Monday, July 7, 2014

Vegetarian Swearword Analogs (Update)

(This post has been reclaimed from Bubblews, where a reader overseas asked for more of the vegetarian swearword analogs. U.S. readers may want to fill in the ones I've left out...)

At the Seventh-Day Adventist college I attended before getting into Berea, "vegetarian meat analogs" were offered at almost every meal. Most Americans are familiar with some of these products, such as Morningstar Farms Breakfast Patties. Adventist stores sell, and Adventist schools serve, a much wider assortment of "meat"-like products made from wheat gluten and/or vegetable protein. (Some also contain milk and egg protein; most don't.) Eating these products actually made me sick, but I didn't realize this right away and actually liked the flavor of most of the "vegetarian meat analogs."

Students familiar with these dishes extended the marketing concept further to describe our use of not quite profane words. We used "vegetarian swearword analogs."

Some of my favorite "vegetarian swearword analogs" in U.S. English are "drat" (I think it may derive from "God rot" but modern English speakers don't recognize it as meaning anything), "blast" (again it could be a curse but then it could also just refer to a harmless little blast of annoyance), and "dang" (sometimes used like a profane word, but it derives from a French word with a meaning similar to "crazy"). These three words are widely used and understood in the U.S.

However, Americans who use "vegetarian swearword analogs" sometimes just invent them on the spur of the moment. My husband often used strings of nonsense syllables that sounded vaguely Indian, or maybe Spanish, or possibly Hebrew. My middle school class had a substitute teacher who was famous for inventing things that sounded rude, but couldn't really be called offensive since they had no real meaning, like "Good google-loogie." (Actually, if either "googol" or "Google" had been in the dictionary back then, it would have had a meaning, but a fairly nonsensical one.) All sorts of odd and obscure words have been used as "vegetarian swearword analogs"; some people like "spraints and fewmets" as a scholarly substitute for the S word, because these words were apparently never considered obscene--they just dropped out of the ordinary language.

Then there are words found in Middle English and Late Latin that became obscure because they used to be considered so obscene that they just weren't said or written much, so that, by now, some people get away with using them because most people no longer recognize them as obscene...I don't recommend this.

Here are a few more of the words that are usually recognized as expressing anger, without being profane or obscene enough to be censored...

1. Cottonpicking: The supersensitive may interpret this one as suggesting racial or regional prejudice. Some White Southerners use it among ourselves where ruder people would use other "-ing" words. So far as I know, Ozarque was the only person who used "cottonpick" where I would have used "drat" or "blast."

2. Lily-livered: Descriptive of someone as weak, stupid, and cowardly, this phrase may be heard as a challenge to fight but is more likely to be heard (by sober people) as a reference to cowboy movie slang. 

3. Ding-blasted: Used like "cursed." Also "ding-fizzled." Other words descriptive of a condition into which people want not to get, like "flea-bitten," can be used the same way.

4. Confounded: Literally means "confused," but used like "cursed."

5. Deuce: Literally means a playing card with two of something on it, as in "the deuce of clubs." In the eighteenth and nineteenth century it was sometimes used as a substitute for "devil." 

6. Fiddle-dee-dee: Onomatopoeic for a snatch of music. As used by Scarlett O'Hara and by real people, expresses something like "I give up, angrily."

7. Bosh: Expresses something like "What's being said isn't even intelligent enough to be wrong."

8. Balderdash: Same as "bosh," but also found as a common noun referring to the idea that's not even worth refuting. Nobody I've ever asked has understood this to refer to the historical datum that some Norse people used to worship a god called Baldr or wanted him to "dash," or bash, or smash anything. 

9. Twaddle: Same as "balderdash."

10. Dreck: From German, literally means "garbage, junk, compost, trash, and/or filth." 

11. Rot: As a verb, heard as expressing intense anger and ill will. As a noun, same as "bosh."

12. Honey: What old-time slaves called the masters' children. What outhouse cleaners call the stuff they remove from outhouses. Northerners like to think that Southerners address human beings as "honey" when they're being "friendly." Well...yes and no. In my experience this word always has a little sting. Even when used to address the speaker's child, it always seems to mean "my beloved child whose stupidity is annoying me."

13. Dastard: What English-speaking people nearly always mean when they misuse the word that sounds similar. Piers Anthony wrote a whole novel that basically defines this noun. "Dastardly" is the adjective. It basically describes a man as mean, useless, no-good, very-bad, etc. As in the novel The Dastard, when used to refer to a woman it suggests that she's not acting like a woman at all.

14. Smut: Literally means a kind of fungus, but widely used to refer to obscenity and profanity. "Smutty" is the adjective.

15. Drivel: Refers to unbearably bad writing or speech. "Drivelling" describes a person who utters drivel. 

About one-quarter of Mary Daly's Wickedary discusses neologisms that fit into this category. I don't often use most of them, but "snool" seems to belong on this list, although it's an uncommon word.