A.C. Snow

Locker room talk and hunkering down – Snow

Thanks to Donald Trump, we were recently treated to a classic example of what he calls “locker room” language.

It may be that a few seconds of locker room language could affect who will be the next president of the United States.

Having never participated in college sports, I never mastered locker room language. As a child growing up in a Baptist family, locker room language was not in the least tolerated.

Saying “damn” or even “darn” would have earned a date with a peach tree switch. Even the s-word was verboten. Nor was I exposed to playground profanity at school. It didn’t exist.

My father, a gentle man, used only one “cussword.” But he used it generously.

That word was “Plagonit!”

When something went wrong in his life or he was frustrated by the conduct of one of his many sons, he would yell “Plagonit!” I was a teenager before I realized that he was saying, “A plague on it!”

Uncle Sam was responsible not only for my world travel but also for introducing me to words not found in Mr. Webster’s dictionary.

While on a bus loaded with Army inductees headed for Fort Bragg, I received my first lesson in Cussin’ 101. A loud-mouthed recruit from Greensboro fairly spewed forth profanity during the entire trip.

During my two years in the South Pacific with the Air Force, I added a few unsavory expressions to my own vocabulary.

On returning home, I faced what millions of soldiers faced: purging “locker room” words from my conversation.

I failed only once. In the presence of my mother and two visiting aunts, I blurted out what was perhaps the most used obscene word in the military vocabulary.

I was horrified. But not nearly as horrified as the three women in the room.

Without a word, I quickly left the room and took a long walk in the woods behind the house, reprimanding myself all the way.

My verbal mishap was never mentioned by me or my mom and her sisters.

Language nitpicking

I’m not sure what it’s called. So, I’ll label the repetitive use of a particular expression a language mannerism.

I refer to the 27 times Governor Pat McCrory said “At this point in time” rather than simply “At this time” during his TV appearance urging Tar Heels to stay off the road and take other safety precautions during Hurricane Matthew’s visit to the state.

The governor did a thorough job, and my mention of the minor aberration probably constitutes nitpicking.

As a word merchant, I’m fascinated by word usage. The use of “At this point in time” by no means is restricted to His Excellency. I hear it frequently.

Hurricane word

Speaking of words, the next time you’re visited by a hurricane, notice how frequently you hear the expression “hunker down.”

TV reporters unfailingly note that people in the path of a storm are hunkered down or are being told to hunker down.

Even the newscasters, often braving high winds while standing in knee-deep water, are hunkered down as they perform their often dangerous duty.

Aging gratefully

I recently visited with longtime friend Betty Debnam Hunt. In 1990, Betty created the beloved Mini Page newspaper, which at one point ran in 500 newspapers nationwide.

Betty is still happily occupied: writing, reading, traveling and painting.

She said that, although aging is no picnic, she tries to face its reality as positively as possible.

“Sometimes I try to think of the good things about growing old,” she said. She listed some of the pluses:

▪ People open doors for you.

▪ When you’re asked to do something you don’t want to do, all you have to say is that you don’t feel like it.

▪ “And if you can’t remember something, you just say, ‘Oh, sorry. Senior moment.’ 

I commend Betty for her optimism, although, as you will notice, her list of the pluses of aging is not very long.

Worth repeating

Michael Smerconish on CNN: “Kick the person responsible for your troubles and you won’t be able to sit down for a week.”

Snow: 919-836-5636; asnow@newsobserver.com

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