Just today, I guaranteed myself a small but, with any luck, temporary position in the back-office banter of the Joyce Theater, New York’s most prominent performance space for dance. They’re hosting the Martha Graham Dance Company this week; I’m unexpectedly in town and decided this would be the perfect time to educate myself about dance.
Feeling a bit of a rube, I bravely belly up to the box office desk to ask:
“Do you still have any tickets available for Martha Stewart?”
I had an absolute moron for a cow-orker. Every other utterance was a malaproprism because she tried to appropriate witty, little snippets without having the vocabulary to understand what she was actually saying.
There were so very many… the only one that stands out right now though, was when I finally snapped at her for censoring herself. Instead of swearing she would say “bad word.” As in “Bad word! I got a paper cut. Bad word, it hurts.” It sounded so stupid I finally said “why the hell don’t you just swear?”
Her answer: “Because I don’t want to be known for using profound language.”
I’m now reading George O. Smith’s Venus Equilateral, a collection of hard sf stories written in the 1940s. In one of them a woman innocently asks what a “bugger factor” is. Apparently not enough people were aware of the meaning of “bugger” (or meanings have changed a lot in the past half century). It’s used as synonymous with “fudge factor” (which is itself a euphemism).