Dirty words. Stub my toe on the sharp metal caster and you’ll hear me spew lots of dirty words. Crap, kocker, damn it, dreck. It hurt, damn it, I’m allowed to holler, and I don’t have to be nice about it. In English and Yiddish, I holler all the bad words. Feckuckteh caster.
Lenny Bruce, the rebellious comedian who loaded his dark comedy with language considered obscene, made seven particular words famous by virtue of their being too dirty to speak aloud. So of course he did, and was arrested for his defiance. Cover your eyes if you’re the sensitive sort because I’m going to list them here: cocksucker, cunt, fuck, motherfucker, piss, shit, tits. Bruce’s real crime was pointing out the hypocrisies of our culture but the words got him in trouble. He was too vulgar for polite society, no matter that society was too brutal for the underrepresented and downtrodden. Bruce was no angel, and many people lost sight of his legitimate demand for free speech, the very thing we now take for granted. Today, his seven dirty words hardly raise an eyebrow, so often are they hollered through the night.
An infant’s first word is “mama” or whatever word in her native language aligns with that individual. Fathers have been trying forever to get the first word to be “dada.” But the first word ever uttered by the very first human who found she had a voice box that allowed more verbalization than a huff, grunt, or yowl? It was “fuck.” Had to be – standing small and alone in the African desert, she found the world terrifying, she saw her life in peril, and she said what we all say at such realization. “Fuck.”
Here are dirtier words, much dirtier: abandonment, abuse, arson, betrayal, bigotry, deceit, drug trafficking, exploitation, false accusation, forced starvation, genocide, holocaust, human experimentation, human rights suppression, human trafficking, incest, lying, misogyny, murder, prejudice, racism, rape, religious persecution, sexism, slavery, terrorism, theft, torture, war, xenophobia – sadly, I’m certain there are more. This is the real dirty language. Still, language is benign. Add music and every word sounds like sugar being spun into cotton candy. To be offended by dirty words but ignore the acts they identify is akin to disdaining the menu but still ordering awful food.
You can put in all the asterisks, ellipses, blank spaces, bird calls, or underlines you want in order to grant your writing a measure of gentility, but face the facts. You may swear upon your holy books, mutter amens and hosannas, grovel on your knees, pledge your honor, and promise repentance. None of it means a thing without follow through. Every writer, humanitarian, philosopher – every decent person accepts the same truth. Words are harmless, scratches in the dust even when howled under duress. It’s the acts that are horrific, and the reality that these acts take place every single day all over the world – the acts are far worse. More hurtful, longer lasting, intentional.
Writing these words does not make writing a bad act. Writing them brings the implied actions to the attention of a public that often wants to hide behind prayers, lattes, and cell phones. There is no indecency in words. The indecency is in the fact that so many engage in the actions described by the words. When we eliminate these bad acts so completely that to say one of these words engenders genuine confusion among all people – what does that mean? I can’t understand words that don’t relate to the human condition anywhere in the world – then we can label them as really bad words.
Words can lead the ignorant to understand the complexity of past events, so write. Words can warn or instruct, so write. Write the truth in any and every way you can. Employ words that hoist power, and worry little about words that bear no weight. Even if they’re ugly. Worry about acts that injure, abuse, kill, threaten, maim, enslave, bludgeon. If the dirty words you write make someone see the other side, feel the pain, and change their behavior, you’ve done your job. If the dirty words you raise on a poster cause the government to enforce justice, you’ve done your job. If the dirty words you speak arouse the pulse of the apathetic public and encourage them to find out the truth for themselves, you’ve done your job.
Call me a dirty girl. I yearn to be that and more. I will not stand down. The only thing I own is my integrity. Pen to paper. Truth to power.
Here in fact are the very most vile, horrendous, and disgusting words in English, and they can be translated into any language and still carry the same inherent evil. I hold out my hands for the cuffs. Arrest me. These are the dirtiest three:
GUILTY AS CHARGED
Quill pen and scroll image courtesy commons.wikimedia.org