Column: 'Lincoln' shows cussing has become lazy

2013-01-29T15:00:00Z Column: 'Lincoln' shows cussing has become lazyBy Celia Rivenbark
January 29, 2013 3:00 pm  • 

As I sat in a packed movie theater watching "Lincoln" on the cold and rainy day-after-Christmas, I was struck by one thing: As a nation, we have seriously forgotten how to cuss somebody out with class. That goes double for politicians.

It never occurred to me that people, when confounded by those of polar-opposite political views, wouldn't just fire off a hotheaded string of F bombs and "no-you-did-unt's" as we do today. No, no. A tongue-lashing in Lincoln's day was a thing of beauty.

Consider radical Republican Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, fighting hard as he could to abolish slavery and completely peeved with the opposition.

Did he mealy-mouth like John Boehner or Harry Reid? No and no. He fixed a rheumy eye on an unfortunate opponent in the House of Representatives and pondered playfully: "How can I hold that all men are created equal when there before me stands stinking the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio?"

Did somebody in the gallery say "Swerve"?

And he wasn't done then. No limp, tired C-span snorefest for the likes of Thaddeus Stevens. Without even raising his voice, he labeled his opponents in the House as "endowed by their maker with dim wit impermeable to reason and with cold pallid slime in their veins instead of red, hot blood."

Poo just got real.

We have no IDEA how to cut somebody down like that these days because we have watched "Jersey Shore."

Can you imagine mama Snooki asking The Situation to kindly "conclude your interminable gabble"? When the "real" housewives have their vapid squabbles, how refreshing would it be for one of them to say, as did my new dead-guy crush, Thaddeus Stevens, "Some of us breathe oxygen and we find the mephitic fumes of your oratory a lethal challenge to our pulmonary capabilities"?

That just happened.

But first, mephitic? When's the last time you used that in a sentence?

It wasn't just the cussing, of course, that was so admirable. It was the gentle greetings among the citizenry.

None of this "Sup?" stuff. If you asked Mary Todd Lincoln "Sup?" she'd give you a withering glance that would send you scurrying back to your mommie.

Even the casual exclamation of dismay was a delight to the senses.

Consider Abraham Lincoln's reaction to a differing opinion: "Buzzard's guts, man."

Yeah. Buzzard's guts. Two words: Awe. Some.

I am ashamed of how our national dialogue has devolved. So unimaginative and repetitive. We can do so much better and, if "Lincoln" is accurate (which, of course, it is because Spielberg is super accurate and prolly directed the whole thing wearing woolen underwear), we HAVE done so much better.

We must start loving language again! If we don't, we risk becoming that most odious of creatures described thusly by my beloved Thaddeus: "more reptile than man, so low and flat that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you."

I know, right? Whatever. No worries.

(Celia Rivenbark is the best-selling author of "You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl." Visit

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