Saturday, August 10, 2013

Phrase of the Day: “Sphincter Pad”

A young woman of my acquaintance -- well, maybe not so young, but younger than I am (which is no longer saying much) -- Anyhow, a frankly middle-aged woman of my acquaintance (though the French put it so much more diplomatically:  une femme d’un certaine âge), whose highly specialized profession involves keeping us all safe, recently had to re-poly (to be “fluttered”, as the spy novels have it), to make sure that, in the intervening years, she had not perhaps morphed into a Bad Person.   Folks in the business  learn to put up with such periodic indignities;   but this time there was a new one -- something special.
The polygrapher directed her to sit down squarely (positioning her haunches just so) upon a kind of high-tech whoopie-cushion.  A whoopie-cushion, as it turns out, with a dirty mind.
What’s this? she asked, eyeing it dubiously.
It’s a sphincter pad, he said.
A -- are you serious?
Yes.  It detects tightening;  this tells us whether you are a Bad Person.

She pondered a bit.  “Is the fact of the use of this item in the re-clearance process Classified?”
He assured her it was not.
“And is the phrase… “ (you must tighten the circum-oral muscles to pronounce this phonetically awkward expression) “sphhhhhincter pad  Classified?”
No indeed.
“Good,” she said, “because I want to tell my husband about this.”  
Plus she told me.
Anyhow, it’s important to know that this phrase is not Classified, because, unlike certain other news organizations we could name ahem ahem,  the World of Doctor Justice ® resolutely does not leak such information, even if it’s funny.


When I was in the sixth grade, back in 1961 (before your time;  back when Abraham Lincoln was President, or someone like that) , things were mostly pretty wholesome around the playgrounds (no, really;  these days, that might be hard to believe);  but one day a certain nasty boy (who doubtless later died in a ditch) went around telling a sort of ‘joke’.   Like all ‘jokes’ at that age, it wasn’t really clever or even funny, it was simply training and practice in certain linguistic sub-genres:  in this case, that of presenting an entirely made-up word, not so that you would ever use it, or understand it when used in normal conversation (since it never will be), but purely so that the thing can be explicitly defined, in a potentially funny  but more usually  paradoxical and vulgar way.    The granddaddy of them all, in my book -- the locus classicus of this weedy genre -- is blivvit.   As in:
            “What’s a blivvit?”
            “I don’t know, tell me.”
And the answer is:

blivvit (noun) /‘BLIV-it/ [from Middle English blythe-wit, from Old French]
“ten pounds of shit   in a five-pound bag”.

(I must confess, I still find that very revealing and funny, many years after having heard the word.)
Anyhow:  This nasty boy (ferret-faced, and hunchbacked before his time) snickering asked me what a fnorgoid was (or some such nonsense-word;  mercifully, none of my remaining neurons has been dedicated to its retention, they being  all of them  needed for the Riemann Hypothesis).  In all innocence, I confessed complete ignorance of this word, both semantically and etymologically (though, phonetically, we can pretty much rule out an Old-French origin).    And then, his thin shoulders heaving with mirthless laughter, and in a hoarse whisper and with lightless eyes  that foretold his later career in pornography and drug-addiction and eventual death in the aforementioned ditch, the urchin proclaimed -- to my offended ears, which now prayed for deafness rather than to hear such things:

A fnorgoid is someone who goes around smelling girls’ bicycle seats for farts.

(And again I confess:  Even these decades later, that evokes a shudder.)  
The concept was preposterous, impossible;  and yet (I reflected) if any such creature do exist, surely I beheld its twisted form before me.   (As, one day, inhaling too deeply and one time too many, his encrusted lungs cracked, and he tumbled pate-foremost into a convenient ditch.)


Fast-forward through the turbulent sixties, the execrable seventies, the awful eighties, the non-descript nineties, and finally that dreadful day (cloudless, boding nothing) on which the planes struck the Towers and the era of the GWOT began.   (That is an acronym for the “Global War On Terror”, invented by the same people who brought you the sphincter pad.)   And now, it appears, fnorgoids do indeed exist;  they work as polygraphers.

1 comment:

  1. For those reduced to a career of sphincter pad analysis, we pray.