One of my readers, Mark Geatches, suggested that I set up a FAQ section for the convenience of readers, which should also spare me the inconvenience of answering similar questions repeatedly. I pondered, and finally decided to do that here. He suggested some questions, and I'm adding more, and will add others as they come up. But be warned; I seem to be incapable of giving a simple answer to a simple question.
What is my favorite book?
That is one you probably never heard of, and might not approve of anyway. It is Rationale of the Dirty Joke, by G Legman, a huge compendium of dirty jokes, and a larger sequel No Laughing Matter. Together they come to more than 1,800 pages. The first was published in 1968 by Grove Press; it may not be easy to find today, though I hope electronic publication is catching up with these invaluable tomes. Here is why they are important: the author's thesis is that a person's true nature can be ascertained by analyzing his favorite dirty joke. I believe he is correct. Humor is a highly personal thing; what regales one person may leave another cold. A joke makes a person laugh, and that inevitably ties in with his fundamental beliefs and prejudice. If I encounter a person who laughs hilariously only at jokes that disparage black people or women or gays, I have a clue to the racism or sexism or homophobia he may not care to admit openly. But the book is considerably more exhaustive than that. He summarizes each joke in italics, then has a discussion of its nature and perhaps also its underlying meaning. There are thousands of jokes, and thousands of discussions. I learned things about mankind from this monumental work, and believe anyone would. There are fifteen major categories ranging from Animals to Marriage to Scatology, each with many subsections. Discussions are wide-ranging; I remember how he made the point that when it comes to pollution, it is shit that is clean (because it composts naturally), and the pure white powders that pollute (being unnatural and long lasting, like DDT).
So okay, what is my own favorite dirty joke, that gives away my hidden nature? Would you believe, I did not find it in this compendium. So I wrote to the author, and he admitted he had not heard that one before. Score one for me. So what is that joke? It relates to the power of the word, because I am a writer and I do believe in the word. Here it is, in severe summary, with one key word expurgated in case anyone maiden aunt is reading this. A trucker came into a roadside cafe, and when waitress inquired what would he have he said “Gimme a cuppa coffee and a fudging donut.” She was upset by the vulgar word, as was the manager, and they had him hauled into court for obscenity. The judge heard their statements, then said to the trucker “What do you have to say for yourself?” The trucker said “Well, your Honer, it was a fudging bad day. The fudging alarm clock got me up too early, then the fudging truck wouldn't start, and when I finally got it rolling, boom! A fudging flat tire. Got that fixed but I was fudging late on my fudging schedule. Then I saw this nice fudging little cafe, so I said what the fudging hell, and I stopped there for breakfast. And this nice fudging waitress comes up and says what'll I fudging have? And I say “Gimme a cuppa coffee and a donut.” At that point the waitress jumped up and cried “That's a fudging lie!” and there was outrage in the audience. Whereupon the judge banged his gavel and said “Quiet! Quiet, or I'll clear the fudging courtroom!” So there you have it: when a word or a lie is repeated often enough, people start to use or believe it. Politicians know that, of course.