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Turn Your Head and Cough #18
by Jason Torchinsky

As a member of the President's Council on Asinine Uses of English, there are certain standards I adhere to. This is the unfortunate side effect of a certain epoxy-based resin to which I was once slightly addicted. But it's not the adhesion that matters; it's the humidity. Now, most treasured readers, take note as I wholly abandon this beginning, and begin a new tack for my column. Technically, I suppose that this haphazard method of composing would be frowned upon in academic circles. But in other academic shapes, oh, it's big stuff. Real avant-garde.

Anyway, I was never actually formally trained in the area of composition. You see, like many students who grew up here in our fine state of North Carlines, my schooling was controlled by a program called the Basic Education Plan. On paper, what this plan essentially boiled down to was some hot, inky water and a thin mess of pulp. In practice, this plan's main function was the removal of any class that could be considered interesting. It was designed to give America's youth a firmer footing in the fundamentals of our thought, such as the essential English, math, and, of course, shop. As if this weren't enough, I was also in an experimental extension of the Basic Education Plan called the Fundamental Basic Education Plan, where the only things taught were verbs and pointing skills.

Hence, as I write I grope, I take risks. But isn't that what life is all about, anyway? Taking risks? I needn't answer that question now, as it is not a full sentence. Risk is a big part of life, though. Why, we take risks every day, from when you wake up in the morning, or ram your bare arm through a pane of glass or eat something off the sidewalk or hit yourself with a hammer, That's just how life is.

By the way, for those of you who are regular readers of my column, I know what you two are thinking. You're thinking "Hey Joshua, what gives? You've remained conscious for the duration of this column, and not once have you experienced some fabricated, complicated physical injury! Where's the formula that I've grown to know and predict?" Okay. A valid point. I'll fess up. First of all, my name's not Joshua. It's Jason, dammit, Ms. Jackson if you're nasty. And secondly, I'd like to be given a little credit for my ability as a writer. I am fully capable of creating a column that flows with ease, each thought connected to the next without resorting to some literary crutch like described slapstick and a narration lapse crudely attributed to a loss of consciousness. Let's all grow up a little, shall we?

So I'm in Davis library, waiting for the elevator doors to open so I can free my tongue from its steely trap. It's not important how it got there- let's just say that a certain old wives tale proves not to be true. Finally, after what seemed like days but was really only four hours, the elevator doors opened, and I hurled myself headlong into the car, my tongue hyperextended to six times its original length but finally free. Revelling in my regained freedom, I threw my head back and began to laugh, an action which whipped my elongated tongue over my head and into one of the fluorescent lights in the ceiling of the elevator car. The next thing I knew, there was a shower of sparks, my entire body seized up, and I suddenly had the odd sensation that I was getting really heavy.

I awoke to find my teeth scattered about the elevator car like leftover confetti. I stumbled outside the crumpled car and realized that, somehow, I was in the Pit. I looked over towards Davis library and noticed a construction team placing a makeshift tarp over a hole in the roof. Strange.

I walked around, getting feeling back in my limbs, when I overheard something that made me cringe. It was simply two people discussing another person, but one of the adjectives they used is one that I take particular issue with. The person in discussion was described as being "anal."

Anal. From, of course, anal retentive. Now, to me, words are very important. In fact, I make a point to use at least five every day. But there are some things which I simply do not get. Such as a nice fat subsidy check from my congressman. Not two years ago, one would have to seek out the most dorky, pedantic group of people in order to hear the term "anal retentive" used even once. Now, all of a sudden, that gnarly phrase has flung itself into common usage. Why? Are there no other suitable words to describe some overly-neat, obsessively orderly, fastidious goofballs?

Mind you, despite the persona I utilize for tax purposes, I am no idiot. I know where this phrase is from. It's from Freud. Apparently he saw the need to divide the stages of life into divisions based on some orifice or body part or function or anything else he could think of to make people look at him with confusion and disgust. These "Psychosexual Stages," as he called them are: oral, our pal anal, phallic, latent, and genital. That's quite a variety, and I'm sure that if we concentrated our efforts, most of us could cram some friend or loved one into the twisted criteria of one of these groups. So why do we only hear people calling others 'anal' instead of say, 'oral,' or 'latent?' How come no one ever gripes about their 'oral' or 'genital' roommate? Why does the anus get such preference? Since when are people so happy to remind themselves of their orifice that jettisons waste?

You would think that it would be a pretty good rule of thumb for conversation that one should try to make as few references to the anus as possible. You know, only bring it up when you have a really important point, otherwise it loses its meaning. But it's not that way. Every day, somebody mentions an anus. Maybe it's some instinct left over from our childhood years that just makes us giddy whenever we can say some grody word. I don't know.

Well, whatever the reason, stop it. All of you. It's gross. Shut up about the anus already. Geez. Can't take you anywhere.

Oh, by the way. Tonight is the Duke game. Good luck, guys. I'm really counting on our team to win because I made a bet with a friend from Duke that would allow him to kidney-punch me for 20 straight minutes in the unlikely event we lose. So, play well. Thanks.

Okay. I've said my piece. I won't ramble on, because I believe that every time I type 'anus' on my computer I lower the resale value. So just think about what I said. Now, I know I may have come across a little harsh in this column, but it's for your own good. I wouldn't say it if I didn't care. I want to see my little readers grow up someday and be big and happy like the readers you can be. So keep warm. Stay well. And get the hell out of my yard! Oh, sorry, it's just nerves. Solidarity.

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