sabato 15 ottobre 2016

What We Talk About When We Talk About Pussy

I’m not particularly pleased with the quality of my remarks in English on this blog. I feel too much self-consciousness when I write in inglese, and the fact that this same expression has two meanings (“consciousness of oneself” and “shyness”) leads me to think that English language demands a certain nimbleness, which also compensates for the relative ease of its grammar.

But the fact of the matter is, this kind of “fluency” flows and streams from the silliest things on which we have been building our skills (like bad rap songs and stuff). While I’m writing these lines, I’m realizing that since I was a child, English has been, symbolically, the language of spare time. So I can’t think about it only in a “playful” dimension, if I may say so. Maybe it’s not by chance that I’ve never worked in an English-speaking work environment (normally, I use English only to simplify communication with non-native speakers – but that sounds like a kind of game too, I think).

And for that, I have to admit that I like to swear in English, because it seems a funny way to fill grammatical gaps (in addition, I can be vulgar without the burden of shyness). Moreover, I think that English speakers use bad words in a more vivid and stringent manner (icastico, we say). But probably that happens not only because we’ve been “americanised” through cheap movies’ ribaldry.

Actually, I have a theory about that. In order to illustrated it, let’s look at the so-called So many pussies’ case, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during a CNN interview told host Christiane Amanpour that “there are so many pussies around the presidential campaign on both sides that I prefer not to comment about this”.


This Lavrov, he’s a good guy: “English is not my mother tongue, I don’t know that I would sound decent”. Well, my “theory” is that non-native speakers don’t “feel” the seriousness of a bad word in another language. Besides the Russian Foreign Minister, there are thousands of examples, but here you are one of the most meaningful: a few years ago a Greek love song, Πουτάνα στην Ψυχή [”A whore in the soul”], has been highly successful on the charts.  I think you’ll agree it’s not nice to use the word whore in a love ballad, but either way it worked. The reason is simple: Πουτάνα is a loanword from Italian Puttana, so in the end Greek people don’t take it seriously, even if the expressions share the same meaning. 
Indeed language is a harmonious and organic phenomenon, thus sound is the essential element. I guess that's why Shakespeare invented so many insults for his masterpieces...

But there’s still a difficulty. We can see how in this case the word “pussy” provokes an immediate burst of laughter by the interviewer:



On the other hand, presidential candidate Donald Trump’s weird statement about “Grab ’em by the pussy” (referred to women) hasn’t caused the same hilarity, I guess. Probably this is the result of an unique combination between a low voice, a foreign accent and, more generally, gravity (?).
By the way, when we ran into that phrase echoing all over the world, we weren’t able to hold back laughter. If we were Americans, this probably would have shocked us. But there are so many pussies, that you can't sound decent anymore (and then you ask me why I’m not pleased with my English posts...).

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