When I was a kid, my mother, feeding a congenitally fussy eater, would say to me, “Last is best”, although never about anything I enjoyed and was happy to have a last bite of. It was more, “Sweetheart, I know you hate tinned prunes, but forget your culinary predilections for a moment and consider the magical properties of this final bite.” That wasn’t exactly what she said to me – I was four – but that was substantially the gist. I used to force the stuff down just to get her to stop talking. Her maternal credibility was on the line and she was blowing it on tinned prunes. To me, “last” was only “best” because after that, I was finished eating the stuff.
And yet, here I am, going back a number of weeks to a post I thought was completed but like the last bite of steak found under the spinach I discovered later was not. There was one more thing to tell you, but, somehow, I didn’t. Just in case last is indeed best, however, I did not want you to miss out. Though I remain skeptical of the entire “last is best” proposition. Still, just in case.
I wrote a post, in response to a reader’s comment concerning the unnecessary use of bad language and my momentary lapse into that hellacious abyss. Though my retroactive evaluation leaned heavily in the commenter’s direction, my position was – and remains – that I maintain the right to break out the “potty mouth” when deemed unavoidably necessary.
In that regard, I adhere to the dictum of the child-rearing professional who, on the issue of spanking, opined, “If you make the decision never to spank your children you will spank them exactly the right amount.”
Ditto for me and curse words. No need to gratuitously throw ‘em around, but on rare occasions, they are still going to slip out. Otherwise, when the missiles come rocketing in from North Korea, I will have nothing available to me but “Oh, Fudge!”
Lenny Bruce made his bones promoting a contrary belief. Lenny frequently got arrested for “obscenity”, making the point through his behavior that it is ridiculous to waste police and the court’s time and money, wrangling transgressions of language. (Especially with that pesky First Amendment of the constitution on the books.)
Lenny Bruce argued comedically that words are just words, promoting the idea that rather than refraining assiduously from uttering them, if we repeated those “dirty” words over and over again ad nauseum, they would be released of their odious aroma and eventually no one would bat a judgmental eyelash when they emerged.
He then proceeded to say (INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE) again and again until he got arrested, his acted-out underlying philosophy,
“If words became harmless, the cops could spend more time arresting drug dealers. Oh, wait. Not drug dealers. I meant crooked politicians.” (Historical Note: Because Lenny Bruce took drugs.)
Imagine Lenny Bruce’s comedy act as a game of “Mad Libs”, but using the same word in all the spaces, sometimes as a noun, sometimes as an adjective. He would be telling a story,
“I was on stage here last night, doing my innocuous comedy act, and the (INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE, AS AN ADJECTIVE) cops come in and those (INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE, AS A NOUN) drag me off the (INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE, AS AN ADJECTIVE) stage, and the whole time they are carting me off to the “Paddy Wagon”, I’m going, “(INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE, AS A NOUN… INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE, AS A NOUN… INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE, AS A NOUN… INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE, AS A NOUN… INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE, AS A BUTTONING INTERJECTION!)”
Note: I believe that would have been funnier using the actual curse word, but I am working with certain parameters here. The point is, Lenny Bruce was literally performing his thesis. He repeated a socially unacceptable word onstage until it, in his mind at least, inevitably lost its meaning, and, therefore, power to offend.
That was Lenny Bruce’s message. And this is my belated “last bite” observation.
If all the curse words that Lenny Bruce used in his act, words that brought him money, notoriety, fame and attention as America’s foremost comedian/slash truth- teller…
If those words became a commonly used part of our everyday patois, no longer special, no longer provocative of a negative response…
Lenny Bruce would be out of a career.
Lenny Bruce needed those curse words. (INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE) was his reliable meal ticket. “Normalize” that word and its salacious co-conpirators and he’s out of a job, and I’m out of parentheses.
“Hi, I’m the guy who says (INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE).”
“Thanks to you, we all say (INSERT OFFENSIVE EXPLETIVE HERE). So take a hike.”
How come nobody ever did that joke?
“I made my point, but I put myself out of business. Motherf…! Aaaah, nobody cares anymore.”
Anyway, I just thought I would deliver that last bite.
It was a pretty good bite.
Though I cannot say it was the best one.