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 be clear – I 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.
51 thoughts on “I Don’t/Wouldn’t/Couldn’t Give A Shit/Flying Fuck/Rat’s Ass/Damn”
That was absolutely fantastic. I haven’t read anything that made me chuckle that much for a while. Although I never realised that the uninhabitability of New York’s sewers was down to those pesky rats. Such a waste of such prime real estate.
I know. Think about how much larger New York City apartment could be if not for the sewer rats!
When I was about 7 or 8 I remember hearing a rather irate adult shout ‘I couldn’t give a monkeys!’ It confused me no end. I could never quite work out what the hell he meant. I now know it’s a London slang shortening of ‘I couldn’t give a monkey’s balls/arse’ or whatever. But it confused me for many years.
I like to say “I don’t give no fuck” but every time that I do, my current beaux runs for the hills. Does this mean that I let the shit hit the fan? How are these men interpreting my statement? And they usually end up with a total tart after me, despite me telling them that I have a stick up my ass (kinky, no?). Please translate.
i LOVE that you included both a ‘censored/ starred’ version of this and a non-censored one. loved.
Just trying to keep it clean for the kids, you know.
I just love how your mind works!
Thanks so much! I just like that it’s still working.
I enjoyed your treatise on the literal interpretation of English language profanity. I have spent much of the most recently occurring six and four-fifths decades perfecting a remarkably disgusting personal lexicon, and I find the various responses to epithetical expressions intriguing.
On the other hand, I suppose one could find humor in a literal interpretation of just about any example of everyday conversational English. Ask Shakespeare, in the event that he should reincarnate at some juncture. Like Henry Ford, he would have been considered an idiot had he lived 100 years sooner or later. Timing is everything, as is the choice of idioms to parse and parody, which may sound like a mathematical contradiction, except perhaps to Stephen Hawking.
I once co-facilitated a therapy group for troubled adolescents. I’m not sure what the kids got out of it, but I learned a great deal.
“Good afternoon, everybody…”
“Fuck you.” (unison)
“Hmm, that’s an intriguing response. Talk a little about what that means to you. Joe, would you like to go first?”
“I’m a little confused….does that mean yes or no?”
“Ah! Now we’re getting somewhere! We’ve ruled out sexual activity as the core of the matter. OK, let’s see what the excretory reference represents, if anything….”
But, I digress. Nice mother scratchin’ essay.
Thanks! Glad you dropped by. Nice fucking comment!
Haven’t seen a rat since the landlord pressed his minions into keeping the area around the trash bins cleaned. Mice are another story. So how about; I couldn’t give a mouses balls. Loved the post. As a student of creative cussing I treasure any good use of the nether regions of our language.
What would I do without your constant encouragement, Tomwisk? Thanks for being such a loyal reader and thoughtful commenter (I don’t think that’s really a word, but whatever!). Cuss on!
This was such a good read. THANK YOU!
No, THANK YOU! It’s all for you, my readers. Otherwise, I’d just be talking to myself and people would be walking away, puzzled, and thinking, “It’s so sad. She LOOKS so normal, but…” You people validate my existence! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
So I started reading this with my son, Taylor next to me, and he exploded in laughter at the poo-throwing chimp. Why am I telling you this? Because you have an untapped market: prepubescent boys. I had to pry him away from the computer by offering an assortment of Pop Rocks, smarties, and Mountain Dew. He’s totally orbiting the house as I type.
Incidentally, I went to the PG-rated version first. You have, like, three times as many comments/likes on the unrated one. What does this say about your audience, and further, humankind in general? That we’re a world full of nasty-ass bastards, that’s what.
Anyway, I don’t give a flying shit fuck rat’s ass what anyone says (and for the record, no one’s said anything bad), you can correct my profane sayings whenever you want.
Umm, yeah! Whatever you just said!
Oh, shut up! That was a good comment.
I didn’t say it wasn’t. I was just agreeing with you. Do you have any idea how much I’ve had to drink tonight?
Responding to blog comments while intoxicated is one of my favorite things to do. =)
Intoxicated? I said nothing about alcohol – I, uh, drank a lot of iced tea. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Gallons of the stuff. Was in the bathroom all night because of all the iced tea I’d consumed. I believe it was manufactured in Long Island.
I guess the PG-rated version is still too explicit for Taylor. Lord knows, you don’t want him to learn about the Mile High Club!
“I could care less” makes me CaRAYzy. Profanity aside, I wish people would think about what they’re saying and why. Then again, there are people who willingly work at Walmart, so perhaps I aim too high.
Apparently, one doesn’t HAVE to join the Navy to cuss like a sailor 😉 Good job!
Both versions rock!
And that’s all I have to say about that….
Cristy, I have to tell you that I look forward to reading your captions. The tandem skydiving or Flying F*ck is hysterical. Great post, as usual!
Great! I love the part about rats–funny, and also really interesting. Great the way the analysis work with the original thesis idea/gripe. Well done!
Hilarious post. Certainly bears the mark of legally-trained inspection. A lot of our common phrases could use some re-examination. Someone should address this. Someone should modernize our profanity. We need some new, edgy, and totally unacceptable words to toss around. Maybe something that involves lots of hard consonants and at least one number, one capital letter and one symbol. No one will see it coming.
Great idea. Let me know if you come up with any good modern profanity. I’ll be happy to publish it here.
Oh my giddy Aunt! I think I love you. Great blog, following you now. 🙂
Thank you, my dear. Now get thee off to the fucking nunnery!
Wonderful marriage of essay and rant on rat’s asses, giving or thinking of giving shit and flying around fucking. Love idioms still, even ill constructed ones but loved the healthy alternative.
Thank you. I live to serve. Would you please write a blog post on adverbs so that I don’t have to? (No need to write one about ending a sentence with a preposition…I know!) Incising them from my manuscript is like trying to burn all the freckles off of Lindsay Lohan. Sigh.
I was gonna throw in, in response to your mention of ending sentences with prepositions, something about the great line attributed to Churchill about “this is the sort of pedantic nonsense up with which I will not put”, but that led me to the Wikipedia article on “hypercorrection” and that blew me away. Now I’m exhausted.
But, hey, adverbs are easy: adverbs are to verbs what adjectives are to nouns, mostly 😉
Hadn’t encountered your blog before, now I have it bookmarked – you have a lovely mind.
Thanks so much. Yeah, sometimes you just have to stick the preposition at the end of the sentence or you end up sounding like a Victorian aristocrat. Glad you enjoyed the post.
Nobody gives a fuck about your article, or your opinion. If you take the English language this seriously, and try to find logic in a PHRASE that people use, you’re an idiot. Thanks.
If no one gives a fuck, then why did you comment? Trolls are not welcome.
You are hilarious and I wanna read more of you.
Nothing stopping you. Oh, and thanks. 🙂
You’re wonderful and hilarious. I was searching for the correct Latin translation for “Who gives a rat’s ass” because my Latin is somewhat rusty . . . also I had a stroke a few years ago so my brain ain’t whut it use to be. I came up with “Qui dat posterior ratti” but I’m sure that isn’t right. Any suggestions?
If only I’d taken Latin. Mine is limited to legal terms like ad nauseum (As in, “Defense counsel went on ad nauseum.”) and mens rea. Although “Who gives a rat’s ass?” is often asked during settlement negotiations. Should probably appear in Black’s Law Dictionary.
This is a fucking good explanation that I’ve been looking for ; no offense and thanks to you Miss Snarky Pants.
Why, thank you, David. And have a fucking awesome day.
HA HA HA! I havent laughed this hard for sometime,lol! been laughing the whole freaking time i was reading..its so funny..i am sharing this
Why is your time “freaking” out? Does your time need a Valium?
Reblogged this on Life, oh life!.
Love this article on the derivation of some common phrases 🙂 Who would have known about “Who give’s a rat’s ass”.
Thanks. Glad you enjoyed. Figured it’s best to know why we use the phrases we use.
FYI- loved the article, but if we are really going to get down on semantics here, I’ve got a bone to pick on you’re monkey/chimp flinging shit commentary. Chimps are not monkeys, monkeys not chimps, very different. Chimps are genus Pan, within the family of apes, monkey refers to a great number of species and familial groups which are neither of those. Just saying…
I stand corrected. And since I was writing about semantics, I feel this is perfectly appropriate. Now here’s the real question: do both monkeys and chimps throw shit?