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Overstreet

Creative profanity...

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I appreciate well-employed profanity in depictions of colorful characters.

But sometimes authors can find even more effective ways to express such things without actually splashing the profanity all over the page. And this one made me laugh out loud. I heard it today while listening to the audiobook of Moby Dick, and found it too hilarious to pass up:
 

But what it was that inscrutable Ahab said to that tiger-yellow crew of his, these were words best omitted here -- for you live under the blessed light of the Evangelical land. Only the infidel sharks in the audacious seas may give ear to such words, when with tornado brow, and eyes of red murder, and foam-glued lips, Ahab leaped after his prey.

 



Thank you, Mr. Melville.

Can you think of any other examples of artists finding creative ways of getting around those R-rated elements in works of art?

Another that springs to mind: Mel Brooks' edited-for-television version of Blazing Saddles is, in some ways, funnier than the unedited version, because he oversaw the overdubbing himself, and came up with hilarious replacement clips that make the overdubs painfully obvious.

Edited by Overstreet

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Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but two things immediately sprang to mind:

The (now-tired) Austin Powers jokes where a colorful-but-vulgar phrase comes about via skillfully timed editing, in a montage where someone says, "It just looks like a ..." <change scene> "Woody!"

And, of course, the introduction to the Battlestar-Gallactica coined "FRAK" to our American Lexicon.

But the scene you mentioned is more reminiscent of some jokes I've seen before (don't know where--SNL, perhaps? Monty Python?) where there is a quick cutaway just before somebody starts cussing extravagantly, only to return to the scene after the fact, and the victim of the verbal shredding is disheveled and the surrounding area looks like a tornado whipped thru it.

BTW, you're in the minority about the edited-for-tv version of Blazing Saddles. Methinks it a comic travesty, equal in footing with the comedy vacuousness of "Dracula, Dead and Loving It".

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Again, maybe not on point, but when I stay up late on Friday nights -- a rarity since getting married eight years ago -- I've enjoyed Jimmy Kimmel's "The Week in Profanity," or whatever he calls it. He shows clips of people making speeches, then edits out terms so as to simulate profanity where it never existed. Much funnier to watch than to read about.

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Oh, sure. There are two particular examples that I love to come back to now and again in thinking about how restraint can spur imagination (and make us a bit complicit). In O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," when the serial killer has the car's occupants all lined up, the old woman starts prattling on about something or other, and her son, who knows where this will all lead, turns to her and says something really foul, which O'Connor doesn't tell us-- and doesn't need to tell us. In William Wyler's The Children's Hour, a horrid young girl makes up a terrible lie about the two unmarried schoolmarms at her boarding school to escape some trouble she's gotten into. The girl whispers into her rich aunt's ear that the two women, played by Shirley McLaine and Audrey Hepburn, are engaged in the love that dare not speak its name, and the fact that we can't hear the precise words, but only see their effect on the hearer through the aunt's alarmed expressions, indicts our own imaginations and capacity for gossip-mongering.

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The Children's Hour is based on a play by Lillian Hellman. I'm not sure if that scene appears in the play or was written for the movie.

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The reference to Moby Dick reminds me of a great nonfiction book about whaling, Logbook for Grace by Robert Cushman Murphy. Here's an excerpt from the book's 1947 review in Time magazine, which refers to a particularly memorable passage:

Before it was over, some would die of malnutrition, drowning and exposure to the Antarctic. All of this seemed wholly natural to them and to their captain. It didn't to young Naturalist Murphy. He was alternately amused and shocked by the skipper, a Puritan who drove his men to death and freely broke the whaling laws for profit but could not abide swearing in the fo'c'sle. He warned that "he'll be goddamned if he'll stand for one such word from any Christless bastard on board, afore or abaft the mainmast."

But to answer Jeffrey's question, here are two examples from Dickens. First, from Great Expectations:

As we passed Mr Barley's door, he was heard hoarsely muttering within, in a strain that rose and fell like wind, the following Refrain; in which I substitute good wishes for something quite the reverse.

"Ahoy! Bless your eyes, here's old Bill Barley. Here's old Bill Barley, bless your eyes. Here's old Bill Barley on the flat of his back, by the Lord. Lying on the flat of his back, like a drifting old dead flounder, here's your old Bill Barley, bless your eyes. Ahoy! Bless you."

In this strain of consolation, Herbert informed me the invisible Barley would commune with himself by the day and night to-gether.

And this, from A Christmas Carol:

Scrooge said that he would see him
Edited by mrmando

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And, of course, the introduction to the Battlestar-Gallactica coined "FRAK" to our American Lexicon.

I thought DanBuck had introduced FRAK to the American Lexicon, but then found out his spelling was F.R.A.C.

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Then there's the classic novel Treasure of the Sierra Madre, with its numerous references to "those funking gringoes."

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Speaking of 'funk,' there's a fantastic little extra on the Shaun of the Dead DVD that shows what they did for the TV version of the movie. There's an expletive-riddled part where Shaun and Ed stay up late listening to "electro," using the music as a cathartic balm after Shaun's break-up with his girlfriend. On the extra, they replace all of the off-color words with "funk" and "prink." It's incredibly funny.

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How could we have forgotten this so easily?

Ralphie: Oooh fuuudge!

Ralphie as Adult: [narrating] Only I didn't say "Fudge." I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word!

Mr. Parker: [stunned] *What* did you say?

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First, from Great Expectations:
As we passed Mr Barley's door, he was heard hoarsely muttering within, in a strain that rose and fell like wind, the following Refrain; in which I substitute good wishes for something quite the reverse.

"Ahoy! Bless your eyes, here's old Bill Barley. Here's old Bill Barley, bless your eyes. Here's old Bill Barley on the flat of his back, by the Lord. Lying on the flat of his back, like a drifting old dead flounder, here's your old Bill Barley, bless your eyes. Ahoy! Bless you."

In this strain of consolation, Herbert informed me the invisible Barley would commune with himself by the day and night to-gether.

I love that passage. Dickens just had a way of putting these things. :)

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In the vein of the "replace the curse words for the TV version" of Blazing Saddles, I'm always on the look out for really REALLY bad replacement words - ones that weren't supposed to be funny, but to get the censoring job done.

I actually saw some film (which unfortunately I can't remember which one) on a Saturday afternoon movie, replace "Son of a..." with "Slug in a Ditch." Makes no sense. In or out of any context. Ever.

And just recently, I saw another film replace MF with "monkey feathers."

Nice.

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The Big Lebowski and Pulp Fiction edited-for-network-TV versions are incredibly hilarious in that regard, from what I hear. The scene in the former where Walter trashes 'Lennie's' sports car involves something about "finding a stranger in the Alps." Really?

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The first time I watched The Godfather, it was with my dad, and we were watching the TV version. Sonny Corleone tells his men to make sure that they get someone good to hide the gun behind the toilet, because "I don't want my brother coming out of there with just a stick in his hand." My dad explained to me that, in the theatrical version, Sonny had not said "a stick".

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In the vein of the "replace the curse words for the TV version" of Blazing Saddles, I'm always on the look out for really REALLY bad replacement words - ones that weren't supposed to be funny, but to get the censoring job done.

I actually saw some film (which unfortunately I can't remember which one) on a Saturday afternoon movie, replace "Son of a..." with "Slug in a Ditch." Makes no sense. In or out of any context. Ever.

And just recently, I saw another film replace MF with "monkey feathers."

Nice.

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys used to have fun with that, because of course the movies that aired on their show were censored for TV. "Son of a what? Son of a preacher man? Son of a sailor?"

The ABC Family show The Middleman (which is hilarious and you should really see it if you haven't yet -- if it gets renewed!) also has fun with it. The earnest Boy-Scout-type hero explained back at the beginning that profanity is bad for the mind and the soul, or something like that, so he uses expressions like "My Little Pony!" "Sands of Zanzibar!" "Mutual of Omaha!" "Sweet Mother of Preston Tucker!" etc. And whenever anyone else swears, they use the loud beep, black bar over the mouth, the whole nine yards. It's a hoot.

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In the spirit of Brooks' TV editting, I have to recall the villian from Johnny Dangerously. An immigrant, he mangles the English language constantly, but only the swearing, really. Fargin' icehulls is the best and constant, but there is also Sumbunches.

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Another that springs to mind: Mel Brooks' edited-for-television version of Blazing Saddles is, in some ways, funnier than the unedited version, because he oversaw the overdubbing himself, and came up with hilarious replacement clips that make the overdubs painfully obvious.

 

I need to see that sometime.

I remember this entertaining little comparison on the 20th anniversary (De Palma) Scarface that compared scenes with their television edits (made six years after the original release). (Apparently, in 1989, even the word 'lesbian' was too hot to touch. I wasn't around, so that was a little surprising.)

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Surprised Fantastic Mr. Fox hasn't been mentioned yet. "Are you cussing with me?"  and "Clustercuss." are two terms I've frequently used in mixed company.

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Surprised Fantastic Mr. Fox hasn't been mentioned yet. "Are you cussing with me?"  and "Clustercuss." are two terms I've frequently used in mixed company.

 

That reminds me of those ghastly Orbit(?) euphemism-fest commercials.

Edited by Kinch

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Surprised Fantastic Mr. Fox hasn't been mentioned yet. "Are you cussing with me?"  and "Clustercuss." are two terms I've frequently used in mixed company.

 

How about "Darn Darn Darn Darny Darn!" from The Lego Movie?

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I remember reading Brian Jacques' Redwall series as a kid and loving all the colourful insults the villains used. And of course, there's all the Mandarin swearing in Firefly -- I never had a clue what they were saying, but it seemed creative at the time ( or a cop out).

 

 

I still think that Shakespeare is the king of creative insults/profanity:

 

"The sweetness of his face sours ripe grapes" -- Coriolanus

"Thous elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog." -- Richard III

"Pernicious bloodsucker of sleeping men"  -- Henry VI, Part II

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No one's mentioned this?

 

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