When (it) hits the fan . . .

by Charles Alexander

Parting Glances

There's really only one four-letter cuss word that over the years I've consistently found offensive by its sound and the olfactory phew it evokes.

I once had a friend - a nice enough guy otherwise: neat, well groomed, a high school teacher by profession, gay bartender by hobby, personable - who used the nasty "s" dumpster rather frequently in conversation, especially after a few beers, much to his social disadvantage.

I remember too as a substitute teacher in a French high school class when giving an assignment to seniors one of my students quite loudly said the wipeout word in annoyance. Scoring points with him (and surely the class I thought) I said, "If you're going to use that expression, use the French. Merde. M-E-R-D-E!"

To my refined sense of verbal decorum merde sounds better than its English equivalent, as does to my way of thinking the German schiesse, and the Italian merda, which is somewhat poetic in tone. "Mary, Mary, quite contrary. What a big, little merda you are!"

Tucked also in the far, far recesses of my scatological mind is a related word wiper I learned from a thirteen-year-buddy. Fat Butt Wobble we kids called him. Ronald was Finnish, and the swear expression was "buska hoseu." Hoseu meaning pants.

Perhaps you're wondering what a refined person such as myself is doing discussing a topic of such tacky subject matter. Permit me to offer as my excuse useful community and general information enlightenment by way of an e-mail from my friend Vysor, whom I've known for a number of years.

(I can vouch for her basic all-round refinement, dating back to when we use to shoot pool together at Fred's dyke bar on Detroit's eastside. I'm passing along Vysor's thought-provoking item to my PG readers who will soon be gardening as the weather gets warmer. Her subject is Manure.)

"In the 16th and 17th centuries, goods and products had to be transported by ship. It was also before the invention of commercial fertilizers, so large shipments of manure were quite common.

"Manure was shipped dry, because in dry form it weighed a lot less than when wet; but once water (at sea) soaked it, not only was it heavier, but the process of fermentation began again. Its byproduct is methane gas.

"As the cargo was stored below decks in bundles methane began to build up below decks, and the first time some well-meaning but thoughtless sailor came below at night with a lantern: BOOOOM!

"Several ships were destroyed in this manner before it was determined just what was happening. After that, bundles of manure were stamped with the instruction 'Stow high in transit' on them, which meant for the sailors to stow manure high enough off the lower decks so that any water that came into the vessel would not touch this volatile cargo and start the production of methane.

"Thus evolved the term's initials (Stow High In Transit) which has come down through the centuries. And is in use to this very day. You probably did not know the true history of this word." (You can say that again, Vysor!)

Vysor also sent a follow-up. She senses perhaps there's a connection. So, I offer it for consideration: "Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her love, she'll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal.

"If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart. She multiplies what is enlarged and given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of . . . (merde, merda, schiesse)." It happens!

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