The arse has gone clean out of ’er

Ed
Ed Smith
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Shame on you, Ryan Cleary! You needs your arse kicked, my son, you do. I can’t imagine what you were thinking to be using that kind of language in the Parliament of Canada.

You know as well as I that the crowd upalong does not understand us or our language.

Still, after several years of exposure to the redoubtable John Crosbie, a.k.a. our lieutenant-governor, I would have thought they might have built up some special immunity to us, but obviously they haven’t learned a damn thing. I’m sure as I sit here that His Honour once told one or two “high-status” people that they could just kiss his arse .

I love the Maritime provinces. Love the scenery and the people. Perhaps it’s because of the two years I lived in Halifax, or the several years OH and I spent in university in Sackville, N.B. It may be because we still have family and friends scattered throughout.

I have always said that the main difference between the Maritimes and Newfoundland is in the relative topography of each, which is reflected in the people. The Maritimes have gentle, rolling hills and long stretches of valleys and farmland. Even the Highlands of Cape Breton, with the Cabot Trail being a possible exception, are less imposing than the mountains of Gross Morne or the cliffs of the South Coast.

Newfoundland and Labrador is more raw, more in your face. Everything is more rugged and more imposing. Even the Maritimes coastlines are less jagged.

This will probably get me in trouble — and it is less true now, perhaps, than it used to be — but the fact remains that generally, we Newfoundlanders and Labradorians reflect our geography in our language and our personalities.

Show me the Maritimer in federal or provincial politics who has a patch on our own lieutenant-governor. In entertainment Rick Mercer. In writing for television, Mary Walsh. In performance, Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers (upalong they’d be known as Buddy What’s His Name and the Other Two Men).

The list goes on and on. I’m tempted to say something really outrageous here just to get on it.

On average, we are rougher, less “refined” — for want of a better word — in personality and language. I myself, in my own puny little writing world, have been accused of using language inappropriate to public print. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what it was. It may have been “fart.”

No, I do not mean to suggest that those editors who print my column on a regular basis are puny in any sense. Or that the readers who make up my unbelievably large reading audience are puny in either numbers or reading taste. The word puny refers entirely to my own writing. I hope that satisfies everyone.

I was not at all surprised to hear that some parliamentarian of our own ilk had suggested, quoting an anonymous source, that the prime minister of Canada did not know his arse from a hole in the ground. Was he saying something we were all thinking from time to time, such as every time the clock struck the hour?

Of course, so it was not an untrue statement.

The prime minister believes in majority rule so completely that he has his government based on it. If it is not majority opinion, therefore, that he does not know his arse from a hole in the ground, it must be sure and not open to censure.

Given Parliament’s disdain for the perfectly good Newfoundland word, Ryan felt he had no choice but to apologize. My apology might have taken a different course.

For example, “I apologize for saying the prime minister does not know his arse from a hole in the ground. I wish to retract that statement and say that in my view, the prime minister does know his arse from a hole in the ground because, having spent a goodly amount of time with his head stuck in both, he is eminently qualified to judge.”

As far as the word itself is concerned, there are few more eloquent words in our culture to express strong feelings on any subject. Someone who has really screwed up may be said to have made an arse of himself. Federal bureaucrats have often been referred to as a bunch of arses.

Then, of course, there is a beautiful Christmas song which refers to “a one-arse open sleigh.”

The epitome in usage of this wonderful word is the invitation to someone deserving of it to kiss one’s arse. It expresses the height, length and breadth of disdain for another human being. The most effective insult of all is in the form Mr. Cleary took when he suggested the Prime Minister would not know his arse from a hole etc. etc.

The word is also interchangeable as illustrated in this anecdote:

I once lived in a small community in which a new, rather plump young lady arrived in September as the new teacher. The family with whom she boarded had a large horse which normally grazed in a garden some distance down the road. On this occasion, the owner asked her if she’d mind leading the horse down to the meadow on her way to school. Of course she said yes.

On her way, she passed by on old gentleman digging his potatoes. He happened to look up as she was passing by and noticed only the animal. Yes, he was that old.

So, he addressed himself politely to the teacher, whom he had not met.

“Good day to you, my dear. That’s a wonderful fat ‘arse you got there!”

It took the chair of the school board, three clergy and a linguistics professor from the university to prevent her from suing the poor farmer (who never did figure out what he had done wrong), the school board and the municipal council.

For a while, it looked as though the arse was gone clean out of ’er.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale.  His email address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Halifax, Sackville Cape Breton Canada Springdale

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