Spuds And, Um… ‘Spunts’

So there we were, stumbling across frozen ground in the darkness carrying a powerful flashlight and a digging fork… and Hubby turns to me and says, “This is going to be a blog post, isn’t it?”

Yes; yes it is.

Why were we apparently robbing graves in the dark of night, you ask?  Well, I’m pretty sure it’s my dad’s fault.

He loved potatoes, and we had them for nearly every meal.  Every now and then my mom would sneak in a bit of rice or pasta; but as my dad tactfully explained, “That was okay, but I wouldn’t want it every year.”  I love potatoes, too, and most of our meals include the humble spud.

But the other night Hubby came into the kitchen where I was making gravy and announced, “You know we’re out of potatoes, right?”

My jaw dropped in horror.  What?

WHAAAT?!?

We had roast beef.  With gravy.  And NO POTATOES?  I turned off the heat under the gravy pot and marched toward the door.

“Please tell me we’re not going out to the garden,” he said.

“Of course we are.  We have gravy.  We need potatoes.”

“It’s pitch dark, and the ground is starting to freeze.”

“I don’t care.  We need potatoes.”

Which led to the aforementioned jacklighting of potatoes.  As it turned out, it was remarkably similar to grave robbing since some of the hills were a little on the rotten side; but we did end up with enough good potatoes to soak up our gravy.  Whew.  Crisis averted.

Later in the week I was waiting my turn in the insurance office, playing Scrabble on my phone to pass the time.  It’s a point of pride for me to win – in all the time I’ve had it, the app has only beaten me once.

I was down to three tiles, so I knew the game was almost over.  I hadn’t seen the Q (worth 10 points) yet, which meant the app had it.  By then there was no way the app could win – I was already beating it by nearly a hundred points.  But I really wanted to stick it with that Q.

I had three letters left, and there was only one place where I could unload them all at once.

But I hesitated.  The available letter on the board was C.

And I had U, N, and T.

I’ve already mentioned my profoundly Canadian habit of never using foul language in public even though I’m actually a complete potty-mouth.

I was in public.  And it was a really rude word.

It wasn’t as though I was going to stand up and yell it out at the top of my lungs, but still.  My Canadian conditioning runs deep.

I stared at the board.

Sneaked a surreptitious glance around the waiting room to make sure nobody could see my screen.

Then I snickered inwardly and unloaded the dirty word that ended the game.  But I felt as though I should apologize to the little old lady beside me, just in case she’d seen it.

…But then again, if she was as Canadian as I was, theoretically her private vocabulary was just as colourful as mine.

Any dubious victories in your world this week?

Corrupting The Dragon

*F-BOMB ALERT*  This post contains a non-comprehensive list of swearwords and assorted vulgarities

When my nieces and nephews were young, I expended quite a bit of effort censoring my language while they were present.  When they finally became adults, I breathed a giant sigh of relief and promptly shocked the shit out of them when I reverted to my normal vocabulary.

I didn’t really mean to let it out all at once; it was just that I was so glad to finally be past the point where I could be accused of corrupting innocents.  I knew they’d heard it all before in school long before they ever heard those words pass my lips, but I didn’t want to be accused of being a bad example.

(Though, come to think of it, I’m still a bad example.  But at least as adults they can choose whether it’s more appropriate to follow my bad example or just pretend they don’t know me.)

Anyhow, my point is:  I thought my days as a corrupting influence were over.

I was wrong.  Last week I corrupted a dragon.

Not a mythical beast (which would have been oh-so-cool), but a software dragon.  Dragon Naturally Speaking, to be exact.  It’s supposed to transcribe spoken words into typed text and I’m always looking for ways to streamline my work, so several weeks before Christmas I bit the bullet and laid my money down.  Then I got so busy I didn’t have time to set it up.

But I finally had time to tackle it last week.  After a rocky start in which it pretended to recognize my microphone but in fact ignored it (causing me to exercise my considerable vocabulary once again), I got everything installed and ready to go.

Dragon learns your vocal quirks and vocabulary as it goes along.  One of the ways it does this is by reading through documents you’ve written and learning all the words that aren’t currently in its database.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Yep, Dragon wanted to learn from me.  And hoo-boy, did it!  I was afraid its little software synapses were going to melt.

Its analysis of my latest book took quite a bit of time.  Then it spat out a list of ‘new words’ that looked like a tutorial for a preacher’s son off the leash for the first time:

dragon vocabulary

dragon vocabulary2

I didn’t know whether to laugh or be ashamed of myself.  (I laughed, of course.  Uproariously.)  And I foresee even more laughter in the future, when the software mistakes innocent words for their less polite counterparts.  Let’s just say that I won’t be using it anytime soon for writing business emails (unless I scrupulously edit it first).

To tell the truth, I’m little bit pleased that the next time Dragon messes up and makes me emit a burst of profanity, it’ll actually understand what I’m trying to say.

But I haven’t activated its ‘talk back’ feature yet.  Somehow that just seems like asking for trouble…

Anybody else ever used a speech-to-text program?  Any tips for getting the Dragon to sit up and pay attention?

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In Praise of Piss

*F-BOMB ALERT* – CONTAINS (more) COARSE LANGUAGE (than usual)

I’m a connoisseur of rude and vulgar language.  I collect it, use it frequently, and occasionally dust off some of my truly one-of-a-kind pieces to lovingly share with the world.

Hey, everybody needs a hobby, right?

But I started thinking about the nature of obscenities the other day, and after considerable reflection, I just don’t get it.

Why do we designate certain words as “offensive”?

They’re just collections of syllables and sounds.  I mean, normal phonetic sounds.  I could understand it if there were swear words that included, say, fart sounds or something – those would be offensive.  But there aren’t any words like that.

Though now I’m feeling inspired…

Back to my point:  “Ay”; “ee”; “oo”; whatever; as long as you’re not including “pbphltttt” as a phonetic building block, they’re all pretty innocuous.  We use them in millions of different sequences, so why should certain combinations make people blush/titter/freeze you with a look of outrage?

I know, I’m zooming past the obvious.  It’s not the phonetic sound that offends, it’s the meaning behind it.  I see how someone with strong religious views might have a problem with exclamations they consider blasphemous, so I’ll leave that topic aside for now.

But what about our good old Anglo-Saxon four-letter words?  Shit, piss, fuck.  These babies have been around for a long time.  They’re short, simple words for perfectly natural body functions.

Why should “shit” be more offensive than “bowel movement”?  Seriously, the words “bowel movement” make me cringe.  And what about our other euphemisms?  Drop a log, pinch a loaf, take a dump – they all sound pretty vulgar.  By comparison, “shit” is quick and tidy.

Ditto “piss”.  What’s so doggone special about the word “urine” that makes it somehow less offensive?  It’s still the same stuff.  And I’m sure those folks with the surname “Uren” would prefer people to use the Anglo-Saxon alternative when referring to bodily functions.  I’ve never met anybody with the surname “Piss”.

Or take “pee”.  (No, I didn’t say “take a pee”.  Well, unless you need to.  In that case, fire away.  Though I’ve never really understood why we say “take” when we really mean “leave”, either.)  But digressions aside, why is it cute when little kids say “pee”, but everybody gasps if they say “piss”?  What’s so cute about “pee”?

Many talented folks have already outlined the versatility of “fuck” as verb, noun, adjective, adverb, interjection, and so on, so I won’t belabour that point.

But think about this:  “Somebody fucked up the copier” is instantly comprehended by virtually every English-speaking person on the planet.  We hear that, and we know we won’t be getting any copies of our document today.

But if we eliminate “fuck”?  Look out.  How about:  “Somebody had sexual intercourse with the copier”?

Bystanders flee screaming, faces contorted in horror.  Those with sensitive stomachs vomit into the nearest receptacle.  Scrub your hands, bleach your brain, stuff yourself into a haz-mat suit and never, ever make copies EVER AGAIN.

A simple F-bomb could have averted that entire disaster.

They’re all perfectly good words:  short, easy to spell, and universally understood.  And we’re not supposed to use them.

I just don’t get it.

Pbphltttt.

I’m Canadian, I Swear

*F-BOMB ALERT* – CONTAINS (more) COARSE LANGUAGE (than usual)

Think I’ll get that printed on a T-shirt, along with a maple leaf.

Studies show (and I want to know who got paid for this one) that Canadians swear more than Americans, Brits, or Europeans.  We’re not merely foul-mouthed, we’re world-champion spewers of profanity and obscenity.

Unless we’re around people we don’t know.  Then we wouldn’t say shit if we had a mouthful of it.  ‘Cause, well, we’re polite, eh?  (Unless we’re rioting after hockey games, but that’s different.)

If I had a nickel for every time I said something vulgar, profane, or obscene in front of my friends, I could quit my job and live forever more on the proceeds.  But if I’m with strangers, I don’t swear.  There’s some bizarre internal filter that simply won’t let that language out.  Instead, it all gets saved up for the next time some fucking moron cuts me off in traffic.

I’m not the only one who does this, either.  The same study showed that it’s a Canadian trait to be restrained in public but a potty-mouth when with friends.  Guess they weren’t listening the day our Culture Minister publicly referred to Canadian television as “shit”.

This blog is an exception to the “not in front of strangers” rule.  We’re all friends here, right?  And I wouldn’t want the language in my books to come as a complete shock.  But still, I post the F-bomb alert.  Other bloggers just let ‘er rip, but I’m too… Canadian.

I’m not sure why we collectively possess such a deep well of profanity.  Maybe it’s because we’re trying so hard to be polite to every dipshit we meet that it just has to come out somewhere.

Maybe it’s the beaver jokes.  As you may know, the beaver is our national animal, causing no end of hilarity to those with dirty minds (which would be most of us).  It’s really hard to avoid a little coarse language under the circumstances.

Or maybe it’s our weather.  Let’s face it, when you live in a country where a third of the land mass has continuous permafrost, profanity seems like an unavoidable consequence.  In the southern areas, schools close when the temperature dips to -40 degrees Celsius.  If it’s only -38, well, suck it up, ya pansy-ass kids, and walk to the bus.  The swearing habit starts early here.

For those who aren’t familiar with Canada, I should mention that we do, in fact, have summer.  You can tell it’s summer when the grass turns a funny green colour, and enormous squadrons of mosquitoes attempt to carry you away if you venture outside.  But that only lasts about ten minutes, and then it’s back to fucking winter.

I’m exaggerating.  We actually do have other seasons on the prairies, called “goddamn hail again”, “holy shit, tornadoes”, and “sumbitch heat and humidity”.

Or, if we don’t know you:  “How about that weather, eh?”

Any other potty-mouths out there?  What are the seasons in your neck of the woods?