As I was squandering precious moments of the twilight of my existence marveling at how happy and well-fed my Facebook friends seem to be, I suffered this epiphany: the American English vernacular is steeped in violent expressions with positive connotations. That violence permeates our language shouldn’t be surprising given that mass shootings have become a monthly occurrence, as routine as severe thunder storms. However, the fact that violent diction projects positivity seems, at least on the surface, perverse.
I have long realized how much the foes of drug use, like youth ministers, rely on the argot of the drug scene, like when they cop some Grace or score a convert or pull CS Lewis from their lit stash, but for whatever reason, the predominance of violent expression, especially when extolling a performance, had never blasted its way into my consciousness, which is strange since I overuse the word killer all the time, as in Frederick Seidel is a killer poet who obliterates his readers with his brilliant use of language.
What sparked this illumination concerning the positive connotations of violent words was a post from a friend of mine, a sweet, gentle, funny, articulate soul who wrote:
Man, Mad Men and Hannibal both really crushed their season finales.
Crushed is a great sounding word, the sibilant volition of rushed lengthened and hardened by the hard initial C-sound. In a social media forum crushed sounds better than “really masterfully executed their season finales.” Though I suspect that if you had learned English from Rosetta Stone, you might take crushed in the above Mad Men/Hannibal context to mean that the shows mangled their finales, wrecked or ruined them, especially since episode is the direct object of crushed.
But, of course, crushed here means the opposite, that the episodes were triumphant cliff hangers, huge successes, like when you destroy your exam by acing it.
These ruminations on language reminded me of an essay by James Hillman where he mused on the harshness/violence of sexual English compared with the much gentler, more loving elocutions of the East.
Listen to the marvelous language of foreign erotica: jade stalk, palace gates, ambrosia! Compare these with cock, prick, dick, nuts, balls; with suck, jerk, blow, yank; and with gash, bush, frog, slit, clit, hole. A Chinese plum is to be deliciously enjoyed; our cherries are to be taken, popped, or broken. (The Blue Fire 179)
America, land of the free, land of the mass shooting, land of the perverse.