Says men are under no obligation to pay attention to slatternly wives, let alone do them. Millions of beleaguered husbands heave a collective sigh of relief, scratch their guts and go back to watching the wrestling.
So last night, Stephen Colbert pointed a satirical finger at Pat Robertson’s use of the term “slatternly” in a recent installment of that must-see cable juggernaut The 700 Club. Now assuming both Pat and Stephen are among my regular readers — they’re most likely in that group of guys wearing sunglasses and trying to look inconspicuous over in the corner — they would be quite familiar with the way of the slattern.
The 700 Club, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this regular exercise in sanctimonious buffoonery, is, well, a regular exercise in sanctimonious buffoonery. Since we’ve all got our 19th Century dictionaries out anyway, those of you not familiar with the term buffoonery can look it up. As an added bonus, you’ll find that the entry also contains a photo of the self-righteous old twaddle slinger, Pat (né Marion) Robertson, himself. With a prénom like that, I think it’s safe to conclude his parents went all 19th Century on his ass from day one.
Though I could go on at some length about the many merits of frolicking with an uppity slattern and why it is a vastly superior experience to rolling around with a desiccated old bag of kitchen-scrubbing, scripture-spouting bones, I think all of you are smart enough to figure it out. If I’ve offended anyone by this point, well, what the frack are you doing here anyway? So let’s just push old Pat (né Marion) and his mindless monkey chatter aside for the moment and focus on something intelligent, namely antiquated vocabulary. Specifically, having resuscitated the term slattern, I have several more previous-century words I’d like to bring back.
These are both descriptors I heard quite often as a child, generally from my grandmothers. More often than not, one or the other was used in a cautionary way, as in, “Don’t you DARE sneak another cookie before supper or I’ll be very cross with you.” I love this word. It conveys the exact tight-lipped, rage-swallowing self-control that pervades interactions among residents of the colder climes.
Ugly, I believe, is more of a regional term, and I suspect it’s peculiar to Maine, where, as I may have mentioned, I grew up. Rather than the conventional meaning, physically unattractive in the extreme, there it is used to indicate an aggressively bad mood, wherein the subject is not to be trifled with. For example, “Jesus H. Christ, Myrtle, don’t bite my head off. How was I s’poseta’ know you was savin’ them beers and little smokies for your craftin’ club meetin’? Why’re you so friggin’ ugly anyway?” If cross is a warning shot, ugly is a full frontal attack complete with drawn bayonets, mounted cavalry and tanks. You’d need a nuke to stop it, and if you don’t have one, you’d best run for cover.
(Noun, pubic wig)
Back in the days when life was everywhere nasty, brutish and short, what with annual baths, barber-based medicine and universal oppression, people at all levels of society were far filthier than they are now. As such, head and body lice were pretty much de rigueur for everyone, which is why pates and privates were often shaved and wigs donned. Born of necessity, they became quite fashionable. Think George Washington, Louis XV and Madame Pompadour.
Apparently, however, the craze for denuded genitalia hadn’t yet caught fire, as it were. Hence the need for merkins, especially among the era’s sex workers who were, of course, several rungs lower on the social ladder than their merely slatternly sisters.
In these days of the Brazilian and the sphinx, when even men are eliminating any trace of secondary sexual development, it seems to me the revival of the merkin is all but assured. Eventually fashion, being what it is, will cause huge swaths of the population to rethink all that laser hair removal as trends swing in another, more hirsute direction. Merkin demand will doubtless shoot up and the money that was invested in hair replacement will return tenfold or more. You heard it here first, folks.
(Noun, naughty behavior, wickedness)
Again, I often encountered this word in my childhood, when for example I filled in the little white roses on my bedroom wallpaper with red nail polish or scarfed the entire box of Pop Tarts at breakfast before my sister could have even one. To my delight, deviltry is something you get up to, much like slatternly behavior. And so the pattern emerges.
(Verb, to act or move in a markedly self-important or pretentious manner)
Bertie Wooster famously described the aspiring dictator Spode and his brown shorts-clad followers as “…swanking around town in brown shorts and footer boots.” Though it can be used as a simple verb (to swank is to brag or act in an overconfident manner), I much prefer the phrasal form, swank around. There’s something almost onomatopoeic about it; just the sound conveys a particular kind of motion. Among all the parts of speech, I have a marked preference for verbs, and this is among my all time favorites.
I might say, for example, “The sight of Pat (né Marion) Robertson swanking around the set of The 700 Club and yammering on about female grooming standards makes me so ugly I could really get up to some deviltry and knock his sorry ass into next week.”
* * * * * * *
Many thanks to my favorite slattern, Miss Snarky Pants, aka Cristy Carrington Lewis, for the heads up on Colbert.
Interested in learning more about the slattern’s credo? Think you can stomach it? Well, here you go, but don’t say I didn’t warn you: