Now that Mardi Gras is behind us, it’s time for me to take a break from my traditional political screes to raise a question of great timeliness and vast cultural importance, a question that has bothered me for decades but still remains unanswered.
Why is the word “tits” unacceptable in “polite” society, yet the word “boobs” is just fine?
I do not understand this. To me, the word “boob” refers to “an unintelligent person” or “an unfortunate mistake” (source: whatever dictionary Microsoft leases these days). But that’s the second definition. The first is “women’s breast.” That same dictionary defines “tit” as “same as teat” and, secondly, “an offensive term for a woman’s breast.”
This drives me nuts. Tits, or teats, supply mammals with life-sustaining nutrition. That’s a good thing. Boobs… are idiots. That’s a bad thing. But among the two, only the former is seen as offensive.
Over the years I have asked various and sundry women this very question, often over dinner. The usual response goes something like “comparing a part of my anatomy to that of a cow is offensive.” To which I respond “aaaaand boob?” This often provokes a short, nervous laugh from my companion, a laugh commonly known within the comedy business as a “titter.”
It’s very frustrating. I hate euphemisms. They are the highlight of hypocrisy. If the idea is to avoid using a word that a bunch of ancient bluenoses defined as offensive, then using another word that immediately implants the offensive word in the listener’s brainpan should be equally offensive. Circumlocution is a waste of time, and in the case of euphemistic language it’s at best insincere.
During these conversations, if I remain strong enough to avoid deflecting my own point by noting the laugh is, indeed, a titter, I ask “so why do you-all use ‘boob’ instead of ‘breast’?”
Most often, the response goes something like this: “breast makes me think of chicken.” Okay, now it’s my turn to titter. I am not strong enough to avoid the game-ending comeback “yep; finger-licking good!”
Of all the various euphemisms for the female breast, indeed, for any word that refers to a secondary sexual characteristic, tit and tit alone is a matter of constitutional law. George Carlin’s seven dirty words (shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits) led to a Supreme Court decision that established the extent to which the federal government could regulate broadcast speech. That’s some self-righteous poo-poo.
Carlin, the greatest philosopher of our time, noted “Tits doesn’t even belong on the list. It’s such a friendly sounding word. It sounds like a nickname. ‘Hey, Tits, come here. Tits, meet Toots, Toots, Tits. Tits, Toots.’ It sounds like a snack doesn’t it? Yes, I know, it is, right. But I don’t mean the sexist snack, I mean, New Nabisco Tits. The new Cheese Tits, and Corn Tits and Pizza Tits, Sesame Tits, Onion Tits, Tater Tits, Yeah. Betcha can’t eat just one.”
The older I get, the more I learn. But the more I learn, the more I realize I need to learn. This is life’s cosmic joke. And this one has been frustrating me forever.
Yeah. I’m such a boob.
Next week, I may discuss the phrase “pulling a boner.”
Mike Gold performs the weekly two-hour Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, www.getthepointradio.com, every Sunday at 7:00 PM Eastern, rebroadcast three times during the week – check the website above for times. Gold also joins MWD’s Marc Alan Fishman, Martha Thomases and Michael Davis as a weekly columnist at www.comicmix.com where he pontificates on matters of four-color.