As a person who studied literature and writing, I’m troubled by our rampant and incorrect usage of profanity. To be clear, I don’t give a shit if people cuss, but it’s critical to the further development of civilization that we know what we mean when we say, “I don’t give a shit.”
Americans are quick to let others know when they don’t care about something or someone. Many a comedian has joked about the fact that we often say, “I could care less” (which isn’t saying much as we typically can care less about most things), when we really mean, “I couldn’t care less.” For example, I couldn’t care less if a monkey throws poo at some random kid at some random zoo somewhere – as evidenced by my use of the word “random.” I’m so uninterested that I can’t be bothered to Google an example of this occurring, even though I’m sure it has. I’m also pretty sure that the victim of the chimp shit tossing event looked like Augustus Gloop from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. On the other hand, I could, indeed, care less about our inability to express ourselves more clearly when it comes to our interest or lack thereof about practically anything. Most irritating are the popular idioms that express apathy using the words shit, ass, fuck or damn to communicate just how much the speaker doesn’t care. Let me clear – I truly have no issues with profanity, as it’s called by many a Born Again Christian. I abhor censorship, except when it applies to Tea Party members – in which case, it should be applied liberally and to all words spoken – as everything they believe in is pretty much profane in my book.
I don’t give a shit: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a shit) An idiom often used to indicate that the speaker is apathetic about something, this expression is troublesome because it begs the question, Why would anyone give someone a piece of poo? Perhaps the speaker is referring to a specific, valuable kind of poo and, hence, he is unwilling to give any of it away. For example, panda poo is used to fertilize green tea leaves that are eventually sold for $35,000 a pound. Why is the dung of these adorable black and white critters so expensive? Apparently, the panda’s digestive system isn’t the efficient machine we may have assumed it to be and only absorbs about 30% of the nutrients consumed. As bamboo, a plant chock full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and anti-carcinogenic properties, is the primary diet of the panda, it is believed that panda dung enhances the benefits of green tea leaves grown in it.
Other examples of pricy shit include the poo of the Asian Palm Civet, a cat-like animal that eats coffee berries for their fleshy pulp, then defecates the actual bean that is used to brew Kopi Luwak coffee – which sells for up to $600 a pound. Even your run-of-the-mill cow manure goes for about ten bucks for four pounds – less expensive than coffee, but more costly than sugar. Then, of course, there’s human poo – and you can’t give that shit away. You really can’t. It’s illegal. Thus, in order to communicate effectively, the speaker should be extremely specific about the shit he is referring to when he says, I don’t give a shit. If he really, truly doesn’t care at all about the subject or person and is unwilling to give them anything at all, he could say, I don’t give a panda shit, and if he cares just a tad more than that, I don’t give a civet shit. If he’s on the fence, he could say, I don’t give four pounds of fertilizer grade shit. While I don’t give a human shit would actually mean the speaker is quite interested, but doesn’t want to admit it.
1) I couldn’t give a shit: An alternate to I don’t give a shit, this expression implies that the speaker can’t afford to care. Perhaps he’d really like to, but he has no panda poo or civet dung to offer. Likely constipated, this person can’t even eek out a chocolate channel chewie of his own. Studies indicate that one utilizing this expression is worse off than a person who doesn’t have a pot to piss in, as the latter can still urinate, even though he doesn’t possess a container in which to store his tinkle.
2) I don’t give a flying fuck: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a flying fuck) Implicit in this idiom is that fact that the speaker is unwilling to relinquish a flying fuck – that’s just how uninterested he is. Prostitution is often referred to as the “oldest profession,” demonstrating that some form of value – whether it be monetary or in goods and/or services – has long been attributed to fucking. Wired Magazine looked into the sex trade in early 2011 and determined that your typical streetwalker earns $75 a transaction, while escorts garner twice as much for their services. Upscale escort agencies may charge a john upwards of $4,000 – half of which will go to the call girl. Unfortunately, the cost of a flying fuck was not addressed; however, I’ve crunched the numbers myself and here’s what I’ve come up with:
A tandem skydiving experience runs approximately $300, so if you were able to locate a tandem instructor who was also a prostitute, I’d estimate the entire flying fuck would run you approximately $3300 unless an agency was involved, in which case, the price would likely double. Even though the average call girl charges only $2000, a flying fuck is decidedly kinky – and extra pervy sex always costs more. Plus, I factored in additional monies for the sheer danger involved and the fact that your prostitute would have had to become certified in skydiving. Of course, she’s going to pass that expense on to you. And it’s not like skydiving hookers are hanging out on every corner, cooing to johns, “Hey Baby, wanna flying fuck?” Now if you’re sentimental and would prefer that your flying fuck experience involve someone you actually love or care about, both of you would need to become certified skydivers – at a cost of $1500 to $2000 each, not including gear rental and jump costs. In the end, you’re looking at paying close to five grand to experience a flying fuck with your significant other. If heights make you, erm, nervously flaccid, add in another $50 for a doctor’s visit and a Viagra prescription. It appears that the meaning of I don’t give a flying fuck makes perfect sense as flying fucks are innately valuable – and really shouldn’t just be given out willy nilly.
On the other hand, if your definition of a flying fuck involves two half-dressed people in a cramped bathroom on a plane at 35,000 feet, it may not be all that expensive. Jet Blue regularly offers $57 dollar one-way trips to places you’d rarely want to go, but if you’re antsy for a flying fuck, shelling out a few hundred bucks for you and your partner to board a plane headed for Omaha may just be the ticket. Then again, if you’re a celebrity or just incredibly good looking, you could cut the expense in half by seducing a flight attendant – but there’s plenty of risk involved there. You might get the fugly B crew or a bunch of virginal Bible Thumpers on any given trip – and jacking off by yourself in a bathroom the size of a closet isn’t the same as doing the nasty with a 21 year old, former-beauty-pageant-contestant-turned-flight-attendant-named-Bambi. If joining the Mile High Club was that easy, there’d be an International Mile High organization, conferences, lapel pins and a New York Times Bestselling How-to Book.
3) I couldn’t give a flying fuck: Again, this expression suggests that the speaker either can’t afford to give a flying fuck (particularly the pricier skydiving flying fuck), is unwilling to attempt a flying fuck by jumping out of the penthouse of a large skyscraper as it would most likely end in certain death as opposed to orgasm, or is simply afraid of heights.
4) I don’t take no shit: This is the idiom of an extremely proud person – someone unwilling to accept handouts of shit from anyone, whether it be panda, civet or human in nature. If this person wants shit, he’ll make it himself. If this means binging on an entire pot of chili, half a dozen bags of Lay’s and entire chocolate cake in one evening, that’s alright. He wants no charity, even if the only shit he can produce is his own and utterly worthless. Unable to be bribed with the promises of the riches that come with possessing panda dung, it is unlikely that this person is employed as a politician, local government employee or within the legal profession.
5) I don’t give two shits and a flying fuck: Avoid this person at all cost. They are not interested in anything you have to say and will never share their shit with you. And you’re certainly unlikely to convince them to give a flying fuck.
6) I don’t give a rat’s ass: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass) Again, we are faced with an expression that challenges us to determine the value of something – in this case, a rat’s ass – and ascertain why so many people are unwilling to give their rats’ asses away. Despite extensive research on my part, I was unable to find a value assigned to a rat’s bunghole, nor did I find a market for real rat tails, as opposed to the decorative ribbon of the same name. On the whole, however, there’s definitely a demand for rats worldwide for use as food, pets and laboratory test subjects.
In fact, in 2008 Reuters reported that the demand for rodent meat in Cambodia resulted in a fourfold price increase to 5,000 riel ($1.28) for a little over two pounds of meat up from 1,200 riel in 2007. Though this price may seem inexpensive to those us paying up to $6/lb for raw chicken breasts, escalating rat meat prices meant that many poor Cambodians were unable to enjoy the “spicy field rat dishes with garlic” that are apparently quite popular in Mainland and Maritime Southeast Asia. Likewise, in West and Southern Africa, the Greater Cane Rat is considered a pricy delicacy, superior to rabbit meat, that is served in restaurants and raised as micro livestock by locals. Unfortunately, despite exhaustive research, it is unclear as to whether or not the rat’s ass is discarded or eaten. Assuming that it is consumed, a person hailing from Ghana or Nigeria who says, I wouldn’t give a rat’s ass may have stated such because it would be akin to asking Anthony Bourdain to part with an ounce of beluga cavier or black Périgord truffles. Not gonna happen.
If a young child announces that he don’t give a rat’s ass, then we might assume
he has a filthy mouth and needs a sound beating that it’s because kids like rodents and think they make wonderful pets. After all, he’s probably never heard of the Bubonic Plague or read the article about rats chewing off the upper lip of a four week old infant while she slept in her crib in Kansas City. One day, rats will be just one of the many phobias for which he has to take medication to control, but today that boy is just a child who wants a furry white critter to call Whiskers and one more way in which to torture his younger sister.
Pets possess an intrinsic value for the people who love them, regardless of whether or not that translates into dollars and cents. And though the typical fancy rat costs less than $15 – even from a reputable breeder – many rat owners willingly pay thousands of bucks a year to feed, cage and medically care for their “ratties,” as they are called. As a previous pet rat owner, I can testify to the fact that rat fanciers – particularly in adult form – are amongst the most zealous of animal owners. Because their pets-of-choice are often derided as disease-spreading, cheese-stealing, beady-eyed, fanged monsters responsible for everything from famine to making New York City’s sewers uninhabitable, you’d be hard pressed to find a rattie lover who’d give up any rat’s ass in their possession.
Likewise, Hindu worshippers of the Indian mystic , Karni Mata, treat the of rats who inhabit the temple that bears her name like royalty, offering them prasads, a candy-like food, in the hopes of sighting one of the rare white rats that live alongside over 20,000 brown rodents. It is believed that the darker rats are the reincarnated souls of Karni Mata’s tribespeople, while the albinos are either Karni Mata herself or her immediate family. As such, it’s unlikely that any Hindu who makes the pilgrimage to the Karni Mata Temple would ever consider offering a rat’s ass to anyone. However, in order to distinguish how emphatic they are about their unwillingness to anger Karni Mata by giving away one of her temple’s rat rumps, it would be helpful if devout Hindus would specify whether or not they don’t give a brown rat’s ass or a white rat’s ass. As is the case in America, white asses in India are treated with more respect and assigned significantly more value than brown asses.
Finally, we broach the issue of the laboratory rat. Millions – perhaps even billions – of rats are used to test everything from cosmetics to pharmaceuticals to insecticide. Though most people consider experimentation on animals to be an evil act, albeit a necessary one, few would consider the average lab rat to be worth much. Forget about its ass. However, further investigation reveals that these furry white critters with their Satanic, glowing red eyes have been used for decades to study human disorders of the anus – yes, ass diseases – such as rectal cancer and hemorrhoids. Thus, these rats’ asses are worth a fortune to the real devils out there: pharmaceutical companies. So when the CEO of Pfizer says, “I don’t give a rat’s ass!” it’s because that particular rat’s ass might be worth a billion dollars in revenue. The irony is that many of us consider pharmaceutical executives to be worth far less than a common sewer rat’s keister.
7) I couldn’t give a rat’s ass: This idiom suggests a plethora of reasons for the inability to offer up a rat’s cornhole. Perhaps the speaker is a follower of Karni Mata and is fearful of angering the incarnation of the Indian goddess, Durga. Maybe he’s a Preparation H sales rep – and asses, along with the rats’ asses that help improve his product line – are his business. He could be one of the few highly-specialized veterinarians out there with a focus on rattie rectal cancer or he might be reluctant to give up his family’s dinner at the Rat Ass Café in Ghana. Either way, rats’ asses are a lot more valuable than you probably ever thought possible, so think before you offer to give one away.
8) I don’t give a damn: (Alternative version: I wouldn’t give a damn) Depending on your religious affiliation, damning can be a serious business. In fact, many people believe that being damned involves some sort of eternal punishment in a broiling pit of heat and misery (a.k.a. Miami in August). This statement suggests that the speaker can’t be bothered to damn the subject. Perhaps she believes the person is already damned and further damning on her part would be redundant (i.e. “I’d damn John Mayer to Hell, but he’s such douchebag, Satan’s already got a lava-lined armchair just waiting for him”) or she’s concerned about karma and is simply content to hold her tongue. Perhaps the best example of someone really meaning it when they said, I don’t give a damn, is Rhett Butler’s final words to a whiny and pathetic
Bella Swan from Twilight Scarlett O’Hara in the film, Gone with the Wind. By walking off into the fog after replying to Scarlett’s whimpering question about what she should do and where should she go with the classic parting retort, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” Rhett Butler left with viewers with little doubt about the fact that he didn’t care if Scarlett rotted in Hell, or in her delusional world in which she returns to Tara and dreams of Rhett coming back to her – and giving a damn.
9) I couldn’t give a damn: Widely utilized by those who are unable to damn someone because they are atheists, agnostics or just pussies.
Stay tuned for Part Two of I Don’t/Wouldn’t/Couldn’t Give A Shit/Flying Fuck/Rat’s Ass/Damn – which will likely be called something else entirely and will likely be posted next week, unless I decide that I don’t give a shit/flying fuck/rat’s ass/damn, in which case it’ll be posted whenever I feel like it.