The Mütter of All Ütterances

You struggle for half an hour trying to put together a bookcase from a Scandinavian superstore, only to discover the instruction sheet you’ve been following is for a wine rack.  In another scenario, you see the police car light up in the rear view mirror and suddenly realize your car inspection sticker expired two months ago.

Tutankamen in a tutu!  You should have known it was a wine rack, since there were on twelve of the parts instead of the sixteen listed on the box.  (Image from this-pic dot com)
Tutankhamun in a tutu!!! You should have known it was a wine rack, since there were on sixteen of the fluted wood dowels instead of the twenty-two listed on the box. (Image from this-pic dot com)

These types of situations are as unavoidable as potholes in March or a humongous nose-zit on the day of your big interview.  It’s called life, people.  We’re adults here; we deal with it and move forward.  If you’re like many people, these moments of unpleasant surprise are worthy of some sort of verbal acknowledgement to the fates who are responsible for dealing you such a crappy hand.

One of my father’s favorite things to grumble at such times was, “Jesus Christ on a crutch!”  We weren’t an especially religious family, so my brothers and I had little fear of lightning strikes or plague-of-locusts type retributions for his blasphemy.  We just knew that Dad was fed up and we’d be well advised to steer clear of him.

An acquaintance I met much later in life used a similar phrase but put the Savior on a Harley instead of a crutch.  Others have been known to put the Son of God on a pogo stick.

Crutch, Harley, hey, whatever man, I'm cool with it.  (Image from buntology dot com).
Crutch, Harley, hey, whatever man, I’m cool with it.  All is forgiven, bro! (Image from buntology dot com).

Each of these utterances is colorful in its own way.  Christ on a crutch strikes me as more alliterative than visual, though I can picture Him spraining an ankle tripping on an Easter egg when He rose from the dead.  Putting the Number One Son on a motorcycle, on the other hand, is purely visual.  The comical image of His robes and long locks flowing in the breeze is trumped only by Him kick starting that hog in a pair of ratty sandals.  In an effort to avoid upsetting the more pious readers any further, I’ll skip discussion of the pogo stick entirely.

As amusing as the thought of the Son of God cruising on an Electro-Glide may be, it’s got a definite time stamp on it.  Biblical scholars among you might point out that my Dad’s saying is not exactly timeless either, as J.C. only walked or limped the earth a couple of thousand years ago.  So an ancient Egyptian, when faced with the lack of Brown-Out© correction fluid for fixing the errors on his papyrus scroll, would have had to utter something else.  On a side note, who would’ve guessed that biblical scholars read this blog?

You can't tell from this picture, but the original text of the third column was supposed to read, "beetle, sun, lotus, beetle, zig-zag"  I screwed it up, but there was no way to correct it, so the Pharaoh ended up having to enter the next world through the back door.  Man was he pissed.
You can’t tell from this picture, but the original text of the eighth column was supposed to read, “beetle, sun, lotus, beetle, zig-zag” I screwed it up, but there was no way to correct it.  The Pharaoh ended up having to enter the next world through the back door. Man was he pissed! (Image from roadrunner dot com)

The mütter of all ütterances* has to be free of references to a given era, or the gadgets of the day.  It’s got to be composed of only the most elemental components.  It should be just as applicable to today’s suburban Dad dropping his iPhone in the urinal at the strip club**, as it would have been to a Neanderthal man stubbing his toe while dragging his newly found mate by her hair.

For those of you who haven’t already guessed it, the original saying for man during moments of frustration and/or dismay is none other than the classic; “Shit on a stick!

The roots of this gem of an utterance can be traced further back to the single syllable cry of “Shit!”  Linguistics experts agree that after creating words to describe fire, cave, hunger and constipation, early man likely named excrement next.  Shortly after our ancient ancestors came up with a name for poop, they discovered that saying “Shit!” sometimes just wasn’t enough.

Putting the shit on a stick was a natural choice.  Shit on the ground was hardly worth noting.  Shit in the sky was a fairly rare phenomenon despite the sizable number of pterodactyls dropping six pound deuces all over the Greater Pangaea metropolitan area.  This is not to say that airborne feces didn’t have a place in the vocabulary – but the use of the term “shit-storm” was developed much later and usually employed for more disastrous situations.

According to the caption, Justin left this poop-on-a-stick on the plane.  Behavior like that is a good example why I'm not a big fan of buying my kids souvenirs.  (Image from photobucket dot com)
According to the caption, Justin left this poop-on-a-stick on the plane. Behavior like that is a good example why I’ve never been a big fan of buying my kids souvenirs. (Image from photobucket dot com)

Shit on a stick has it all, linguists can only marvel at the catchy rhythm of the words strung together in simple-yet-elegant single syllables.  Its practicality is excellent, as the phrase can easily fit into one exasperated exhalation.  From a content standpoint, it harkens back to a simpler time, when our ancestors valued a nice stick, and lamented the wasting of a perfectly good one because it had doo-doo on it.

*For all you smart-assed experts in Teutonic grammar who want to point out that “mütter” is the plural form of mother, and that “ütterance” isn’t a word at all, save your breath.  I wanted to use some umlauts for comedic effect, and by golly I did.  It’s unlikely I succeeded however, as funny letter symbols from foreign languages seldom amüse people and are more likely to scare them away from a post.  One can only hope I’ll lëarn from my mistäkes.

**Putting the iPhone in a container of uncooked rice is often effective for getting it to work again.  As for getting it to smell better, you’re on yoür own.

The Sarcasm Workout

In my defense, there were still some patches of snow around when I started writing this post, but I got distracted. Please forgive me.  (image from wikimedia dot org)
In my defense, there were still some patches of snow around when I started writing this post, but I got distracted. Please forgive me. (image from wikimedia dot org)

It looks like spring might finally be here.  There are buds on the trees and migratory bird-shit on the pollen on the snow.  Spring means one thing; it’s time to shape up.  Even though my abs look like I’m 5 months pregnant and the places where my arm muscles used to be look about as well-defined as sausages, I’m not talking about the traditional pumping of iron.

I need to get some tone where it counts – on my sarcasm muscles.  The past 17 months of winter have done wonders for my cynicism, and I’ve got a personal best for reps of bitterness, but my sarcasm is as flabby as Rush Limbaugh’s third neck wattle – that’s right, I said the third one!  Any flabbier and Obamacare would cover me for a wattle-ectomy (obviously my irony still has a pulse).

Wattles two through five are kind of merged together into one mega-wattle in this pic, but you get the idea.  (Image from wikimedia dot commons)
Wattles two through five are kind of merged together into one mega-wattle in this pic, but you get the idea. (Image from wikimedia dot commons)

The logical place to turn was the myriad of gyms which sprout up constantly in my area, usually in under-performing strip malls.  They promise all sorts of workouts and low introductory rates.  Surely one of these sweat shops could help me.  I checked in at the one just down the highway which was sandwiched between a vacant supermarket and a space which had a sign in the window promising that a pet grooming business was “Comming Soon“.  Clearly the spelling portion of the pet grooming curriculum is not as critical as “Advanced Schnauzer Trimming” or graduate level offerings such as “Persian Cats and the Dingleberry Dilemma.”

I was set up to chat with a personal trainer.  He seemed like a nice enough guy and had one hell of a handshake, but I wasn’t sure he was going to be able to help me.

I need to tone up my sarcasm” I told him.  There was no need to beat around the bush, and I wanted to avoid having him start focusing on my absent abs or gelatinous gluts.

He looked a little confused for a second, but then he nodded his head.  “Sure!” he said.  “I can see that you know your anatomy.”  He started going into some discussion about which machines would focus on which muscle groups and after a minute or two, it was clear that he’d confused the sarcasm muscle with the one called the “sartorius”.

The sartorius is the green one, and this is a right leg.  If the sartorius on your left leg runs in this direction, or if you have an erection lasting more than four hours, see your healthcare professional right away.  (Image from kenhub dot com)
The sartorius is the green one, and this is a right leg. If the sartorius on your left leg runs in this direction, or if you have an erection lasting more than four hours, see your healthcare professional right away. (Image from kenhub dot com)

I left the gym without signing anything and trudged across the nearly empty parking lot with the added burden of knowing that my sartorius muscles were withered.  I tried not to think about how horrific I’d look in a bathing suit, with neither well-defined muscles nor the defense of sarcasm I’d need to deal with the disapproving stares of fellow beach goers.

I tried another gym.  Since sarcasm resides in the very center of my being, I foolishly assumed that working on my core strength would address it.  After one Pilates session, I realized that I was very much mistaken, and now my tummy hurts when I laugh.  Fortunately, nothing is that funny these days.  Hot yoga also turned out to be a bust from a sarcasm-building standpoint, but I did discover that after enough limbering up, I am physically capable of kicking myself in the ass.

Having struck out in gyms, I decided to take a break from the quest to rebuild my diminished sarcasm.  I turned to my trusted friend the internet.  After brief forays into Dutch Toe-porn and checking the Facebook status of that girl who sat behind me in 3rd grade and allegedly ate paste, I surfed over to the news.  There were tons of stories from the world of entertainment, sports and politics.

It seems Subway, among others, has long been using an ingredient in their breads which is also found in yoga mats.  The company has been so concerned that they are nearly done phasing it out of the recipe.  This begs the questions as to whether your sandwich tastes like a yoga mat, or if your yoga mat tastes like a sandwich (or in some cases, both).  For the record, toasting ones yoga mat will make hot yoga even hotter.

Stephen Colbert has been attacked via Twitter for upsetting some group.  Calls for his firing were attached to a hashtag.  He’s been such a target of onslaught that he’s been awarded the single most prestigious job in TV, replacing a retiring David Letterman.  There’s rumor of a new Twitter option which essentially says #GoAheadAndGetMeFiredBecauseIveAlreadyGotABetterJobLinedUp.

Back in January, an Ohio man was buried straddling his beloved Harley in a custom plexiglass casket.  A team of morticians (and/or taxidermists) labored to insert rods into his back and take the necessary steps to keep him upright on the Electra Glide for all eternity.  This is a perfect example of the kind of human interest stories which got buried*  due to all the media hype about stray dogs at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

* Pun not originally intended, but left in as an attempt at appearing clever.

If the sight of a dead guy on a motorcycle in a big plastic box offends you, then avert your eyes from the picture above.  If you already looked, just pretend you didn't see it. (Image from the Dayton daily news dot com)
If the sight of a dead guy on a motorcycle in a big plastic box offends you, then avert your eyes from the picture above. If you already looked, just pretend you didn’t see it. (Image from the Dayton daily news dot com)

With each word I read, I can feel the sarcasm rising within me like a crocus shoot breaking through the permafrost.  It seems the answer to my problem has been right at my fingertips all along.  With my sarcasm back on track to potency, maybe I’ll find the time to work on those saggy sartorius muscles after all.