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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

How to Curse Properly, Part 3

Warning: From this point onward, things get hot & salty. Children, small animals, and Candlegirls should stay away lest they die of embarrassment.


Ah, good ol' scatology. Without it, and its sister expression for intercourse, the American vernacular would be much less vulgar. While not as versatile as "fuck", shit still has many uses; in sufficiently casual conversation, it can be used as a placeholder for a great many concepts ("What is this shit?" "I hate this shit," etc). In certain subcultures, such as the military, it can even be used as a comma.

The effective upshot of this is that as an actual profanity -- i.e., something that desecrates, violates, corrupts, or otherwise makes profane -- shit is beginning to lose some of its power. Therefore, proper pronunciation is essential for when you mean to use shit as an actual profanity meant to shock and/or offend, instead of just another word used to salt a conversation.


If it takes you longer than one second to say this, you're doing it wrong. Shit is the rattlesnake of profanity -- the long "shhh" of the buildup is akin to the rattling of a tail, with "IT!" being the venomous strike. The longer the "shh", the more forceful the "IT!" must be.

However, keep in mind that shit is not a blunt weapon to be used willy-nilly (that honor belongs to "fuck"). Shit is a precision profanity, a rapier whose thrust to the ego of your opponent is fatal if well-aimed; improperly used, it is but a papercut that only serve to annoy.

Used as a coup de grace, at the end of an insulting sentence, its effects are devastating. Its elegance lies in its simplicity:

1. If you've ever forcibly shushed someone in a library or a movie theater, you know how to do this. Narrow your eyes and "shhhh!" menacingly.

2. The "IT!" sound must be forceful, but not necessarily loud. Think of a shot from a silenced pistol : short and snappy. You never, EVER shout "shit". You may cough it, wheeze it, grunt it or spit it, but if you're shouting you're using the wrong vulgarity. Again, think of a snake bite or a dagger thrust.

An interesting variation I would like to detail here is what I call "diarrhea":


In this variation, "shit" is used like a boxer's jab: still quick, snappy, and strong, but the strong buildup is replaced with rapid-fire repetition. This is used in times of duress and/or panic, rather than as an insult. Still, you can't possibly shout it effectively; this is what you mutter under your breath as you try to keep your car from skidding off the road.

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