December 3, 2008

Whore, who’s your daddy?

Posted in etymology, HotForWords, masturbation, whores at 10:26 am by prurientdiarist

When I wrote, I’ve known a few whores — and I don’t mean sellouts in the general sense. I mean those whose predecessors birthed this dirty word in a dirty alley centuries ago, I was tempted to digress into the origins of whore. Word origins intrigue me, and I love to guess at them before I look them up. One of my favorites is bonfire, which comes from bone fire, which is what it was called when the victims of the bubonic plague were stacked into a pile and set ablaze in hopes of curtailing the spread of the disease. *

BTW, I’d been told that the childhood rhyme Ring Around the Rosie has it’s origins in the plague years, but Snopes debunks that here. But you can see why people would think that:

Ring-around a rosie
A pocket full of posies
Ashes! Ashes!
We all fall down.

Line 1: Rosie = a red blemish on the skin. Think rosacea. This mark with a red ring around it was a indication that a person had been infected by the plague.

Line 2: The smell of decaying bodies was so bad that people would carry flower petals (I presume pockets was used in the rhyme for alliteration, but it’s conceivable that people kept them there) and hold them to their nose.

Line 3: It was standard practice to burn the bodies of plague victims.

Line 4: A pretty grim forecast, like the playground visions Sarah Connors had in Terminator. No future, indeed.

Anyway, I decided against searching out the origins of whore because the post already was shaping up to be pretty long, and, besides, it seems very appropriate to not know the lineage of a word that applies to a type of woman who, historically, could not know for certain who the fathers of her children are.

hotforwordsMarina. Not a whore. Definitely hot.

However, I have a huge crush on Marina of HotForWords, and I shamelessly confess to masturbating to her philology videos. I suspect I’m not the only one — smart women are a major turn on for many men. Perhaps I’ll ask her to put her hair in pigtails (mmmmm, pigtails), show a little cleavage, and talk about the origin of whore with that sexy accent of hers.

* Disclaimer: The college professor who told me about the origins of bonfire also told me about Ring Around the Rosie, so I’m probably going to have to look up bonfire to be certain.


Whores. At least they can afford to be good at a hobby

Posted in ambition, prostitution, rowing, Uncategorized, whores at 1:27 am by prurientdiarist

Can we ever be content for an extended period of time? And can we still love something if we are paid to do it?

For months, my best friend has been telling me he wants desperately to quit his job. It’s boring. There’s no room for creativity. And it makes him feel like a whore.

I’ve known a few whores — and I don’t mean sellouts in the general sense. I mean those whose predecessors birthed this dirty word in a dirty alley centuries ago. They’re not necessarily bad people, these whores, and, in my opinion, the moral argument against them and legalized prostitution is the same as debating about keeping professional athletes out of the Olympics.

Anyway, my buddy, Mark, wants to quit his job because he can’t stand working at home in his underwear if he so desires. He is sick of holding the highest title he’s ever had professionally. And he has convinced himself he’s miserable while earning a salary that is about 80 percent more than any job he’s ever held in his life. Not only is he earning far more than he ever did by telecommuting from home, he lucked out by doing so during a span when fuel prices are obscenely high. Oh, and his job is in a field that he enjoys immensely and spends much of his hobby time in.

Mark tells me he has squirreled away enough money to get by while working a crappy mindless job and concentrating on playing music and writing screenplays, two endeavors he’s good at but not great — nor even very good — at. Mark feels he is entering an extremely creative period in his life. He thinks it’s not such a bad idea to leave the white collar (when he chooses to wear one) world to chase his dreams for up to 24 months and then evaluating things.

You’re thinking one of two things — “Do it, Mark!” or “God, this guy is stupid.”

I’m thinking both. And I’m trying to figure out if it’s common-sense or jealousy that has me cautioning him not to quit this job and chase his dreams

When I was in college, I felt full of talent and potential. I was convinced that very good, if not great things, were in the cards. Not someday-I’ll-be-president great, mind you, but great in the sense that maybe I’ll do something that is remembered for maybe 20 or 50 years or so after I retire, even if only among a specialized niche of people.

It hasn’t happened. I’ve enjoyed a pretty nice run in which I really was at the top of my game professionally for about eight or ten years, but I’ve succumbed to the malaise that settles into the bones of every big fish in a small pond and causes him to list to the one side as he goes belly up and ends a relatively inconsequential life. I’ve gone from being the guy who earns the kudos to the respected veteran who now hands them out to the young guy.

Before he landed his current gig, Mark was on a career trajectory that would have him reaching this point maybe in 15 or 20 years or so. But circumstances broke just right and he landed what he thought was his dream job.

And now he wants to give it up. If he replaces it with a crap job and the opportunity to strum his guitar 24 hours a day, when he ultimately tries to get back in the field his resume is going to tell employers that this prime job was an aberration. How else could anyone interpret going from upper management to bartender or landscaper? The fact that he would resign such a position during the worst economic crisis in nearly 80 years would only launch more red flags.

Yet, I know his yearning. I recognize the desire to do something you love when you’ve realized that what you used to love isn’t fun now that you’re getting paid to do it.

Which brings me back to the Olympics. You remember the first U.S. Olympic team made of NBA players, right? Traditionalist screamed that doing so would ruin the purity of the Olympics. More than a few people considering it whoring; truly, permitting pros to compete would make the Olympics a little less noble.

Less noble, indeed, which brings to mind Jack Kelly. Jack was born in 1889 and became one of the great oarsmen — i.e. rowing — in history. As is the case today, a rower in the early 1900s couldn’t make a decent living rowing a boat in competitions, so Jack had to work. He earned a paycheck as a bricklayer.

Anyway, Jack was regarded as one of the finest scullers in the world. He was a six-time U.S. national champion and he had put together a 126-race winning streak. Then came the 1920 the Diamond Sculls at the Henley Royal Regatta in England, the Super Bowl of rowing.

Jack’s application was rejected.

It was because he was a manual laborer. He was a professional. He wasn’t born into wealth, and he didn’t partake in the sport because it was a noble diversion. In other words, because he had to work for a living — even though he wasn’t working as a rower — he wasn’t a true amateur.

I always bring up Jack whenever the pro/amateur debate arises. While being an amateur means you do something for love, not money, the fact is that only those with wealth can afford to be passionate amateurs in pricey or time-consuming endeavors. Mixed in with that high-minded sentiments of the purity of the sport is a healthy dose of elitism.

So, where does that leave Mark?

I expect his longtime lover and housemate will put her foot down and make it clear she doesn’t intend to pick up his slack when it comes time to pay the bills. Mark will resent her for it for a while, but he’ll know she’s right.

And where does that leave me? Pretty much in the same place I’ve been for the past decade. I’ll content myself by entertaining thoughts of starting projects that are too grand in scope to ever be initiated, nevermind completed. When the complexity of it all begins to overwhelm me, I’ll shift my attention elsewhere. Always attacking a new project with the enthusiasm of an amateur, always lacking the diligence of a pro — I’m equal parts slut and whore, unwilling and afraid to devote myself to one or the other.