might have to add the barking spiders to the lexicon. I always thought "pinch a loaf" was very vivid. But I also like "drop a deuce."

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  27. If I recall correctly, my family merely referred to it as pee and poop. We had a family stay with us for awhile. Their kids were much younger than us and the littlest liked to say that she needed to "erinate" in the middle of dinner.

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  28. Oh, brother.

    "Wee-wee" and "Grunty".

    And farting was uncouth.

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