(The first letter, which contains profanity, puts forth an idea which has been expressed by at least a dozen other readers, an idea that we cannot endorse, what with elections coming up. The second is written by the saint who has just procured for us a subscription to Progressive Grocer. The third contains more swearing than the first.)
Holy shit, have you been to mcsweeneys.com? What makes that family so starved for attention? I consider myself an upright citizen, but seeing that website makes me want to hunt down that family and slaughter them.
Going through the daily deluge of hand-bound press releases laser-printed on expensive heavy stock paper, I came across something that might appeal to your interest in different people with the same name.
Avenue Restaurant & Boulangerie on the Upper West Side (which, btw, boasts a Vermont Walnut Tartlet with Vermont Maple Ice Cream ($5.95) and strongly recommends reservations) is owned by a man named Scott Campbell, who also is the executive chef.
Maybe some people wouldn’t consider “Campbell” a first name, save the actor/director Campbell Scott. Now, say actor/director Campbell Scott walked into the Avenue Restaurant and Boulangerie, sat at a table by the window, ordered the chef/owner Scott Campbell’s signature Trilogy of Salmon ($9.95), and had lovely lunch. As he pays the check, actor/director Campbell Scott asks to give his compliments to the chef. When chef/owner Scott Campbell locks eyes with actor/director Campbell Scott, what would happen? Additionally, how would the result be effected if the song “Rhinestone Cowboy” was playing on the jukebox, and the movie “Patton” was projected onto a back wall?
New York, NY
To the editor,
This is not really Lev Tolstoy. That’s just my pen name. My name is Eric Roston. I am Joel Roston’s brother. Please accept the letter, to follow below, for consideration as a formal and definitive response to the polemics over “Bullets for Pussy.” I am a writer and Russian language instructor at Columbia University. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.
To the editor,
I’m concerned with Joel Roston’s, Jack Vaughn’s, and a certain punk band’s use of the word pussy, not because it’s offensive, but because it isn’t. Hear ye, hear ye, Americans: Profanity is a privilege — abuse it and it will disappear.
Profanity tickles me. One taboo word in polite company induces seizures and delirium tremens. Four sounds spat forth with or without context. Try this: Tell someone who might be offended by the word pussy that the Russians have a similar word that is much more offensive, and that you’ll be using it so as not to offend non-Russians: pizda (peez-DAH). Say pizda all the time. Sing it: “Piz-DA MA-niac, MA-ni-ac, I’m sure/And she’s dancing like she never danced before…” Impress high-ranking superiors at work with your knowledge that the nominative plural is pyozdy (PYOZ-dy). Declaim it: “Friends, Romans, Pyozdymen! Lend me your smears!” People will know that pizda is much more offensive than pussy, but will not react accordingly. That’s bizarre. They will simply blush and write you off as a linguistic crank, which is what you have become. Meanwhile, with every utterance of pizda, some poor soul in Nizhnii dies just a little bit on the inside. Someone should whisper pussy to him.
Other words acquire taboo because they are phonological cousins of bad words. Let’s face it, human speech organs are quite limiting. Until we formally accept underarm hand-flapping and knuckle-cracking into the realm of linguistic phenomena, we’re pretty much restricted in the President’s English to permutations of twenty consonants, five vowels, and sometimes “y” (not, it goes without saying, including routine consonant palatalization and our predictable vowel reduction). Enter the new profanity.
The desiccated sticks of fear, awkwardness, and phonological monotony wound together by the bright yellow twist-tie of lexical naivete yield the faggot of New Profanity. Take this whole niggardly business. If people were more niggardly in their use of pussy (if you follow me) and less pussy in their use of niggardly, the problem would be solved. Pussy would be offensive again and niggardly would be a 500-year old English word meaning stingy. The New York Times recently printed a phrase something like “Due to IMF tightfistedness..,” thus bypassing the unfortunate niggardliness. This in turn offended a class of God-fearing Americans who engage regularly in deviant sexual practices. Crayola is changing the name of its “Indian red” crayon so children won’t think it refers to Native Americans’ skin color. Meanwhile, the hue is named after scarlet clay found in India. “Indian red” — not offensive. “Pussy red” — offensive. I can make such statements. My word carries great moral authority. I am Lev Tolstoy.
Whether or not the name “Bullets for Pussy” is a succinct plot-summary of some modern Iliad does not concern me. Polemical acuity notwithstanding, everyone here is overlooking the one obvious solution: Russian has four prepositions covered by your “for”: Asking the band leader to translate his group’s moniker into Russian would solve the problem posed by Mr. Vaughn and so brilliantly argued by Mr. Roston. And a powerful barrage of whatever offensive fucking words you have left should teach the leader of the band not to cheapen and abase your God-fearing American profanity.