I’ve always had a fascination with profanity. Its uses, origins, etymology, versatility, etc. There are studies that show people who swear more tend to be smarter and less stressed, albeit less likely to be hired to corporate America. Where’s the downside? Not to say that I channel my inner pirate on a daily basis, but sometimes said pirate has to effing Rawrrrrrr. And sometimes she lets out the aforementioned Rawrrrr in Vietnamese, or Korean, Spanish, French, maybe Italian. Somehow those were the things people wanted to teach me along the way. I never particularly wanted or needed to know how to say “F%$# your mother” in Vietnamese but that’s what I was taught at the dry cleaners in high school. I’ve never used it in a situation where someone might understand, but I’ve been known to mutter it in traffic. If only for myself and my stress level. I imagine that opens up a strange door into my psyche but nobody has the key but me and, as the Count says, ‘Aaah aaah aaaahhhh’.
I’ve learned by comparison American English has fairly boring and nondescript manners of profaning. Sincerely. I didn’t really know that until I moved to Italy (heretofore known as the mothership of all kickass profanity). Animals, the virgin Mary, God, the world, inanimate objects are all brilliantly quilted together into phrases that really can’t translate well. Pig Mary for example. If I were to say that to you, unless you (or someone close to you perhaps) is named Mary- no effect. Other than probably cutting short our conversation. Such it is. Most conversations are lost in translation even when the same language is being spoken.
But then there’s the exception. The finger.
I had an Italian friend who had one of the most colorful ways to express anything at any given time even without hand gestures. Whenever he’d ask me how I was doing, if my response were tilting anywhere towards the negative axis, he would always reply: Meglio di un dito nel culo. Whether it was the weather, my job, the state of the world, my Alfalfa cowlick- meglio di un dito nel culo.
For anyone who doesn’t know, I’ll spare the Google translate. Meglio di un dito nel culo means: it’s better than a finger in your ass. Crude? Crass? Yes and yes. True? Absolutely. In almost every situation. For me anyways. I don’t pretend to know how anyone else rolls.
I haven’t spoken to that friend in a few years since our paths diverged. But somehow that expression decided to stay behind. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I realized it had somehow permeated my mental membrane and, unbeknownst to me, I had been using it as a gauge for life’s progress.
So for today I can honestly say I have 99 problems. A finger up the bum ain’t one.