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A Czech by Any Other Name–Or the Case of Consonant Dissonance

22 Apr

by Roger White  

 

It pains me deep-like when those near and dear to me are hurting. And lately, the folks in my oldest sister’s family are having a bit of an identity crisis. You see, sis Kathy married a guy named Bobby Smajstrla right out of high school. Could have been one of those made-for-TV movies. High school cheerleader (Kathy, not Bobby) marries football star running back (Bobby, not Kathy), and somehow they stay married all the way into their geezer years. So, yeah, my sis went from the simple starched whitebread name of Kathy White to Kathy Smajstrla. If you’re reading this aloud, your tongue just had a stroke.

 

“Smajstrla,” as you may or may not know, is a Czechoslovakian name. There were lots of Czech types in my old hometown, just as there are lots of Czech types in this here state. The phone book in the town of West, Texas, for Land of Czechnessexample, (which is nowhere near West Texas) has more consonants in it than any other publication west of the Mississippi. One of my best buds from my high school years, James Rejcek (a Smajstrla kin), taught me in the ways of things such as Czech customs, Czech cuisine, and Czech curse words. Example: If someone of Czech descent says this to you, “Jdi do hajzlu!” well, let’s just say they’re not being friendly at all. However, if someone of Czech descent asks if you would like a kielbasa or kolache, they are being very friendly and are offering you yummy sustenance. Mmm, kielbasa.

 

But I digress. As you may know if you stay apprised of world affairs, the sovereign state of Czechoslovakia angrily divorced itself around 1993, splitting kielbasainto Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I use the term “divorce” intentionally because the breakup was termed by many as the “Velvet Divorce.” Some say the dissolution was brought about by economic reasons; some say it was due to tribal mentalities and long-simmering historical feuds; some say it was because the Slovaks insisted on putting mayonnaise on their jitrnice, which the Czechs viewed as sacrilege. Whatever.

 

Well now, the good folks of the Czech Republic have lately been stewing in their guláš over the very name of their fair land. Some think the name is just too darn long. The citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina beg to differ, but there it is. Apparently, Czech Republickers are unhappy with a name that can’t fit on a t-shirt. So they’re revolting. (Revolting as a verb, not an adjective—although some of Bobby’s cousins are a bit mangy, but never mind.) So far, the leading vote-getter for the rename is Czechia. Hmm. I don’t know. Sounds kinda like a skin disease, if you ask me.

 

This is serious business over there beyond the big pond. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said recently that he’s been practically assaulted by angry citizens on both sides of the issue. Frankly, I think if you can czech stoppronounce Lubomír Zaorálek, then you can pronounce Czech Republic with ease, but my opinion apparently carries little weight here. But as long as you’ve asked, how about Kielbasaland? Or maybe Kolachestan or Bobavkia. Think of the marketing, the tourism opportunity here. People with a hankering for Czech food would be drawn to the place simply by the name. “Come to Kielbasaland, where every hamlet carries the aroma of roast pork with dumplings.”

 

Recently, I asked sis Kathy what her family thought of all this dissonance and discord. She replied thusly: “Czechoslovakia split up?” OK, forget the whole thing. Sometimes I just get too worked up. Ooooh, who’s up for some karbanátek with egg?

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a mildly obese dachshund, and a middle-aged cat with Esptein Barr Syndrome. For more of “This Old Spouse,” visit www.oldspouse.wordpress.com.

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OK, Cowpokes, Time for the Fifth Biennial OFPhC

16 Nov

by Roger White

 

I know what half of you are saying: You’re saying, “Well, there it is. He’s run out of material again. Despite the ridiculous wealth of silliness, brain-scrambling absurdities, and downright knuckle-dragging stupidity in today’s world, the Spouseman can’t think of one funny thing to say in this installment. He’s washed up, burned out, run dry, come up empty, on fumes, bit the dust, hit the wall, thrown in the towel, given up the ghost, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible—in other words, he’s kaput.”

 

And the other half, in a rejoicing and ebullient tone, are exclaiming, “Huzzah! The Great and Glorious Spousemaster has heard our pleas and decided to favor us with yet another of his brilliant contests! Another opportunity for mind-expanding fun, mirthful frivolity, and a chance for free stuff! What a kind, thoughtful, and oh-so-creative wordsmith we have in our midst!”

 

And yet the third half of you are still scratching your pants and wondering just what in the hell “run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible” really means. Well, that takes some doing, but here goes: The term to “join the choir invisible” is George Eliot sort ofin reference to the poem penned by George Eliot in 1867 entitled “O May I Join the Choir Invisible” in which the author longs for the afterlife in which he can spend eternity singing hymns “whose music is the gladness of the world.” To be precise, however, George Eliot was the nom de plume of poet Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880), who used a male pen name to ensure that her works would be taken seriously, seeing as how female authors of Evans’ time were stereotyped as writing only lighthearted romances.

 

Now, to be even more precise, this term “join the choir invisible” was referenced in a Monty Python skit entitled “Dead Parrot Sketch” (originally aired 7 December 1969) in which John Cleese wishes to return a Norwegian Blue parrot he purchased
Hello POLLYfrom Michael Palin because the unfortunate bird is “bleeding demised, passed on, no more, ceased to be, expired and gone to meet its maker—a late parrot!” Despite Palin’s assurances that the poor parrot is merely “pining for the fjords,” it’s quite obvious this is an ex-parrot.

 

Anyway. For the second half of you, leaning forward in your La-Z-Boys with anticipation, be comforted, for here I bring you the Fifth Biennial Oldspouse Familiar Phrase Contest (OFPhC). For the first and third halves of you, feel free to skip over to Mike Jasper’s column. He usually has coupons for free beer at Boomerz for those who read to the end. And yes, I have received yet another supply of premium glossy bumper stickers as prizes. For those too young, old, sensible, or deciduous to remember, the OFPhC involves a pile of phrases, quotes, movie lines, book titles, common sayings, utterances, and/or bodily function noises that I’ve rendered in a somewhat obscure manner. Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to come up with the more common version of said utterances. For example, say I give you the phrase “Croaking before disgrace!” You say, “Death before dishonor!” Get it? See how easy?

 

First three people (I will accept dogs and possums, too) to respond at roger.white@tasb.org with the correct answers each wins a premium glossy bumper sticker (sorry, the “Keep Oak Hill Obtuse” ones are all gone—you get “Jesus is Coming. Hide the Bong”). And you get your name in the newspaper! Pseudonyms are fine.

Exciting, huh?

 

OK, ready and. Go. What are the more well-known versions of these sayings:

  1. In my dad’s home, there are lots of ritzy estates.
  2. You’re not anything except a canine used primarily for tracking.
  3. Birthed Untamed.
  4. A brain is an awful item to throw away.
  5. If glares could commit homicide.
  6. Cease the printing machines!
  7. Blood-pumping muscle to blood-pumping muscle.
  8. Nancy!These cowboy shoes are manufactured for treading.
  9. Subsistence of those in the best physical shape.
  10. Escort me out to the baseball contest.
  11. The evidence is within the dessert.
  12. An opening in 748 divided by 748.
  13. Squatting on the summit of the earth.
  14. Existence is a female dog.
  15. The lively Irish dance is not down.
  16. Four letters after T denotes the location.
  17. I’m as satisfied as a liquid party refreshment.
  18. Here we circumnavigate the perimeter of the plant bearing mulberries.
  19. Twelve a.m. cowpoke.
  20. She spews expletives with as much proficiency as a member of the navy.

 

Roger White is a freelance cowpoke living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely female spouse, two precocious offspring units, a very obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

Faith and Begorrah, They Have Old Dog Homes!

5 Jun

 

by Roger White

 

Well, Faith and Begorrah, you can learn something new every day. Sometimes that—and little chocolate donuts—is the only thing that spurs me to drag my sagging carcass out of the sack most mornings.

LCDAnd speaking of learning something new (and in the true spirit of the stream-of-consciousness rambling rhetoric this forum prides itself on), do you know where the term “Faith and Begorrah” comes from? Or from which it comes, to avoid a prepositionally ended sentence?

From what I’ve been able to gather, “F&B” is a traditional Irish epithet that roughly translates into “By Gosh!” The Irish, of course, being a true Almighty-fearing people, didn’t want to come right out and say “By God!” when exclaiming some revelation or sense of amazement, so “F&B” was used to avoid taking the Supreme Dude’s name in vain and thereby summoning the furious wrath of the All-Knowing One. Kind of like how we say “Jeez!” to show astonishment (or when we smack our thumb with the hammer) to be able to quasi-curse without perturbing the Head Cheese. I believe it was W.C. Fields who used to exclaim, “Well, Godfrey wcfDaniels!” to approximate the G-D swear words. It’s all a bit silly, if you ask me. I mean, do we really think that (a) we’re putting one over on the Omniscient One; and (b) they’re actually keeping a Heavenly Tally?

Me at Pearly Gates: “So, St. P, do I get in the club?”

St. Peter: “Well. You did say ‘Jeez and Crackers’ six-hundred-seventy-two-thousand times. And don’t think we don’t know what that’s about.”

Me: “Aw, Jeez.”

St. Peter: “Ya see? That’s what I’m talking about.”

Me: “Sorry.”

St. Peter: “Oh, go on in. But we’re watching you.”

Aaaaanyway. Original point coming. I opined “F&B” earlier because I received a very kindly response to my recent column about aging pets and comedian Louis C.K.’s “countdown to sorrow” routine about pet ownership. I pondered why we don’t have any old pooch’s homes. And by golly (oop), we do have them!

Reader Elaine Courtney sent me this:

“Hi, I read your column today, and as I do most weeks, enjoyed it. (Most weeks? Hey.) Dogs are my favorite subject, and I mostly rescue seniors. The reason for that is I don’t want a dog to outlive me. My oldest is Baby, a 14-year-old Shih Tzu. He is now snoring away beside me. I have three other ShihTzus, two Corgis, and one recent find, a 14-year-old Basset-Corgi, whose momma went to assisted living in March. I’ve had to say goodbye to two seniors in the past three years …. It is very difficult to let them go, but they all had several years of a great spoiled life that they might never have had.  It’s usually a circus around here, but I love my dogs, and I am lucky that I work from home.

dog-retirement“Two things: One, there are several senior doggie retirement centers around the country, and it is such a great service. I would love to do that myself. I once thought of opening a pet cemetery, but that ran out of steam.

“The other thing I wanted to mention is your Bubbie, I hope you find a good residence for her. Hopefully, that decision is much further down the road. I do older adult services, helping people with errands and chores so that they can remain in their homes or even just have company, someone to play Scrabble with.

“If you need that kind of assistance for her, if it would make her or your life easier, let me know…. Oh, and cute picture of the labradoodle puppy in your article!!”

Well, that photo was provided by Editor Will. Kudos, Will-man. And thank you, Elaine. You’re a sweetie. Payola’s in the mail.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visitoldspouse.wordpress.com.