Note: For the North American market – curse here doesn’t mean foul language or swearing – it means actually drawing the wrath of whatever down upon your enemies. You can swear all you like.
The business of cursing someone is a serious one. You should not do it lightly nor wantonly. You must reserve it for occasions when it is really necessary. This is not because your curses will lose potency if they become too common – it is because they may very well precipitate disaster for the victim.
Calling down the wrath of Heaven ( or raising a similar affliction from Hell ) should never be a matter of petulance or smart aleck behaviour. Both Heaven and Hell have more important things to do than act as your minions. Do not invoke them unless it is a serious matter indeed. They are not patient.
Consider before you curse whether there is another, milder, way to resolve the problem – a fist fight or stabbing or somesuch. If you have access to anti-tank artillery, use that. It is far kinder to put a 17-pounder round through someone’s door than to spit on a coin and throw it across their threshold. The AT shell will only make a big hole – the coin will destroy anything it touches – lives, reputations, businesses, etc.
Do not curse if a blessing would prove more helpful. Or damaging. Blessings are generally more acceptable to Heaven, though they may not be acted upon. It is the optional nature of the thing that lets them be racked up on a spike and attended to whenever there is enough spare time. Curses need answering right now.
Of course, the right now may be in galactic terms. Many of them take generations to come to fruition and people who are eventually sitting there covered in dung do not connect the actions of their ancestors to their fate. This may not seem to be rewarding to the cursor ( or is that curser? I can never tell. ) but if you take time to see far enough into the future you can get some inkling of the effect. The first American Indians who let tobacco loose upon mankind probably never saw a lung cancer case in their short lives – but they can look down from the Happy Hunting Ground now and see what a curse they unleashed.
The reader of this essay who is skeptical about it will not draw a curse from me. They are free to think for themselves. But they are directed to enquire about the fate of the Han’s Café business.
I have been undignified all my life. In some instances it was just small and hardly noticeable – in others massive and memorable. It was a method of living – if anything about life can be methodical – that served me well. Because it let the pressure out of the vessel before it burst.
There were a lot of times when that was the difference between continuing to be a real social being and retreating into depression and fear. I never went into those regions because I aways blew up the verbal paper bag and popped it to let off the tension.
Being foolish is undignified. So is being crass, gauche, pitiful, or needy. No successful comedian was ever dignified – that was the job of the straight man. But in the end the straight man was always the second banana in the act. You know the names Abbot and Costello but it’s Lou you remember with affection.
The class clown is frequently the class dolt – the person who finds that they cannot learn or think and quickly runs for the simple reward of attention. Even if they have to purchase it at the expense of harsh discipline they will act up and get the laugh. If there is a class brain, they observe this behaviour and see if it can be adapted to their needs; frequently this is the case. The dolt never knows that they have been a useful example.
This was the case for me in grade school. Hauled, as was my norm, out of one school between years to another far way ( heavy construction company work ) I had the wearisome task of new-kid fights and pecking order with the start of the eighth grade. The class clown was a dolt from the local area who did his share of picking on me between getting into other trouble. And it was watching his treatment at the hands of authority that taught me what to do.
a. Do not play up in class. Let the teacher get on with the business of teaching. If you can sit learning, do so. If all you can do is sit, take that route. But sit quietly.
b. Do not play dumb. Never do badly academically just to please the mob. Pass the tests as best you can and let others fail at their own pace.
c. Make a fool of yourself for the amusement of the mob in some show that doesn’t cost anything. That relieves the jealous tension and lets them out of having to react to anything you do.
d. Then occasionally sock it to them. Make fools of them.
I use this in my title to alert a reader of this column to the fact that I read his column as well. He’s recently mentioned the word and lamented that it is not used any more. I have been thinking about that and agree with him. But there’s nothing to stop us – he and I – from inventing new phrases that can be just as effective.
Do we wish to suggest that someone is shallow, annoying, and attention-seeking? Would we like to include overtones of callow and valueless behaviour? Would we like to call someone a whippersnapper?
Well, we’ll try one of these:
a. ” A Beardless Youth “. Sounds classical and classy. Particularly effective if the target person happens to be female.
b. ” An Ungracious Lout “. If we, in our turn, look like unmade beds, it gives added piquancy to this.
c. ” An Exquisite “. No-one really knows what this means but it sounds brittle and slimy at the same time – a considerable feat.
d. ” A Social Climber “. This suggests that the person is a snob but that is only one of the options. People can climb down as well as up…
e. ” A Brazen Vessel “. A bit more biblical, but still suggesting more valueless noise and shallow capacity.
The good thing about using these phrases is that while they are not obscene, they are memorable. We must use them sparingly, and pronounce them in a slow, clear manner. They will stick better than wax* to a blanket.
* Wax is not the word I wanted to use but this is a family column.
Today is St. Valentine’s Day. A commercial celebration of a person who apparently was murdered under Roman governmental decree. Also a person who is said to have cured blindness and deafness by the laying on of hands. His murder is reportedly to have been because he advocated one religion when the government of the time wished the population to participate in a different one.
I have very sensibly purchased a card full of saccharine and a gift full of sugar. I shall give it to someone, who will not, I presume, murder me. It was not a cheap card but you have to be sure with these things. I am still allowed to treat with deity on my own terms, but dealing with the loved one requires a little more circumspection. Heaven can only throw thunderbolts during storms but the wife can do it no matter what the weather.
If this sounds cynical, it is. But it does lead to a number of questions for the student of superstitions. Is St. Valentine’s Day valid for people who are not of his religion? There are lots of us in lots of different divisions of faith…but we all have sweethearts – if we’re lucky – and the commercial pressure is on to promote romance, flowers, jewellery, and confectionery. I don’t think the sellers of canned lovey dovey will check to see if you are the right sort to follow a saint.
I don’t mind romance, love, sex, or anything else that fills up the hours between breakfast and late-night cocoa. I’m up for anything as long as it doesn’t involve teenage music or strobe lights in the eyes. A quiet exchange of expensive cards is fine.
The big retail shop – Coleworths, Flyers, Getar, Big Letter, etc. exist in every major Australian city – indeed they have branches in multiple locations downtown and at shopping centres. In addition to white goods, manchester, and bargain bins full of toilet brushes, they sell clothing. A lot of it.
Many people stock their wardrobes exclusively from these stores, and can live comfortably by doing so. The goods they buy are generally reasonably well-made, reasonably well-fitting, and reasonably priced. But there is one disadvantage for the shopper: they will look like 250,000 other Australians each season. If they are frugal shoppers they will look like this more cheaply, but one season out of synch.
I can sympathise with this – I am equally well dressed, but in many cases the season is Winter, 1962.
The buyers for the big stores wield tremendous economic power in the clothing business, as they have very big purses indeed. And they are canny – they are always trying to achieve the perfect purchase…the garment that sells out completely on the last day of the season, leaving room on the shelves for the next attraction. But with this skill comes responsibility. They are going to make the country look the way they buy for at least the next year.
Sometimes they get it right, and we all look decent. Sometimes they get it wrong and we all look like prats. And sometimes they get it disastrously wrong and we look like grubby, smelly prats. If you doubt me, I mention two words: nylon shirts.
I do not mind the clothing from the big stores, inasmuch as I buy anything. Their underwear does not chafe and their sweatshirts are good for at least a year. But I always pray that the designers and buyers will have done their job whilst sober. We have had far too many years when every garment has a logo printed on it somewhere and cannot be worn decently outside of a football stadium or tractor pull.
No man should ever enter a lingerie shop for any purpose. There is nothing he can do there that will produce a good result – even if he buys the perfect set of lace nothings for his light of love. Because his light will not appreciate them.
The thing that the man wants to see is not the thing that the light wants to wear. Indeed, if the man were to canvas the light for an honest answer – and get it – he would be shopping in the flannelette aisle of Big W. It is a sad thing to have one’s dreams shattered, but even sadder to have it done with a fire axe.
” But what of Victoria’s Secret? ” I hear you ask. Victoria doesn’t have secret. She’s a tart and that’s all there is to it. The lingerie is a work-related expense, and a pretty poor value-for-money one at that. Compare the lifespan of the average lace step-in to that of a pair of Yakka overalls and see which one helps out with your bottom line. Fortunate indeed the working girl who can cater to her trade in denim and nylon straps. Though it does get a bit itchy around the edges.
Of course there is the question of size. You can get it right and you can get it wrong, but if you get it wrong by buying too large a garment, you ain’t gonna get it.
I was a child when there was Army and Navy Surplus that meant something. My father bought a bomber engine at an RCAF surplus auction in Airdrie, Alberta and ran it in our basement. He also bought lightweight drafting equipment from the RCAF that used to be on the navigator’s flight table. I aways wanted him to bring home the Fraser-Nash gun turret that was on sale as well, but my mother was a spoil-sport…
I mention this as a preface to gently prime you for a fact of life; there is no army and navy surplus any more. The bomber engine was left over from WW2. The army and navy now need all the stuff they have and are frequently engaged in horse trading amongst themselves to gather enough of it together in one place to operate on. They don’t have any spares to sell.
What is sold in the surplus stores is cheap imports from Pakistan, India, and worse places. If it can be made of bad cotton or brass – if it can be made crudely but with a certain brutal flair – if it can be sold as an aid to camping, or fishing, or genocide – the stores will get a sea container of it in and sell it. Whichever category it fits into and whatever it is, you can find one common thread – it will be overpriced.
Don’t avoid the surplus stores because of this. Go into them, by all means. Education is always expensive and shopping there is no exception. Set yourself a price limit that is painful but not horrifying, and go spend to that number. Who knows – you may need the fake ammunition box or the Pakistani exploding alcohol stove – or the Confederate flag or the 70 cm folding knife – for some legitimate purpose.
Just don’t ask for Fraser-Nash turrets…