Notta Has the Last Word
Notta Has the Last Word
Notta Louden here. Mrs. G. is preparing for Passover by doing a darned good imitation of the proverbial chicken with her head cut off. I only hope somebody doesn’t take me literally and put her in the soup with those weird-looking dumplings she calls matzo balls.
Anyway, I wanted to have the last word on this four-letter word business. So here goes.
I think we’ll have to agree from the get-go that what we’ve been talking and learning about comes down to this: we all know foul language when we hear it. It’s not the words themselves, but the way they’re said and the intention behind them. Say it with intonation and/or bad intention and even the word “bath” can sound dirty. It’s all in how it sounds to the listener. And there has to be a listener. Like the tree in the forest, if nobody’s around to hear your stream of expletives, you ain’t cussin’, honey. Likeways, say them too often, like some in our Nation’s Capitol, who shall remain nameless for now, and you strip the words of any sting or potency; truth is, the more you drop the F-bomb, the bigger the dum-dum you are.
Mrs. G. would say I’m digressing. Which means I’m off topic, so let’s get back on this.
Now, there are a lot of words spelled with four-letters. Only a few would be defined as “vulgar” or “profanity” by Messrs. Webster and Merriam and whoever else has their name on dictionary. Fact is, I can’t think of more than four, silly as that seems. What we began this business over, though, were the words ‘diet,’ ‘pack’ and some others that are usually harmless. The word have simply cause discomfort, worry and/or bad memories for folks. And I have a few of my own:
Cook: That word may not bother a lot of people. Some even make their living cooking, but I’m coming at it from the point of view of a mom who works all day and then has to come home to cook dinner seven days a week. I don’t care how many cookbooks you have or websites you’ve bookmarked, there is going to come a time when inspiration, or even the brainpower to take what’s handy and make something your family will eat, runs and hides. And it’s no good asking the kids what they want. Mine would offer this exchange:
Me: What do you want for dinner?
Me (swallowing a few of those cuss words): What kind of food?
Them: Good food!
Me (teeth clenched): What kind of good food?
Them: Whatever you don’t cook.
Now, I have to admit I understood some of that last crack. Growing up, I’d eaten my mother’s Hawaiian Pork Chops, which always came to the table as petrified meat in a black, tar-like substance. And I’ve contributed to the lousy cooks’ lists with overcooked roasts and undercooked shell beans. Fact is, it has become a family joke now that, whenever I talk about eating healthy, my adult children will snicker and ask, “You mean we’re having bean soup with spinach floating in it?” They’re not totally wrong; that dish was VILE.
No, when I say ‘cook’ is a four-letter word to me, it’s the memory of the obligation to put decent food on the dinner table which my husband and children will either inhale without comment and go off to do something they ‘want to do,’ or twist up their faces in disgust and request peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (so long as I did not bake the bread). Granted, the first happened more often than the other, but would it have killed them to say the food was good?
Wait: Nobody likes to wait. NOBODY. In this age of immediate gratification (I always hear Verucca Salt howling, “I want it now!”1), it’s only become a bigger problem. Computers and smart phones are always ‘slow’. If the burger isn’t ready at the window when you pull around, service is ‘lousy.’ And so on and so forth.
I come from a different generation; we learned to wait. It could be pleasant and almost exciting, like the time before a major holiday or my birthday. Or it could be a time of dread. Getting older, I have more times of dread because I’ve had so many holidays and birthdays. The trouble with the dread comes from over-thinking something that is coming up. I guess it’s an adult or parent thing. I wait by wondering: How long will it take? What could go wrong? How much will this hurt? Will we have the money for this? Who will complain to me the most about it? Gray hairs and twisted up guts follow the questions. And then the real thing is nine times out of ten not even close to as bad as I’d imagined (some things are; like surgery, which is always as bad as I imagine). It’s the wait that drives me nuts.
Race: I’m not talking about the speed contests or the free-wheeling circus that our elections have become. The ‘race’ I consider a four-letter word (ugly, insulting, troublesome) has to do with biology and the notion that one is better than the other for no better reason than a person has one set of biological traits different from another. The ‘race’ that some folks use as a cudgel to beat others over the head in every sense because somebody somewhere decided that the only superior race is the one able to change the color of its skin when showing emotion. The only thing I can say to that is to remind them what Mark Twain, a pale skin himself, once said: “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”2
Hate. If there is an uglier idea in any language, I don’t know it. Doubt Mrs. G. with her big honkin’ vocabulary knows, either. It’s really a cop-out way of saying ‘fear,’ I’m thinking. Fear something enough, you want to harm it or kill it. Hating people are afraid. I don’t care how angry or intelligent or persuasive they can sound. Hating people are afraid. Period.
Now, for those who will drone on and on about the Bible says we have to hate this and hate that, I’d like to point out two things: that each instance of people hating people in the Bible ends in violence and death; and 2) the word ‘love’ is used nearly twice as many times as ‘hate.’ Seems to me the writers and their Inspiration thought more of the first one. And they knew love takes more courage than hate. Hate is easy. Love is work. Hard work. Love means learning something you didn’t know before. Love means looking past the easy lies. Love means putting the past in the past and being in the present. Love means valuing a life, no matter what color, shape or size it is. Love means you have to get over yourself, try to understand, and – God forbid –think. If you really want to live, you have to love.
So ‘hate’ becomes another four-letter word right up there its siblings: fear, lazy and dead.
“Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Dir. Mel Stuart. Warner Brothers. 1971. Film.
Twain, Mark, quoted on https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/12840-man-is-the-only-animal-that-blushes-or-needs-to. April 15, 2019.