August 20, 2007

"Don't say 'tin' to Rebecca, you know how it upsets her"

Chris Pauls wrote to point out that word aversion, "like pretty much every other subject, has found its way into Monty Python's Flying Circus".

Here's the sketch:

and a transcript is here.

I've certainly seen that sketch, but I guess it never occurred to me that the word-aversion part of it was any more true to life than the part of it about shooting caribou on the lawn or wiring up a fakir as a remote control.

[Update -- Jake Schneider writes:

In terms of your Python post, don't forget the much more famous example of Monty Python's playful approach to word aversion--The Knights of Nee's inability to stomach the word "it." Of course, in that example, the word involved is far to common to be remotely realistic.

How could I have forgotten? Here's the transcript:

Knight of Ni: Then, when you have found the shrubbery, you must cut down the
              mightiest tree in the forest...
              Wiiiiiithh....  A HERRING!
(minor music)
Arthur:       We shall do no such thing!
Knight of Ni: Oh, please!
Arthur:       Cut down a tree with a herring?  It can't be done!
Knights of Ni: AAugh!  AAAAAH!  Oww!! (writhe in pain)
Knight of Ni: Don't say that word!
Arthur:       What word?
Knight of Ni: I cannot tell; suffice to say, it is one of the words the
              Knights of Ni cannot hear!
Arthur:       How we *not* say the word if you don't tell us what it is?!
(Knights of Ni are in pain again)
Knight of Ni: Ahhhh! 'E said it again!
Arthur:       What, "is"?
Knight of Ni: No, not "is"!  You wouldn't get very far in life not saying
Bedevere:    My liege!  It's Sir Robin!
Sir Robin and his minstrels "ride" up.
Minstrels (singing):  He's sacking it in, and packing it up,
                      and sneaking away, and buggering up,
                      And chickening out, and pissing a pole...
Arthur:       Sir Robin!
Robin:        My liege!  It's good to see you!
Knight of Ni: Now *'e* said the word!
Arthur:       Surely you've not given up the quest for the Holy Grail!
Minstrels, by way of answering:
                      He's sneaking away, and buggering up,
Robin:         Shut Up!
               No no, no, far from it!
Knight of Ni:  'E said the word again!
Robin:         ...I was...looking for it...
Knights of Ni: AAAAAAAuugh!
Robin:         uh, here--here in this...forest.
Arthur:        No, it is far from this place.
Knight of Ni:  Aaaaaaugh!  Stop saying the word!!!!
Arthur:        (getting really annoyed with the Knights of Ni) OH, STOP IT!!
Knight of Ni:  Ow!  He said it again!
Arthur:        Patsy!  (motions all of his party to move on)
Knight of Ni:  Wait!  I said it!  I said it!
               Oh!  I've said it again!
               And there again...that's three hits!
Arthur, Bedevere, and Sir Robin ride off with the minstrels and Patsy.


[Update #2: Philip Downey sends a link to The Frantics "Dirty Words" skit.]

[And Keith Ivey reminds us that you're not supposed to say "mattress" to Mr. Lambert. ]

Posted by Mark Liberman at August 20, 2007 11:42 AM