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Etymology and Perverts

November 3, 2009

In yesterday’s post, I expressed a certain amount of more or less sincere regret that people are being misled by some of my posts. I should have known better than to do that. Since the early ’80s, every attempt at seriousness on my part has resulted in ironic and hilarious consequences. Within two hours of posting that post (SAY “POST” AGAIN! I DARE YOU! I DOUBLE-DARE YOU, MUTHAFUCKA! SAY “POST” ONE MORE GODDAMN TIME!), between four and six people had been misled by it. How do I know? Because yesterday afternoon, not one but four people found this blog by Googling “anal grandmother skimming.” (If any of you out there have been looking for a good reason to really start appreciating the importance of context, I’d say your search is over.) Someone else, possibly one of the original four, also tried out a search for “skimming anal grandmother,” and I guess my personal favourite of yesterday’s guests was the individual who searched – honest to Zeus – “grandmother anal beads.”

Anonymous perverts of the internet, I owe you an apology. When you clicked on the link to yesterday’s post, you were obviously expecting something else. The thing about writing is that you can never please everyone. I hope you found what you were looking for. And I fervently hope you didn’t find it here.

And if it’s any consolation, my filthy little friends, my face is even redder than yours. Here I am trying to convince the world that I deserve to be taken seriously as a writeress – like, blogging on a daily basis and working on manuscripts and applying to creative writing programs and barely even having a real job and everything – and when I check my stats I find that my readers are creepy weirdos looking to give a whole new meaning to the word “gerontology.” Also, didn’t “skimming” use to mean “perusing quickly”? Because I’m pretty sure that’s what it meant in the sentence that I used it in. No one’s more convinced of and excited about the fluidity of language than I am, but there are days. There are days…

Anyway, needless to say, all this porno Google-search business (Note to self: look into how one would go about starting up a porno Google-search business) got me thinking about etymology – specifically about the phrase “anal grandmother,” which loitered in my mind with a kind of irritating and tasteless persistence until I realized it was the protagonist of yesterday’s first amazing etymological discovery: “anal grandmother” is an almost tautologically redundant phrase! Anus is Latin for, among other things, “old woman.” So “anal” really means “old-womanly.” Well, what do you know! How do you like that! How do those apples strike you as being! It’s totally fine to call your grandmother anal, or even to refer to her as an anus. If she calls you on it, simply explain the etymology underlying your word choice. The whole family will be delighted by your erudition!

A few hours after realizing the anal grandmother thing, I was sitting at the information counter at work. It was a very slow evening, and on slow evenings one of the ways I amuse myself is to look up etymologies online. Sometimes I bring along a list of words I’ve been wondering about, because if there’s one thing no one likes, it’s a disorganized nerd. For some Facebook-status-related reason I was curious about the origin of the word “nice,” so I looked that one up first. And guess what. Guess the fuck what. “Nice” comes di-fucking-rectly from the Latin nescius, which means “ignorant” or “foolish”. This is just awesome, you guys. There’s nothing more exciting than a word evolving into its own opposite. Here’s how it went down, in the website’s words:

“The sense development has been extraordinary, even for an adj.” [Weekley] – from “timid” (pre-1300); to “fussy, fastidious” (c.1380); to “dainty, delicate” (c.1405); to “precise, careful” (1500s, preserved in such terms as a nice distinction and nice and early); to “agreeable, delightful” (1769); to “kind, thoughtful” (1830).

In case it’s not obvious, let me say for the record that this kind of thing is as orgasmically pleasurable to me as stories about the anal skimming of grandmothers are to some other people.

Next time you’re about to call someone nice – think twice! You might consider calling the person mean instead; “mean” really just means “common,” which is way less insulting than “ignorant.” If the person in question is your grandmother, why not treat her to a double shot of your etymological acumen by calling her mean and anal? In fact, given the population of the baby boomer generation and the one-directional nature of time, you could let her know that she’s getting meaner and more anal every day.


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