Rich Talks Shit

That’s not a surprise to anyone. I do talk a monstrous amount of shit. I know hardly anything about lots and lots of different and mostly very tedious subjects. I can combine that with a pointlessly in-depth knowledge on a very narrow range of stuff. Now, that makes me God’s own gift to an under-achieving pub quiz team – just don’t ask me about pop culture after about 1985 or any sport, especially athletics – but a stream of bemused women from the Grauniad’s Soul Mates pages in the early years of this century will almost certainly roll their eyes and say “Oh him, yeah. No.”

I know that names come and go in popularity but were there an especially large number of Catherines or Alisons born between say, 1965 and 1975? I met several Kates, one Kat, a Kaz and memorably but very briefly “Call me Catherine, please.” A story for another blog if I can cope with reliving that one. Over the years I’ve had crushes on several wonderful Alisons too. Sorry, an aside.

Back on topic, let’s talk shit.

A screenshot taken from Word HippoHippo.com of the entry for "talking shit"
Fun with Word Hippo.

I think this misses one of the most basic senses of talking shit. There’s talking nonsense, making up stuff, like writing speeches for Boris Johnson or Donald Trump. I’m a fan of Horrible Histories which does a most excellent job of talking shit about history. It’s proof of another form of talking shit, where you just riff off an idea. You take an idea like exploring past lives in the form of a chat show where Death mocks people for dying in a particularly stupid way and calling the whole thing Stupid Deaths. You probably know that when a singer riffs on a musical theme it is called scat and scat is another word for shit and I am in love, deeply in love, with the notion of Cleo Laine shit singing.

There is something a little more vivid and visceral about shite when you compare it to shit. Compare “ya wee shite” with “you little shit” and there are worlds to explore and possibly PhD theses to be done between them. Differences of class and geography are laid bare. Think about the voices saying those words and the circumstances where they say them. You can go and do some role-play now if you like. You might find it cathartic.

As an example of my wide but shallow pool of knowledge, I found out about mining fossil shit in Cambridge recently. They did it on Coldham’s Common and down between Trumpington and Hauxton. These rather pleasant spots was once mined for Cambridge green sands, coprolites that were ground to sand and mixed with acid to produce a kind of fertilizer. Of course, you can use turds laid down much more recently to make fertiliser. Stinking fortunes were made importing and processing guano to make fertiliser or explosives. The USA had something called the Guano Islands Act which empowered US citizens to take over uninhabited islands unclaimed by other states if they contained guano. More recently, and dealing with even fresher shite, my dad was a mounted policeman in Edinburgh. He would occasionally drop by to see his mum if he was passing her house in the Colonies in Stockbridge. He’d tie the horse up by the front gate, pop in for a quick cup of tea and before very long one or another of the neighbours would be out with a shovel to pick up the very fresh manure the horse would leave behind.

I was looking for a word for talking shit. I thought of kakaglossia. Kaka, caka, or cack are common enough. I think cack-handed is a euphonous word, better than butter-fingered. Does it mean inept rather than clumsy, do you think? Oddly, English gets cake from the Norse or Swedish kaka which almost uniquely doesn’t mean shit. Kakaglossia means shit-tongued so it’s a nice new word for getting a bit sweary. I used to have “erudite fuckmouth” on my Twitter profile as a warning for those of an unsweary disposition. Not everyone enjoys my use of language. Should I have put a content warning on this post?

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The Internet Is Full Of Trouble

Yet another statement of the bleedin’ obvious, I know but bear with me. Way back then, in the long ago, when the internet was all static pages of text about particle physics and Terry Pratchett, it seemed to be that it was all about having new and interesting experiences at 56 kilobytes per second, or thereabouts. One of the happiest sounds I knew was a modem handshaking with the world. I remember getting my first email account at St Andrews in about 1988 before the internet was even a thing. I know that I didn’t use it much. I saw everyone else I knew with an email account every day anyway.

I used to read stories in the Grauniad about how the internet – now it was invented – was going to change everything. We would all be able to talk to one another, there would be no more barriers to communication and it would all be simply marvellous. Well then, that turned out to be one of those wishes about which we really should have thought twice. We can now all talk at one another, there seem to be no barriers to any fucking communication and wouldn’t it be simply marvellous if some people just fucked the fuck off?

I don’t think anybody imagined that neo-Nazis would get an internet connection too. It was unanticipated as the superabundance cat pictures. Controlling the media is a basic totalitarian tactic. Our political masters would love to be able to do the same but they lack the commitment to do it in a thoroughgoing fashion. A cynic or conspiracy theorist would say either that they already do control both the media and the messages on it, or that the owners of the media already control the politicians to a greater or lesser extent.

We all know how important the internet has become. Our body politic is a cyborg now and we can’t be sure where some of the signals controlling it originate.

What prompted all of this wasn’t politics but personal relationships. I remember having an absolutely wonderful time when I was single on the internet. Looking back, I was using my privilege as a middle-class, white man but I hope I was always respectful when I went out on a date. My wife and I met on a dating site well over a decade ago, on the forums first and then in person. I don’t think we matched with one another but we got on very well when we met up so sometimes those algorithms must have been talking mince.

I don’t think things are as easy now for people. I hear horror stories from my friends on dating sites of shitty behaviour from shitty people. When I were a lad and Shep were a pup and it was all fields round here we used to view internet dating forums and the like as just an extension of the social sphere and the usual social norms would apply. There were always arseholes of course but they were small in number, easily identified and isolated and we could look after one another. No real man would ever have identified himself as “involuntarily celibate” for example. The most we would admit would be a bit of a dry spell but it was all going to be fine. We were on a dating site after all.

Now we have toxic masculinity. The things which were once private – the domestic violence, the gaslighting, the belittling, the objectification, the denigration, dehumanising – now have a public outlet. The small men doing huge damage to wives, sisters, mothers and children can share what they do with other small men.

I’m not sure what I wanted to achieve this evening. I seem to have spent the last hour or so remembering how wonderful things were in the good old days and how fucking awful things are now. The best thing about the internet now is that like minds can now connect across the world much more easily than they ever have in the past. The trouble is that that is also the worst thing about the internet.

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