Balaam’s Butt

Excessive Mormon prudery comes in at least two (admittedly overlapping) flavors. First, there’s the sex. “Making love” — to say nothing of “having sex” — often becomes “being intimate” in our lexicon. Infamous stories of marital lovemaking with one’s garments on aren’t entirely apocryphal, believe it or not. And I’m told that “intimacy” manuals for LDS audiences often turn euphemism into a high art. Sexual prudishness is not uniquely Mormon, of course. But I suspect some of it’s odd manifestations do come in unique Mormon forms, though perhaps my ignorance of other conservative faith communities skews my perceptions here somewhat.

Next is our silly oversensitivity to “bad words,” many of which are scatological, and some of which are sexual (thus the overlap). Balaam’s ass is regularly described as Balaam’s donkey in our Old Testament Gospel Doctrine manual, despite the additional gallons of ink such a word choice requires. I fondly recall my LDS classmate in 6th grade who couldn’t bring herself to read aloud the words “pooh-pooh” (as in “Jack pooh-poohed Jill’s choice of hill”), because it sounded, you know, like “poo-poo.” I’ve known LDS families who won’t even use the phrase “Number 2″ — to say nothing of “poop” or “crap” — to describe their bowel movements because this sounds too casual, preferring instead to teach little Johnnie and Sally to use phrases like, well, “bowel movement” (which sounds oddly clinical coming from the mouth of a 6-year old and actually focuses inordinate attention on the operations of the digestive tract, but whatever). Again, I don’t know if hypersensitivity to words that describe body parts or functions is particularly Mormon, but in my limited experience it seems to be.

My all-time favorite incident of bizarre Mormon sexual prudery took place a number of years ago in one of my Los Angeles wards. A young deacon or pre-deacon was playing soccer with fellow ward members on the lawn. Presumably having just learned about Cro-Magnons, Neanderthals and Homo Erectus in school, he insulted a fellow player by calling him a “Homo Erection.” Unfortunately for the boy, his parents were standing near-by and overheard his outburst. An understandably mortified father approached his son, grabbed him by the arm and proceeded to verbally accost him. I expected a short, brusque speech about vulgar language and being worthy to hold the priesthood. What I didn’t expect was:

“Jonathan! What have we taught you? ERECTIONS ARE SACRED !!!!”

WOW. All I could do was stand there in amazement, and imagine being a teenage boy having his excitable genitals regularly hallowed and sanctified by Mom and Dad. Please tell me this phrase wasn’t lifted from the Young Men’s manual. (I was also immediately overcome by the desire for someone to cross-stitch “Erections Are Sacred” on a pillow for me, surrounded by a lovely floral pattern, so I could put it on my couch).

My all-time favorite example of bizarre Mormon verbal prudery involves a friend of one of my BYU roommates. Before his mission he was apparently a typical teenager, who liked to use the slang term “Bad Ass” a lot. But post-mission, he decided he was too mature and spiritual to say this anymore. So, rather than excising it from his vocabulary completely, he decided to replace it with … wait for it … “Bad Butt.” He’d use it constantly in conversation:

“Dude, that is soooo bad butt!”
“Did you see how John beat the crap out of Travis yesterday? John is one serious bad butt!”
“Oh my gosh, the rims on your truck are totally bad butt, dude!”

All these years later, I still cringe whenever I remember the bad butt guy. I just don’t have the words to describe how silly he was. Who sanitizes their rebellious banter in order to avoid pronunciation of a word that is really no more offensive than the one replacing it? On what planet is this verbal distinction thought to be morally significant? On ours, it seems.

Now, I realize that what counts as “excessive” is a matter of opinion. Some will draw the line differently than me. But I hope we can all agree that there are some instances of Mormon prudery that really are excessive, even if we’re destined to disagree at the margins. Also, I remember and share these particular examples because they are so wacky. And perhaps they are wacky because they are outliers — extreme examples of trends that aren’t representative of the norm. But I don’t know. There are so many additional instances of prudery-run-amok I could have shared that I’m not convinced I’ve gone out on a limb here. You tell me.

Mormons have the justified reputation of being unusually wholesome, chaste and morally upright in our personal lives. Good for us; I have no interest in devaluing or denigrating the qualities from which this reputation is derived. But I wonder about the cause-effect relationship between our sexual and moral conservatism and our seemingly silly taboos. Do the taboos help us maintain our conservatism? Or are they merely a by-product of that conservatism which, while perhaps unsurprising, shouldn’t be confused with the norms of chastity, purity, etc. that we extol? Can we exude a little less prudishness (please!), and still retain our moral virtue, or are the two destined to go together like stink on shit crap bowel movement?

UPDATE: Many thanks to Tracy M for making my wildest dreams come true:

Comments

  1. Meh, I think it’s an extension of a psychological need to avoid unclean things. Human brains are wired to be disgusted (though it actually develops around 6 years old or so). It’s the same reason that you would never want to buy fresh vegetables at the supermarket if they were right next to the kitty litter. Our brains have different boxes for clean and unclean things for a reason: we want to avoid things that might make us sick.

    Since often words activate the regions of the brain associated with interaction with that thing, certain words are disgusting, and the funny thing is, the euphemisms of today become the rude words of tomorrow. “Toilet” was once a euphemism. I’m not sure it’s a Mormon thing, I think it’s just a psychological thing. Maybe.

  2. Aaron R. says:

    I remember about a year ago, just after Church had finished on a warm summer afternoon two youth running down the halls of our local chapel, while one of them (the first) was screaming “Eliot’s Got Pubes!”. Eliot was the second youth. In the words of Elder Holland, that was a ‘genuine ecclesiastical thrill’.

    To the OP: Agreed. Though I did have a YM leader who insisted that if we used the S*!t in its proper context then it was not swearing. He got married recently and I wonder how he talks to his wife about being intimate.

  3. Last Lemming says:

    Even your “bad butt” story does not top the American Family Association’s announcement through its OneNewsNow news service that Tyson Homosexual had won the U.S. Olympic trials in the 100 meter dash.

  4. I long ago determined that the only appropriate euphemism (and this one, luckily, covers all “bad” words) is smurf. “Dude, that is sooooo smurfed up!” All others are moronic. Moratorium on “shiz”, “ace”, “heck”, “frick”, “flip”, etc.

    If my coworker says “Bad Ace” one more time, I’m going to go biblical on his “ace”.

    And for the record, my erection is sacred.

  5. Cynthia L. says:

    It is one thing to choose to describe Balaam’s ass as.a donkey when writing your own prose. That seems mostly reasonable. What is always insane to me is when people edit it on the fly while reading the verses out of the Bible. Do those people think about the fact that they are editing the Bible? They are editing the Word of God–does that mean they are holier than God or?!

  6. Aaron R. says:

    Syphax, though I agree that there might be a psychological component I disagree with the implication that distinguishing between clean and unclean is the same as feeling the need to substitute for butt for ass. I am not arguing that anything goes in every setting but I am saying that if we can’t to our children about sex in straight forward terms then there is something mis-directed about the way we (Mormons) approach language.

  7. Aaron-Thank for a delightfully humorous post! I needed a good chuckle today, and you sir, have provided me with one.

  8. I’m constantly reminded that Aaron has some sort of bizzaro Mormon magnet. I like my world better.

  9. Aaron B says:

    Nope. I just wallow in and put to memory all instances of bizarreness that I run across. We all live in the same world, but I take notes.

  10. Starfoxy says:

    I seem to recall someone on FMH talking about “chicken chests” since that person’s mother couldn’t bring herself to say “breasts.”

    I also recall a girl I went to HS with commenting on how funny the word “bosoms” sounds and making our seminary teacher very very uncomfortable.

  11. Michael A says:

    My mom went perhaps even one step further than bowel movement: BM. At least that’s what I remember her calling it when I was a child. I still laugh to this day at a college roommate referring to the process of defecation as laying track.

  12. Chelsea says:

    I for one would love to see “Erections Are Sacred” embroidered on a pillow. Thanks for giving me my first belly laugh of the day!

  13. Latter-day Guy says:

    “Jonathan! What have we taught you? ERECTIONS ARE SACRED!!!!”

    Ho. Ly. Sh*t. Either a case of high octane prudery, or somebody needs to call CPS stat! Maybe both.

  14. I’m teaching a co-worker who grew up in a very structured society how to drive. She’s very careful to try to do everything exactly as I tell her, but it actually makes me nervous because she can’t seem to place my instructions in context. She seems to lack “awareness”. I took her out on the freeway for the first time, and when it came time to exit, I warned her that the off-ramp had a really sharp turn, so she needed to slow down. Just after I said this, she then saw the yellow “25mph” sign and started looking fixedly at the speedometer. She slowed down all right, but she forgot to turn. If I hadn’t grabbed the wheel, we would have hit the guardrail.

    When it comes to sex and prudery, I think Mormons are very much the same way. We’re so careful with our words regarding sex we can’t even communicate. You interview Mormon youth for temple baptism recommends, and you’d be surprised the number of 15-year-olds who don’t know what the Law of Chastity even is. Combine that with the fact that most of them have probably been exposed to some pretty explicit pr0n (which they clearly know is bad) and they can develop some unhealthy attitudes towards sexuality.

  15. Erections are more sacred for old men than they are for teens.

  16. I’m thinking it is a pretty Mormon-centric thing, however my parents were the same way, and they are not Mormon. It’s why I can’t stand swearing even now. When my dad would get mad or frustrated, he’d say, “Fiddlesticks!”

    I’m not joking.

  17. Chelsea says:

    LOL @ Martin (15)!!

  18. (I was also immediately overcome by the desire for someone to cross-stitch “Erections Are Sacred” on a pillow for me, surrounded by a lovely floral pattern, so I could put it on my couch).

    I just got a great idea for a YW value project.

  19. britt k says:

    the only one I can think of off hand is a non mormon one… When i was a teenager my mom babysat. One of the little 3yo boys was potty training. His mom had taught him to say “i need to make a deposit in the bank”. That poor child. I later babysat him. His mom was a single mom living with her parents in a very nice house. As we were walking from the dining room to the bedroom we passed through a nice room with a tile path down the center. There were pieces of art and statues in the room. We were skipping and he slipped and fell with his hand touching the carpet…the horror and fear on his face was so sad…don’t tell he said. I didn’t mean to go on the carpet… :(

    I live in the south among conservative christians…we have no monopoly on this.

  20. britt k says:

    oh I jsut remembered a mormon one… our primary chorister (Recently released HALLALUJAH!) was teaching junior primary “What child is this” She changed the words so they didn’t have to say Ass. Then explained why she changed the words, spent all sorts of time and attention on the word ass… awesome

  21. oudenos says:

    Erections are sacred, not secret. Duh.

  22. oudenos says:

    Freshman year at BYU dorms.

    Super-prude dorm mate is telling a story about two dogs mating and one jerky dorm mate keeps making the prude refer to the female dog as ‘bitch’ since that is good canine technical language and the prude reluctantly starts to use bitch in his story. Then when he gets to the part about the male dog in the mating equation he, unprovoked, says, “and then the bastard mounts the bitch and…” Totally rad. I guess since he was ‘swearing’ in calling the female dog a bitch he might as well go full tilt and call that male dog a bastard.

  23. Didn’t Arnold Friberg make a painting of “The Sacred Erection”? I think I remember seeing that once in a church library.

  24. Of course, if he didn’t, that REALLY should be the next installment of “The Illuminated Matsby”

  25. I really don’t get the prudery. It is one thing to use appropriate language. It is another to go so far off the beaten path that nobody knows what you are talking about – not even you!

    What I really get a kick out of, though, is the substitution of one word for another, especially when it comes to cursing. If you are using a hammer and hit your finger, the non-vulgar exclamation would be, “OW!!!! That HURTS!!!” The vulgar-substitution is “Oh my heck! That flippin’ hurts like shiz!” I don’t even know what these phrases mean, though. It is just cursing in another language.

  26. Wait…wait. All this time I could have been having sex with my garments *off*?

  27. philomytha says:

    My daughter at 4 got very alarmed by bodily functions and wouldn’t let us say “poop” anymore. She required us to say “defecate” for a while, and then decided we just wouldn’t ever mention it.

    Now that she’s older and has a little brother she gleefully participates in the butt and fart jokes. I wish I could inspire just a little more prudery…

    The worst illustration of Mormon prudery I experienced was the chastity lessons in YW where they told us to avoid necking and petting. By the time I figured out what that meant I’d already done it. I hope they’re using some clearer terms these days.

  28. The Other Brother Jones says:

    !!I am really enjoying this post!!
    But these issues definitely add to sexual problems and Pr0n. We can’t understand it because we can’t talk about it. So we avoid it and it becomes the elephant in the room.

    I am not stating my point very well. I see others saying the same thing. Maybe I need a eupemism!

  29. Mark B. says:

    There was a young Guyanese kid in our ward, about 13, giving his first talk in sacrament meeting about the ten commandments. It seems that he hadn’t read them all the way through beforehand, so, when he got to the last one, with that long list of things not to covet, he stopped short, then, with a shrug of his shoulders and a “well, it says it right here” added “thy neighbor’s ass.”

    Best. Youth. Speaker. Ever!

  30. Wow. And I thought I was prudish!

  31. MikeInWeHo says:

    Margaret White: I can see your dirty pillows. Everyone will.

    Carrie: Breasts, Mama. They’re called breasts, and every woman has them.

  32. Antihero says:

    I had a very uptight missionary in my zone that I took on splits with me one day. He was fairly new in the mission, and his trainer was a much more relaxed Brazilian. We ended up teaching a first discussion, and he led into Joseph Smith’s vision, the uptight American missionary said, “E ele pensou, puta merda, que devo hacer?” Which roughly translates to “He thought to himself, sh!t b!tch, what should I do?”
    I think he thought the look of shock on the face of the member with with us was awe at the spirit. He almost cried later when I told him what he said. I, on the other hand, didn’t stop laughing all day.

  33. StillConfused says:

    1. What I hate more than silly words are the overly medically correct ones. I remember a little 5 year old going potty and the mom telling her to wipe her vagina. Gross. Be real and call it a hoochie or a cooter.

    2. When I was 17 I had ovarian cancer. After the surgery, they were apparently concerned whether things were working right. The nurse asked me if I had had a BM. I am wracking my mind to think what BM could stand for (I had never heard the term). I kept saying “What?” She would say it again and we were both getting very irritated with each other. She then asked if I had had a bowel movement. Now I had never heard that term either, so I kept saying “What?” FInally, the black lady nurse blurts “She wants to know if you took a crap yet.” To which I replied, “Well why the heck didn’t she just ask me that?”

    3. My husband tells me about a lady giving a talk at church. She was apparently crying like crazy. The bishop gets up to console her at the podium (in front of the microphone). She apologizes “I am sorry I am such a big boob.” To which the bishop replied, “That’s okay, I like big boobs.” Ooops.

  34. britt #19: that story about the little boy on the carpet makes me sad. My parents wouldn’t let us say fart, or the regular swear words and that was about it. I think it is kind of funny how people can be so caught up in not saying something that it becomes an obsession. We had a little boy come over to our house recently whose parents are major prudes. He was playing outside with my little girl. They got real quiet and were whispering to each other and so I snuck a little closer. They were saying “bathroom” words and giggling and jumped up when they saw me there. Way to teach him the thrill of doing something “bad.” But how do I explain to my girls that we have to be careful about the words we use around other people, without those words becoming a big deal?

    I never know what to do it situations where other people have higher standards that we do. Do I respect their standards and hold my kids to them temporarily? Or do I maintain consistency? We’ve had family come over to visit on a Sunday and my kids run out and jump on the trampoline, but the cousins aren’t allowed to because it is breaking the Sabbath. So their kids stare at my kids longingly. Should I make my kids come in? Or when we are camping and I let my kids sit next the fire and poke it with sticks and the other parents make their kids maintain a 10 foot distance from the fire. I just don’t know what to do in situations like that. I usually just let our kids do what they are allowed to and explain that different families have different rules.

    But then I have the problem of other kids telling my kids they are bad, when they are actually way more obedient and better behaved than the others. It is such a dilemma. I’ve also had the other parents crack down on my kids and warn me of the consequences of my permissiveness (and I’m totally not–just in comparison to them). It frustrates me because my kids are so well behaved and I can trust them. They absolutely have limits and they know that, but they also know that if they do what they are supposed to, they can have more privileges.

    Anyway, getting off topic. This is just one of those things about parenting that I didn’t know would be an issue and I honestly don’t know how to deal with it.

  35. StillConfused’s husband’s bishop FTW!!!!!!

  36. I was reading that and it sounded like I think my kids are perfect little angels. My kids are very well behaved in public. When it is just me and them, they are little monsters. :)

  37. Aaron B says:

    “The nurse asked me if I had had a BM”

    What you should have said is, “Why, no nurse, I don’t have Bruce McConkie with me. Nor a copy of his Mormon Doctrine. Why the Hell would you ask such a stupid thing?”

  38. Stephanie says:

    Re 24. No, please, no!

  39. Kathryn Lynard Soper says:

    Fave read-aloud line from the Balaam lesson a while back: And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?

  40. Clearly Heavenly Father is an Ace Ventura fan.

  41. BTD Greg says:

    Aaron, I think you should know by now that LDS bowel movements do not stink.

    Just ask commenters in the bloggernacle.

  42. I never liked calling it a BM.

    ………probably because that was my initials.

    With all this talk of bodily functions, you people almost made me spit my Coke Zero all over my monitor. Thank you for making my day!

  43. Nameless says:

    “I never know what to do it situations where other people have higher different standards that we do.”

    #34. There. Fixed it for you.

    In the camping example, I would let my kids do what I was comfortable with. You are going to confront this more and more as your kids get older–how do you feel about Pepsi–caffeine free Pepsi? What about sleeveless tops for your girls? PG13 movies? Reading Harry Potter? The list goes on…

    This post is great. I got a huge kick out of the OP and have enjoyed the comments as well. I checked in with my daughter on whether the terms necking and petting are still used in YW….yep.

  44. mapinguari says:

    My mother is horrified every time I, her thirtysomething son, use the words butt, crap, or fart. Such vulgarities never were to be used in my childhood home. Of course, I hold the memory of my mother once yelling, “Damn, damn, damn!” in anger as proof positive that even the queen of the prudes has a little darkness inside.

  45. Thanks for all the hilarious stories.

    So if erections are sacred, does that make Viagra holy water?

    Also, we really need to ditch “necking” and “petting.” I never had a clue what they meant when I heard them as a teen either. I can’t believe they’re still being used 20 years later.

  46. FlippinFantastic says:

    I need one of those embroidered pillows! I’m thinking Etsy. Anyone else?

  47. Chelsea says:

    StillConfused (33) – I am the opposite, I really think kids need to know the correct terminology for their private parts, especially girls. I have a friend who told her little girl to call her vulva her “front bum”. I think that’s horrible.

    In my house growing up we didn’t call them anything. To my parents, “fart” was the F word.

  48. I think this is as generational as it is Mormon. It may be that our conservative culture allows the shame of “bad” language to live on longer than it might with others.

    My mother used to teach us that people who used vulgar speech were just lazy and didn’t bother learning better ways to speak. (As I nine year old, I remember thinking that “vulgar” was the very best way to speak!)

  49. Ms. Otis says:

    I’ve been laughing so hard reading this. My 3 year old daughter asked why I was crying. … I LOVE BCC. And this post made my day.

  50. “Be real and call it a hoochie or a cooter.”

    Oh hell no. No way am I having my daughter refer to her body as a hoochie or a cooter. HELL no.

    I’m with Chelsea in #47. Use the right name. My daughter knows vulva, labia and vagina- and knows they are not the same. Ditto my boys. “Front bum” is an abomination.

  51. Cynthia L. says:

    Tracy, I believe you meant to say, “heck no.” ;-)

  52. I guess I don’t really care if my wife has a “hoochie/cooter” or a “vagina/vulva”. But I would have been REAL disappointed if she had a “Front Bum”. Talk about a buzzkill. I hope if I have daughters that they don’t have this malady either.

  53. Cynthia L. says:

    And put me down as another who had not the slightest clue what “necking” and “petting” were supposed to mean, much less the “heavy petting” distinction.

  54. TaterTot says:

    Add me to the list that always wondered what “necking” and “petting” were…… Now days we call that “making out.” :0)

  55. TaterTot says:

    #5….

    We recently covered this story in Sunday School. The teacher asked for a volunteer to read all those verses about Balaam’s ass…. Our Bishop quickly jumped on the chance to read and informed everyone that he would be changing “that word” to donkey….. My husband whispered under his breath, “What a prude!” I agree that we go a little overboard sometimes. It says it right in your scriptures and you can’t bring yourself to read it?!?!

  56. What? Nobody knew “necking” and “petting”?

    Oh… You talk in terms of bases: first base? well, okay. second base? no. third base? Definitely no. Home run? No mission for you!

    See, now everybody understands.

  57. My bishop used “necking” and “petting”, and then went on to describe what the words meant. Which made me wonder, well, why didn’t you just say that instead of “necking” and “petting”??

  58. 56 – I may be wrong, but I’m under the impression that sports references are considered vulgar here at BCC. Many of them are considering using euphemisms instead of saying baseball or basketball. “Yes, my son wants to play Jr. Jazz, so now I have to buy him an orangybouncer so he can practice”

  59. The search for euphemisms reminds me of when Tony Soprano asked his sister if Ralph Cifaretto had any “penissary contact with her volvo.”

  60. I knew what necking was, but only because I watched Happy Days.

  61. MikeInWeHo says:

    It’s fun to learn the expressions used in other countries. My British friend and I were in line for Disneyland at the station where they search your bags. It was amusing to see her look of shock when the cheerful security attendant said “I have to check your fanny pack.” I had no idea the word meant something completely different (and quite crude) in the U.K. Fun times.

    BTW: I love it that Mormon-code-cursing was used so extensively in Battlestar Galactica. Frackin’ Cylons!

  62. Mrs. Mike says:

    High-larious. My sons keep asking what I’m laughing at too. I love that my husband is Michael A #11 and I’m hearing the story about his Mom using the term BM on BCC. BTW is that why we initialize BCC because it’s considered dirty?

    As for parents mine were anything but prude. Yet I still didn’t know what necking and petting meant.

  63. Morgan Lee says:

    My dad never uses the word “fart”. But when I was a kid, that was the only term for it I knew. Well, one day the whole family was in the car and my dad was driving. I guess he smelled something foul because suddenly he said, “Morgan, did you pass gas?”

    Now, I was about 6 years old, and I had no idea what he’d just asked me. After thinking for a second, I figured that he must have asked me if I had “passed grass.” I looked out the window at the Florida roadside and saw green grass everywhere as we zoomed down the highway. I shrugged and said, “I’m passing it right now.” The whole family “eeewed” and laughed, and it was years later before I realized why.

  64. I was raised in dairy country, where people called things by their “vulgar” names. My mom celebrated when my dad finally gave in and started calling it “manure”.

    I don’t like the whole idea that there are “vulgar” words that can’t be used, while more “sophisticated” words are just fine. Pride and vanity run amok, imo – just another way to make and enforce class distinctions and create barriers between acceptable and non-acceptable people. Bastardizing our language in order to divide just doesn’t resonate with me.

    However, given the social standards of our prudish time, I am careful of what I say where and to whom, and I teach my children to do the same – but I refuse to replace Hell, damn and ass when they are part of our scriptural canon. Sometimes, assholiness simply goes too far.

  65. “but I refuse to replace Hell, damn and ass when they are part of our scriptural canon.”

    Well hell, Ray, you can kiss my damn ass if you aren’t willing to modify your linguistic behavior.

  66. #50
    I couldn’t agree more.

  67. Comment #33 reminded me of something …

    Dialogue recently made all its past articles available for online searching and reading – and I decided to search the word Isaiah … I ended up printing out and reading an article by David P. Wright – the article was titled “Joseph Smith’s Interpretation of Isaiah in the book of Mormon.”

    Unfortunately the very first sentence begins: “The Book of Mormon (hereafter BM) …”

    Knowing the common association of BM with something other than “Book of Mormon” … I thought that particular choice was rather unfortunate and distracting. Still made it through … but I couldn’t help but wonder why the author and/or editors hadn’t noticed and altered that designation.

  68. ClaudiaHen says:

    Hummm, never thought I’d be grateful for my uncles, who aren’t the least bit prudish, but it taught me to be frank with sexual matters.

    Sometimes they were a little too frank. Every year we had a white elephant exchange at our New Year’s Eve party and one year there was a rather interesting pair of men’s thong underwear which sported a stuffed elephant on the front. I was a young teenager at the time. Pretty hysterical stuff.

    My daughter is three and calls her vulva her bum. I cannot stop her doing it, even with numerous corrections. Maybe someday. She even told my husband today that he doesn’t have a bum, he has a penis. This could get complicated, fast.

    As far as neck and petting, I always knew what they meant, but knowing didn’t exactly stop me. . .

    And now I have officially overshared.

  69. Aaron B. Love the slanger, hate the slang.

  70. Left Field says:

    What’s wrong with calling body parts by their actual English names? We don’t have cute or vulgar terms for “elbow” or “liver.” Why do we need them for penis or vagina?

    Until I moved to Utah at about age 13, I had never heard the term “bum” used in reference to a body part. When I finally figured out what people were referring to, I took it as some weird Utah euphemism for “butt,” which was apparently too vulgar.

    I don’t think anyone under 70 uses the term BM any more. BM and D&C are both unfortunate terms to use for scripture.

  71. 64 – I’m pretty sure you’ve got it backwards. I don’t think sophisticates sit around thinking of new correct ways of saying things to disassociate themselves from lower classes. I’m pretty sure the vulgarities originate with the lower classes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a sociologist were able to show that they do it to differentiate themselves from those “sophisticated” people you refer to as assholes. Kinda like you did in your comment.

    From my point of view sophisticated =/= prudish

    (and for those keeping score B.Russ =/= sophisticated or prudish)

  72. Add my story to the list of those who have been utterly confused by the terms necking and petting.

    When I was 15, I was one of those horrible, evil, sinful Young Women who started semi-dating a (non-Mormon!) boy before I was 16. We would do things like innocently rub each others’ necks or backs. One day, probably after I’d had a church lesson on For Strength of Youth, I asked him whether those activities qualified as necking and petting. I’m still friends with this boy several years later, and he likes to embarrass me by pointing out my naivety.

  73. Kristine says:

    Danithew–a lot more people would have been upset if Dialogue had called the Book of Mormon “crap”!

  74. K. Cromar says:

    My now 6 year old son started calling his private part his “Peeps”. Just imagine that first Easter he could read in the candy aisle. He was amazed why people would buy a candied bird named after his…

  75. we encourage our kids to say crap but insist that they pronounce it with a scottish accent and preface it with holy.

  76. Norbert says:

    A friend visited some members in the USA, and she was changing to go swimming and the little girl walked in on her. It became fairly clear that the little girl had never seen a naked woman before. She asked some questions which my friend of course answered. Later, the girl asked the mother about what she had seen, and the mother told her that my friend had pubic hair because she was from Finland. My friend was rebuked mildly for allowing a child of the same sex to see her naked and to talk to her about it.

    This prudery is more of a confluence of Mormon and American (or maybe Anglo-Saxon) rather than either in isolation.

  77. It’s a left-over from the Puritans, I think, and has nothing to do with Mormonism, except through the accidental fact that Mormonism grew out of the same region and philosophical background that the Puritans cultivated.

  78. Aaron B says:

    For what it’s worth, I toyed with the idea of titling this post “Holy Boners and Balaam’s Butt,” but I stopped myself out of fear that J. Stapley’s head would explode.

    That is all.

  79. My parents used the word ‘jeep’ as a substitute for genitals. I believe neither my siblings nor I will ever buy an American car. Still can’t watch the ads w/o snickering. ‘I live. I ride. I drive’.

  80. Natasha says:

    (The comments are not numbered on my iPhone so I can’t make easy reference to other comments.)

    I rank cooter with pussy. Ugh. I can’t believe I just wrote that. Crass and derogatory. The only people I know who use those words are people whom I would not want to have over for dinner.

    We use proper words with our kids because it seems normal and logical but also so that if anyone ever touched them intimately they would be able to say where and it would make for easier and better testimony in court.

    I must admit, though, that when my son came up with the term “penis orange” for his scrotum when he was two or three that I did little to correct him.

    I am reading in bed trying to get tired and not only is this post counter- productive but this comment made me laugh hard, shaking my husband awake. Oops.

    I guess I don’t really care if my wife has a “hoochie/cooter” or a “vagina/vulva”. But I would have been REAL disappointed if she had a “Front Bum”. Talk about a buzzkill. I hope if I have daughters that they don’t have this malady either.”

  81. B.Russ – Actually, class distinctions were a big factor in differentiating which language was deemed “correct” vs. “vulgar” (although it may not be obvious to us since many of these distinctions originated hundreds of years ago).

    In the large majority of cases, you can discover that the “proper” terms for bodily functions have Latinate (or sometimes Greek) roots, while the “vulgar” terms have Anglo-Saxon or Germanic roots.

    Body parts and anatomic functions are not the only area where you can see this distinction. Consider food: the English-speaking poor spoke of “cows” and “deer”, while the richer French speakers who actually got to eat meat named the food dishes — hence, “beef” and “veal.”

  82. … “beef” and “vension,” that is (although “veal” illlustrates the point equally well.

  83. philomytha says:

    #58 – I’m totally using the orangybouncer from now on. Although after reading all these comments it kinda sounds obscene…

  84. philomytha says:

    Even more so since I left out the word “word”. I’m totally using the word orangybouncer from now on…

  85. SLO Sapo says:

    A while ago we were driving along with our two young granddaughters in the back seat. Some idiot sped by and seriously cut me off. Forgetting who was in the back seat, I called out loudly, “Oh, you stupid a**hole!”

    To which the four-year-old responded, “Papa! That’s a bad word! We don’t say ‘stupid’!”

  86. This post is rather funny to me because my father has recently taken offense to the word “crap” He is 51 years old, and just now decides it is bad. I think much of our prudeness comes from the Puritan tradition, and is more endemic in society, particularly among well established groups that have Puritan roots. I was raised to use the clinical terms for the human body, my dad is an registered nurse.

  87. I grew up with BM and urinate. My parents were careful to explain everything. I can not remember the circumstances but my father explained the word “bitch” as a female dog. As a matter of completeness he explained that some people used it as an opprobrium.

    Driving home late one night in a very crowded car after sacrament meeting and a fireside, Alan tuned to my brother and said, “Richard, you are a real dog!” Without skipping a beat I replied, “Yeh, he is a real son of a bitch!” There was silence in Heaven for about 30 seconds. I was almost old enough to know better.

    So much for too much information and way to much explanation.

    For the record we did not use BM when raising children.

    My wife’s grandmother, Lula Jane Hatch, wife of the stake president, in Snowflake, could not restrain her tongue so she changed the words. Her favorite expression was shiite poke for her children. (This expression is so good but has gone out of style.) There is something in the brain that requires swearing. Sometimes it has to happen.

  88. “Papa! That’s a bad word! We don’t say ‘stupid’!”

    My husband teaches CTR7 and he uses the word “stupid” all the time. He says half the kids just sit there open-mouthed and scandalized.

  89. Add me to the long, long, long list of people who didn’t know what necking or petting were–and I’d read Nancy Friday, Dr. David Reuben (Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask) and a library full of bodice rippers by the time I got to YW.

    Re Girl parts: “nooks and crannies” in my house for casual conversation (as in, did you wash them well?), and vagina, vulva, etc. for instructional purposes. Boy parts: I can’t get my husband to call it a penis, although I do. So, 4yo XY says “pee-pee” when speaking to daddy and “penis” when speaking to me.

    And, hate to admit it, but I consider it a good day if I haven’t said sh!t in front of my kids and a good month when I haven’t dropped the F-bomb. No, I don’t mean “fart,” either.

  90. Oh also? The post and comments had me in stitches. I can’t remember anything too bizarre, although all my experiences have been along those lines.

    Anti-prudery at church:

    I was playing the piano for primary and a 7-yo boy on the front row had his hand down his pants scratching his boyparts with great enthusiasm.

    The primary president leaned over to the secretary and said, “Once they find it, they never let go.”

  91. “Again, I don’t know if hypersensitivity to words that describe body parts or functions is particularly Mormon, but in my limited experience it seems to be.”

    Particularly a Mormon phonomenon? I don’t think so. I remember a gentleman I met in South America, not a member, who would say Lake Tikitaca so as to avoid saying caca at the end of the real name.

  92. Aaron B says:

    Note I didn’t say “peculiarly” Mormon phenomenon, but “particularly” Mormon phenonemon, by which I meant to acknowledge that the phenomenon isn’t uniquely Mormon, but that it is nonetheless considerably more pronounced among Mormons than it is in many (most?) other communities.

  93. 81 – Thats really interesting, and a good point. I guess I was thinking more case-to-case. I’ve known some blue collar people who as children speak the same as everyone else in elementary school, but over time develop stronger “hick” accents and start using more country colloquialisms. Maybe I’m wrong.

  94. I think we all have a few stories about verbal skittishness taken to extremes. When my aunt visited my family a few years ago, we got a bunch of pizzas and soda for dinner. When we offered them the choices of soda, including root beer, my aunt explained that they didn’t say root beer in their family because it used the word “beer.” Instead, they called it “brown soda.” I thought that was absurd, and couldn’t resist saying, “Brown soda sounds worse than root beer. It sounds like you’re drinking poo juice.” My aunt didn’t appreciate my comment, and I probably should have kept my mouth shut, but it really was overkill.

  95. Starfoxy says:

    When we offered them the choices of soda, including root beer, my aunt explained that they didn’t say root beer in their family because it used the word “beer.”
    That reminds me of how my mom quit making coffee cake at all because 4 year old me started telling strangers how much I loved “coffee.” My siblings are still upset at me for this.

  96. Latter-day Guy says:

    94, How did they feel about ginger ale?

  97. buraianto says:

    B Russ #4: I have a friend who, for a while, would say, “Smurf me in the smurf” when angry. He used it until someone else told him he was a bit creeped out by the phrase.

    We grew up using the term BM, which is why we always got a kick driving by Battle Mountain in Nevada, where they have emblazoned the initials up on the mountainside. Now that is one big pile of [fill in your euphemism here].

    Brandt #42, don’t feel bad about your initials. I still remember the giggle fit my day camp counselor got on the last day of camp when he realized that my initials are BS. Hades, I was laughing along that it took him all week to recognize it.

    I used the word butt with my son, along with other words, until my mom came to visit and wondered where my son got his potty mouth. She figured it must have been from other kids at school, and I didn’t have the [s]balls[/s] guts to tell her that he got it from me. Now he has one less word to use.

    And front butt to me has always applied only to overweight females with unfortunate shapes.

  98. Peter LLC says:

    the mother told her that my friend had pubic hair because she was from Finland.

    So does that mean American Mormons are clean shaven? Is hairlessness next to Godliness?

  99. philomytha says:

    Apparently I still don’t have this “necking and petting” thing sussed out. What’s the difference between petting and heavy petting?

  100. Latter-day Guy says:

    99, Different kinds of zoos.

  101. buraianto says:

    When people talked about necking the image that came to mind was of two giraffes doing their neck thing.

  102. How did they feel about ginger ale?

    I never did find out. They may have called it “amber soda” for all I know.

  103. britt k says:

    As for definitions, my laurel advisor wasn’t into specificty. Her daughter WAS…and brought a picture of two giraffes and basically told her mother unless she was specific, we would all know to avoid giraffes and dogs and that was it….

    She gave these definitions, which I have never really bothered to check…

    necking-kissing other places around the neck-ears..that sort of thing

    petting touching the private body parts of others-while clothed-with our hands

    heavy petting touching each other while naked, or touching their private body parts with our

    anyway…as laurels-we were shocked this lady said it…her daughter was satisfied she had sufficiently embarassed her mom.

  104. oudenos says:

    A late submission:

    My wife wants it to be known that she grew up saying flatus for fart, as in “excuse me, I just flatused.” Her grandmother was a nurse and insisted upon this usage.

    Her mother uses the adjective “stinky” substantively as a euphemism for poop, as in “little Johnny just made a stinky in the toilet.” She also uses “wet” for pee, as in “Susie, do you need to wet?” Barf, puke, vomit, or any other such word is also off limits, only throw-up will do. All of this is, however, countermanded by my father-in-law’s fairly regular usage of an ol’timey oath said with a Utah twang: “bull-shyit.”

  105. oudenos says:

    One more submission.

    Scene: Today at Sunday School during lesson about Eli and his wayward sons.

    Comment: “blah, blah, blah, apparently Eli didn’t have the balls to discipline his sons whereas we see Samuel being bold at a young age blah, blah, blah…” The commenter didn’t even pause when he delivered this bon mot. Oh, and to be clear about the class/education of the commenter, he is taking his PhD this week from a respected research university and one of most brilliant people that I have ever met.

    Reaction: Chuckles and looks of shock all around, except for the two sets of grandparents visiting the ward, they looked like they might be sick. I didn’t have the heart to turn around and take a look at his wife’s face.

    It was a good day at church.

  106. #81
    Julie,
    I just looked a bunch of words up. That is fascinating! Thanks.

  107. Laughing says:

    I thought it was bad enough that in my home growing up we were taught to say “B.M.” (which for a few years I thought was spelled “beeyem” because I didn’t know it stood for bowel movement).

    But, even worse, my in-laws say that somebody “had a move”; i.e., “Little Johnny had a move after dinner.” Could you get any more euphemistic?

    This is an awesome post.

  108. Bruce Rogers says:

    Words are used with different definitions over time. For example, the word “intelligence” was used as a noun by Joseph Smith to refer to a person in the pre-existence. That definition is not in Webster’s dictionary, but it is defined in the official writings of the Church.
    We need to be charitable and try to understand how a writer is using a word. We can then decide if we agree with it or not.
    As for the proper terminology for bodily functions, I decided that I would try to use the terminology that was used in medical textbooks used in medical schools. That same terminology will be found in any professionally written book on medicine for the general public. Then there is no need for controversy in terminology. I used that with my children and had no problems. Of course, if I need an expert opinion, I call my son and ask him, since he is a Urologist at a large hospital and knows far more vocabulary than I will ever know.

  109. Dave P. says:

    Some of the greatest prudeness stories in Mormon history can well come from people who own and breed dogs.

  110. StillConfused says:

    When I first met my new husband, we were carpooling on a long trip. As one who abhors unnecessary stops, before we left his house, I asked him if he had “gotten all of his pee-pees out.” (Yes I am in my 40s and he is in his 50s). He said that he found my terminology a big crass and preferred the term “take a leak.”

    What I refer to as “going poo” he refers to as “going to the bank.” Those his terminology can be the cause for confusion on road trips. My sister prefers “dropping the kids off at the pool.”

  111. Stillconfused,
    I’m absolutely new here but you have prompted me to make my first post.
    Your sister should know that “dropping the kids off at the pool” has to do with “little swimmers” that guys can drop off at the pool – perhaps after one of those sacred erections and perhaps after the plain old secular kind.
    If she said she was going to “drop the kids off at the pool” in the wrong company, I can imagine there would be a plethora of new material for blogs like this one.
    FWIW. :)

  112. 111,

    Nope, thats not what it means at all.
    Here are two references to back up StillConfused’s sister’s usage (because we can’t really claim anything without references, right?):

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=drop+kids+off+at+pool
    http://xkcd.com/168/

  113. I just have to say, this is one of the best posts and threads I have run across in the bloggernacle, ever. I want that “Erections are sacred” cross stitch.

    I also owe a great debt of gratitude to this post for finally explaining what BM is. As a kid, my parents used the term, and so did we kids, but I never heard any of my friends use it — none of them, anywhere, so I never used it outside the home, and really haven’t used it since.

    The funniest part, to me anyway, is that I always assumed it was a word, not initials. I have no idea how it would have been spelled though. Beiem? I haven’t even thought about this “word” in so long, that it never even registered that it might mean bowel movement.

    Wow. Now I know.

  114. Aaron B says:

    “I want that “Erections are sacred” cross stitch.”

    Paul, I’m afraid I can’t offer you the cross-stitch, but I can share a pic with you. Check the update at the bottom of the post.

    AB

  115. Tracy M – my hero

    When will we see that item sold at DB?

  116. Aaron!!! I can’t believe you posted that!! Gah!

  117. Aaron Brown says:

    Was this a no-no, Tracy? Should I have asked first? If so, sorry!!! But your creation was to choice not to share with the whole world…

    AB

  118. It’s all good AB.

  119. Stephanie says:

    Tracy M, you didn’t . . .

    (How in the world did you find time for that?)

  120. Stephanie says:

    Aaron, how will you explain that to your children? Or to their teenage friends who come over and use your couch to watch movies? “Yo, bud! Pass the erections pillow!”

  121. I did. And I’m FAST.

    But not so fast at mailing it AB- it’s still on my bookshelf in my room…

  122. Tracy, brilliant!

  123. Draining the lizard, anyone?

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