You can tell a lot about a culture
from its choice of swear words
The next time someone tells you they think 1930s music is lame and tame, you let them listen to this little ditty by Patricia Norman, accompanied by Eddy Duchin and his band.
Warning: Explicit language.
That’s right, explicit language. If you don’t like it in your music, please don’t listen. You’ve been warned!
This was the first known song which had the F word in it, and it was absolutely scandalous when it first came out in 1938. In fact, it not only uses the F word, it uses it repeatedly. Read the lyrics and you’ll see why! Too bad there wasn’t a TV performance like the spectacular one by Betty Hutton, albeit to tamer lyrics, at the end of this post.
Today, May 6th, is McHappy Day in North America. $1 from the sale of every Happy Meal, Big Mac and Egg McMuffin to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Go Girls and Go Boys, and Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Nice idea, but wait a minute here. That food isn’t good for you! That’s like buying something to shorten your life a little from which $1 would go to kids’ charities. A little contradictory if the people trying to help raise the children better are reducing their potential to help a little bit in the process. That, to me, is more like McMartyr Day rather than McHappy Day.
I know. One Big Mac, Egg McMuffin or Happy Meal isn’t going to shorten anybody’s life by anything noticeable. But is $1 out of all the income you will generate in your lifetime noticeable? It’s a “fair” exchange of a sacrifice, if you ask me!
What I want to ask McDonald’s, though, is why couldn’t they have put the donation from a salad or something healthier? It’d promote their image and food options, too, cause everybody already knows about all that other crappy food. Come on, somebody at McDonald’s. Rise up and speak in the board room! Make the change!
That said, I’m going to try and get out for a Big Mac anyway. I do kind of like it every now and then, I must admit, and if I can indulge and give something to charity in the process, that eases my health conscience. Besides, I am tapering for my 25th marathon. Not to take health and life for granted, but a body like mine can probably absorb a little McDonald’s food every now and then.
Now, let’s see what else is there to talk about today? That was too short of a post.
Hmmm. There’s the Nova Scotia government’s defeat (my province so local news), more swine flu cases in Canada in Nova Scotia than anywhere else currently, twice weekly brawls in Cole Harbour, a forest fire in Spryfield and such already in May. We Nova Scotians are certainly living in what the Chinese call “interesting times”. Perhaps appropriately, then, May is Asian Heritage Month. So let me share a little culture with you, though after I ask why dates of celebration from that link go from May 1st to 30th? There are 31 days in May! Yes, my friends. Part of the Asian Heritage appreciation is how we were constantly ripped off. Maybe they designed it too well to symbolically incorporate that part of our heritage, but I’d bet most Asians don’t think it’s appropriate! Mind you, we Asians should be grateful. Black History month is February. The month is short, the days are short and it’s freezing to keep people indoors where the African diaspora do not naturally like to be kept. You get what I’m saying? They really got ripped off!
Chinese and other Asian culture tend to be very ordered. Lots of hierarchy. Proper names and rituals for just about everything. People have their places and are expected to play the role. It’s very rigid, which isn’t necessarily bad like it sounds. even if there is some bad to it to be so highly judgmental. It can’t be bad overall, though, if the various Asian societies have prospered so well over the millennia in so many places. But it is highly ordered, nonetheless.
“Interesting”, meanwhile, suggests something not completely certain and/or understood, possibly even something unknown. That depends on how you interpret “interesting”, connotatively rather than strictly by its dictionary definition. But because “interesting” means some uncertainty, that is essentially saying “chaotic” in a culture that values order so it. It is the antithesis of a core cultural value and is, thus, a curse. For a Chinese person to wish someone to live in “interesting times” is to basically wish their life be damned with chaos. I know it doesn’t sound damning or anything in the plain translation, but try to understand it from the cultural perspective.
You curse that which you value most. Otherwise, why insult something of lesser value, right?
So in English, it’s sex. In Québecois French, it’s the Church. In Vietnamese, it’s one’s Mother. Yeah, some patriarchal society. We Vietnamese all know who really runs the house and society. You can curse all kinds of things about me but when it comes to my Mother, you need to have a little talk with my fist, feet, head, elbow and a few other body parts. 🙂
But the nice thing about a cuss that doesn’t translate well is that you can use it diplomatically! Have you ever thought about that? If you had not known the story of “interesting times” as it pertained to the Chinese culture, how would you feel after a conversation if I held out my hands, gave you a nod and a smile and bid you farewell with
May you live in interesting times, my friend.
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level: 7.7