Sunday, November 14, 2010


On Friday another teacher sent students into the hallway to work in a "cooperative group" and they parked their noisy selves right outside my classroom, so I closed the door to prevent their "work" noise from disrupting my classroom.

About twenty minutes later I heard the loudest, filthiest, angriest cussing I have heard since Johnny, a forklift operator at a plastic processing plant I worked at in 1967 ran over his own foot. Johnny could cuss and yell. He wasn't hurt, but his foot was thinner, and he let that forklift know that it was lucky to be made out of steel. He couldn't blame the forklift operator because he WAS the operator.
Johnny: 7 out of 10

He couldn't outcuss the fellow whose life he saved, though. That fellow hated African-Americans, and the forklift operator was African-American. That fellow was an extruder operator and a bigoted, foul-mouthed segregationist, and he let everyone know it, too. He could use the n-word in fifty different formats imbued with variations of cuss words which I always referred to as "hybrids."

One day this fellow was on top of the electrical box that fed the extruder, and he touched the wrong wires feeding electricity into the extrusion machine. The extruder was a beautiful piece of ugly equipment. It was like a steaming, stinking, cast-iron rocket laying on its side spewing plastic out the nose cone. It could melt tons of plastic and ooze it out the other end, and it used a lot of electrical juice. This guy touched the wrong wires, and everybody heard a bang and then a thud. That fellow was blown off the electrical box and landed on the concrete and just lay there not breathing, until Johnny came up and gave him CPR. Now that was in the days when you pinched the unconscious person's nose shut, breathed into their mouth and did that over and over again.

When that fellow woke up in the hospital and heard that Johnny had saved him, he said, "I ain't never gonna say nothin' bad about n1&&38$ again." And he didn't. But his cursing was cut by at least 90%. Lots of men noticed it. We figured that before Johnny wrenched him from the clutches of wherever he was headed, he must've seen something that changed his mind, not only about African-Americans, but about swearing, too.
The extruder operator: 8 out of 10 before electricity
The extruder operator: 2 out of 10 after electricity

African-American comics can cuss pretty good. You have to wait until the last thirty mintes of their show because they cuss so much the average audience would blush, so they warm the audience up real slow like. They throw in a few cuss words, then let a sentence rip out, then maybe a little break with just clean language, and then more cussing, and then, right when the audience starts to loosen up and the late crowd is the only one in attendance, they start cussing full blast.
Stand-up comics: 6 out of 10

Everyone is so shocked at those stand-upcomics you have to laugh, kind of like little second graders when you say the word "underwear." Second graders laugh like maniacs when they hear that word, like you're the funniest man in the world. If the world was run by kids, I'd become a stand-up comic. I'd stand there, wait a few seconds, look at the audience and say, "Underwear!" Kids laugh at that word when spoken out of context, like anywhere except their bedroom. I'd be famous. When the fun of that wore off, I could start a new routine. "Butt!" The kids would roar. Then a few months later another routine, "Panties!"

You see, they laugh because they are embarrassed. That's why people laugh so much at stand-up comics who cuss so much. Everyone is really embarrassed. They just don't want to admit it. Some would argue that stand-up comics are so good at cussing they are funny when they cuss. Maybe so. Maybe cussing can be funny. It's like a fourth grader who hears the word "brassiere."
Second graders: 1 out of 10

I heard some great cussing when some hippies called some Vietnam Vets "crazed killers" at a Peace Rally at the University of Houston in 1966. That was also an awesome display of foul and depraved language by large crowds and not just a couple of individuals. It was like the public, which meant everybody, was cussing at each other and using filthy language. By the way, without a doubt, the hippies were no match for the Vietnam soldiers and vets. I am glad those veterans didn't hurt those hippies.
Protesting hippies: 3.5 out of 10
Vietnam soldiers: 5 out of 10
Vietnam Veterans: 7 out of 10

The whole cussing match was topped by a student who hosed everyone down from the Engineering Building with a fire hose pulled out of the wall, and he made the local TV news reports. I mention this incident because the hippie with the fire hose wasn't protesting $h1+. That hippie and I went to high school together, and his name was Carl. Carl was always playing with the fire extinguishers in the school auditorium during Drama Club rehearsals. His favorite one was the CO2 extinguisher that shot a cold blast of white CO2 fog at you. Sometimes he'd sneak up behind you and blast it through your crotch area, as if you had finally exploded under the stress of being a virgin. Well, the local newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, had a photo of Carl protesting, and they wrote that this hippie had really become upset about the Vietnam War. Some investigative journalism that was! Carl was still playing with fire extinguishers!

Longshoremen standing outside their Union Hall on Harrisburg Boulevard in Houston, Texas not far from the turning basin were pretty good cussers. Danny and I went down there to get some real good paying jobs. Danny wound up in the Merchant Marines and told me cool stories about the entire crew suffering from sea sickness, which he described as not merely nausea but much worse. He said it was a horrible, living nightmare, and the part of his story I remember the most was the vomit sloshing back and forth in the hallways as the ship tossed and rocked. He also told me about Equator Crossing Parties. Lots o' cussing, you can be sure. Danny didn't pick up the cussing, though. Apparently they can cuss up a Perfect Storm, but their cussing wasn't contagious enough to work on Danny.
Merchant Marines: no score (unobserved)

Longshoremen don't toss a few cuss words into their conversations. They just cuss. For example, if they were to ask you to borrow some money for their wife's wedding anniversary gift, and you were to inform them that in no way were you going to loan them any money because they would spend it on booze and women, they'd reply, "You don't know j79^$h1+ you little (&640faced %&30&*wad. I got money for booze and women" As you can see, after listening to that for a week, and it's the same old words over and over again, it starts to lose it's power from overusage. The Teamsters I worked with for about five years, they were the same way. Their language was slightly cleaner than the longshoremen, but still without the variety. I like variety. It has to flow and have variety. The delivery is also important.
Longshoremen: 7.5 out of 10
Teamsters: 7 out of 10

The thirteen year old eighth grade girl in our hallway used cuss words that were vile, filthy, loud, angry, varied, prolific, and practiced. There was a vehemence that was startling and you sensed she was really out of control. That intensity helped raise her score. Her cuss words were a little too monotonous for my tastes, spewing out of her mouth like a relentless barrage of machine gun bullets. I prefer little bursts. I've heard that the bursts keep the machine gun from jamming, and I think that the same applies to cussing. You have to ease up for a moment or two, even if for a second or two, then hit another burst, then another.
Eighth grade girl: 8.9 out of 10

It all boiled down to the fact that the members of the "cooperative group" had a misunderstanding. Maybe they were discussing the merits of military intervention in Southeast Asia. Or not.

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