scrubbing the tongue

That’s what I’ve been doing a lot of lately, especially the last few months.  Never had a reason to scrub the tongue before, but now it’s a habit out of necessity.  Because I’ve got almost no saliva, which is a huge downside to the rad treatment, the tongue absorbs whatever I’ve eaten or drunk.  Last week during the monthly checkup, the doc asked if I had eaten chocolate.  No doc, just had coffee this morning and I scrubbed the hell out of my tongue.

After I’m finished with the morning protein shake, or coffee, or whatever, the tongue still harbors the flavor and the color of what I’ve just sipped or gobbled down.  It’s like a scummy flavor and needs to be gone.  So it’s brush the tongue, wash the brush, brush the tongue again.  After the double brushing, or scrubbing, it’s still not completely clean.

But I guess it’s better then rinsing the mouth out with soap.  Not that I’ve ever been threatened with that, but over the years have heard others who have.  Of course we all know that washing the mouth out with soap is meant for an entirely different reason.

Most often used on children, it’s a funny threat to kids who may have said something offensive or used “dirty” language, hence the reference to getting the mouth clean.

The entire concept of dirty language is kind of hilarious when you break it down.  Words are only sounds.  But it’s not the sounds that become offensive to our ears.  Dirty words don’t hurt our ears.  We are offended by the images they evoke.  And each of us manufacturers our own images or perceptions out of words.

Most of us have developed, given how we’ve grown up in family & society, our own boundaries of what we think is dirty or clean language.  And there’s no doubt that heavy use of the “seven words you can’t say on tv,” as George Carlin put it years ago, is perceived as more edgy, more street (some say gutter) talk.   That may be the reason why those with little education use a higher percentage of ‘dirty’ words in their normal vocabulary than those with relatively higher education.

But words are not dirty.  It’s our concept of them.  Take tits, one of those seven words.  Since I’m referring to a family of small birds, its non-offensive and ok.  But if I were to use that same word to refer to breasts, it somehow becomes (somewhat) offensive.  The entire population of humans has breasts.  And we can refer to them by the crazy slang word “boobs” and it’s somehow more acceptable than the T word in public conversation.

I can write T and talk about tit birds, but if I don’t want to take it downhill and avoid a proverbial mouth washing, I’d better not refer to breasts as tits.  They mean the exact same thing, yet the proper word is clean and the slang version is dirty.  One you can say on tv, the other not.

It starts when we soften things up when talking with children.  Why else would we teach them to say caca or number 2 rather than the real thing?  Rather than say the real thing, calling something by it’s real name, we find a word to refer to that word.  It will mean the same, but we won’t actually be required to say the word we mean.  How liberating.

I don’t know any self-respecting mother who would wash their kids mouths out for saying tits.  But using the F word may be a different story.  The F word is pervasive.  Used by presidents of countries, CEO’s of major organizations, all throughout our society and planet, the F word has got to be one of the most pervasive love/hate ‘dirty’ words.  There is no other word that can be used for almost any type of speech; verb, adverb, noun, adjective, to mean almost anything.  My favorite was hearing a car mechanic throw down his wrench while saying, “I couldn’t get the f**king f**k to f**k.”

The F word is crazy.  I could write the word here, but it may actually offend some readers, so I better hadn’t, even though writing or saying ‘F word’ as opposed to actually writing the word out evokes the same image and has the same meaning.  If I don’t actually “say” it, I’m clean.  I can ‘almost’ say it and can refer to it, no problem.  But if I said or wrote it, I could be perceived as gross, guttural, offending.  If that’s not working our collective knickers in a twist.

We are so hypocritical with this word that even the Wall Street Journal and New York Times have used the acronym SNAFU in headlines and text over the decades.  We can refer to the word, pronounce the first letter as if we are saying the word, even use it in an acronym-turned-word.  So we accept major publications printing ‘F’, ‘F word,’ or even f**k, transmitting the meaning and image, but as long as the four letters don’t line up so that we read the word, then we are ok with it.  No cleaning or scrubbing necessary.

When I do use the F word from time to time, I immediately think, ‘Freddie, why did you just use the F word?  Were you trying to be cool, hip, edgy, or linguistically brave?  Why not pick among the thousands of other words?’   There are lots of alternatives for speaking edgy without chancing to offend the thin of skin.  And then I try to be more sensitive, maybe even to myself (eliminating the need for edge).

One of the other more recent famous letter words is the N word.  Although technically not a dirty word, it does fit into the curse category.  This may epitomize ridiculousness.  Black folk can and do use the N word liberally in conversation among those of their own color.  But it’s taboo for a non-black to use the word.  We can say “N word,” but we can’t actually say the word.  Crazy twisted.

There’s no question that our acceptance of what is offensive has changed over time.  What was “bloody” offensive hundreds of years ago is not bloody offensive any more.  Hell no.  Those words still sound the same.  We’ve just adjusted our tolerance, our image.

What I’d really like to see some day, are concerned mothers saying to their kids, “go scrub your tongue”  instead of the “go wash your mouth our with soap” threat.  The culprit offending word may have come out of the mouth, but scrubbing the tongue may provide the additional side benefit of actually cleaning.

Now for writing all this, I should probably go rinse with a concentrated detergent.  But I think I’ll stick to scrubbing the tongue.

As an aside,  check out the team spaghetti site.  MP has started to outline the ride idea.  And you can vote on the best weekend for next year’s epic.  There will be lot’s more coming.

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