Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Starts With B, Rhymes With Custard

Posted by Neal on November 25, 2006

Cal Thomas wrote in yesterday’s column about declining standards of decency on television:

Certain words are supposed to cross the line, but apparently only if they begin with f…. Words that begin with b apparently do not cross the line. One rhymes with custard and the other rhymes with witch. One frequently hears those words on network TV.

Starts with b and rhymes with custard, eh? OK, I can figure this one out. That would be … bustard? A long-legged Old World and Australian game bird in the family Otitidae? I’m with Thomas on a lot of his points about what gets shown on TV, but I have to disagree with him here. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this word on TV (though maybe I would if I watched more Discovery channel), and wouldn’t be offended if I did.

However, this word does remind me of a b word that rhymes with mastered and plastered, which I’m surprised Thomas didn’t mention. I don’t know why bastard should be considered such a nasty word, since it isn’t scatological, sexual, racial, or religious, and it appears often enough in historical discussions of royal families. Still, I do know a kid could get sent to the principal’s office for saying it in school. But I wonder what would happen if they called someone a niggardly bustard?

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4 Responses to “Starts With B, Rhymes With Custard

  1. Jason Bontrager said

    They’d get sent to the Principal’s Office, and the police would probably be called in as well. After all, that’s a racist word! Or…well…it *sounds* like one, so it’s gotta be bad, right?

    Speaking of lowering standards…

  2. will said

    Your post reminds me of a story told by a history teacher in high school.

    There was a difficult student in his class one day. The student kept challenging the professor and interrupting the lecture.

    Student – “But how do you know that to be true?”
    Teacher – “It is a well documented event.”
    Student – “Well, the event occurred before you were born, so you could not have been there. And since you were not present, you cannot be sure that it actually occurred.”
    Teacher – “What you say is true. I cannot actually be certain that the events occurred as described.”
    Student – “Well, would it be fair to say that you might be a liar?”
    Teacher – “You could reasonable hold that opinion.” “Let me ask you this….” “Is it fair to say that you were not aware of events in your life before the age of two?”
    Student – “Ummm…. yeah, I don’t remember that far back.”
    Teacher – “So then you would not remember anything about your birth?”
    Student – “Ummm…. sure.”
    Teacher – “So I guess there is no way for you to be certain that your parents were married at your birth. So, Mr. Student, I guess it would be fair to say that you might be a bastard.”

  3. MM said

    This throw a whole new light on the giant bustard.

  4. [...] were saying ass turd and not Astird? For that matter, why is it easy to tell the difference between bustard, mastered, or blistered and bus turd, mass turd, or bliss turd? For one thing, bustard, mastered, [...]

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