|"Venus of the Rags," by Michelangelo Pistoletto|
Right ... so, waiting for Mom to push away from the computer ... there ... done. Excellent. Bye Mom. Love you.
As a fan of Samuel Johnson, I was of course delighted that my favorite magazine, The Economist, named its newest column after the Great Cham of Literature. (The Economist, while sharp and of-the-moment in every other regard, embraces the quaint old- school notion of not using reporters' bylines. The idea being, I suppose, that the newspaper—they call themselves a "newspaper" because magazines are so, I don't know, tawdry—speaks with a unified voice. So its columnists have noms de guerre like "Lexington" and "Bagehot" and "Buttonwood.")
This Johnson entry (I thought it was recent, but it's from 2015, a hazard of encountering material online) touched upon a subject near to the hearts of all of us working here at everygoddamnday.com: cuss words. Almost immediately, Johnson deems "God damn" as "too strong for American ears." That might explain the mass of readers who haven't been showing up here.
Not really. To be honest, it probably isn't the blog name. Very few readers have complained over the past three years—a handful, hard though that may be to believe. Credit the portmanteau with a lower-case "g" — "goddamn" — as opposed to "God damn." Makes all the difference in the world. Plus the blog is protected by an iron-ribbed pre-emptive putdown of those who might dare to blush at its name.
While excellently written, The Economist, like all journalism, is not infallible, nor do its columnists have space to explore every tangent. What the Johnson column left out was the idea of context. "Fuck" still shocks on network television, or what's left of it, but is a staple of cable and of course online. I ran into ... (umm Mom, I thought we agreed this isn't interesting for you. Besides, isn't that the doorbell? I believe it is. The neighbor ... with muffins. Hot blueberry muffins. Or maybe that's Dad calling you. Either way, perhaps you should leave off reading at this point, and go have some tea, and we'll both be more comfortable ... truly) ... Hera Lindsay Bird's delightfully dirty new poem, "Keats is Dead so Fuck me From Behind," in two very different places on Twitter within the span of an hour Monday: one, the feed of Gili Bar-Hillel, a translator of Hebrew children's books, who accused me of being sarcastic about a bookstore (I like to see who I'm sparing with) and the second on the feed of Don Share, editor of Poetry Magazine (I'd say we're due for the issue on "Fresh Voices from New Zealand," where Bird is safely tucked, for the moment). The wheels come off the poem a bit toward the end, but credit her with the best use of "fuck" in the opening line of a poem since Philip Larkin's "This be the Verse,"
Where was I? Bad words. "Nigger" is unacceptable in most polite society, but tossed about freely by African-Americans when among themselves, and by the occasional blogger, holding his breath and wondering how it'll fly. And "God damn," while perhaps not showing up in the State of the Union anytime soon, skates by in the general filth and irrelevance of the online world.
Or so it seems to me.
And Mom, really. I'm surprised at you. We'll discuss it later.