Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Ass B'long Tok Tok

Melanesian Pidgin is a rather simple language that sometimes uses words and phrases extremely useful in many contexts and for many purposes. Ass b’long tok tok means, roughly, the source of the information, or rumor, gossip, lie, and so on. It can also mean the source of something, like the ass b’long pit pit (the main place where the cane grows), the end of something, as the ass b’long line, ass b’long diwai (the stump of a tree), or the ass b’long cargo (where all the goods come from), and so on. It is, as you can see, a very useful phrase.

I have long wondered about the ass b’long many things and I wonder if there is some secret source of information I do not know about. For example, where does Hank Wiliams Jr. acquire the information that allows him to state that President Obama “hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S.?” I assume he most probably just made this up, but the basic idea must have come from somewhere. Or where did Todd Akin (Republican running for Senate in Missouri) get the idea that in cases of “legitimate rape” women rarely get pregnant? Where did he discover or learn about legitimate rape, whatever that may be, and how does he know it rarely results in pregnancy? Did he just make it up? He did say something about talking to doctors, but unless they were some kind of witch doctors this would not seem like useful information. Where did Ted Nugent get the apparently unknown information that President Obama represents “everything bad about humanity?” Did this come from some secret source known only to Ted Nugent, or perhaps only to Republicans? Perhaps it just materialized out of thin air.

Republicans make all kinds of claims of this sort, often they are unfounded rumors, sometimes more far-fetched than others, but where do they originate? There is a recurrent rumor or claim, for example, that Obama is going to ditch Joe Biden and replace him with Hillary Clinton. This has been repeatedly denied, there is no evidence for it, but persists. Where did it come from? Similarly, the claim that in his second term Obama is going to take away our guns persists, although there seems to be no basis in fact for such a claim and it would probably be impossible (this one was probably started by the NRA). For years there has been a claim that abortion can led to breast cancer, a claim that has been shown to be completely false, but, again, seems to have a permanent life of its own. I suppose it doesn’t really matter much where these things originate, they are usually quite transparent in their motivation, but I wonder if there might be an important single source specifically for the generation of such claims, a Bureau of False Claims, an Institute for Creative Falsehoods, a Department of Falsehoods, or some such thing. I have considered just a simply named organization called The Ass B’long Tok Tok that would cover the entire universe of mysteriously generated, mostly false information, but Fox “News” has already claimed that responsibility. If, however, someone would offer me a substantial grant I would consider creating an Institute for the Study of the Ass B’long Tok Tok, right in the center of the Ass B’long Tok Tok itself (that I take to be our nation’s capitol).

Actually I have wondered about this for a long time, long before the connection with politics. I guess my first curiosity about this had to do with the source of jokes, especially what we know as “dirty” jokes. Where do such jokes come from, or originate? In the case of many more ordinary jokes we know many of them are generated by the large staffs of comedy writers employed by our comedians. It is obviously the case that Leno, Letterman, Stewart, Colbert, and others do not create all of their own material. But dirty jokes are another matter. Is there a central sort of “kitchen” where dirty jokes are “cooked up?” Maybe many of them just arise spontaneously in the mind of some individual, but are there some people who sit around making them up year after year? More interesting perhaps is the question of how they become so well known. How do they enter the mainstream? There doesn’t seem to be a newsletter that publishes the newest dirty jokes, regular newspapers don’t report them, they aren’t featured on television or radio, but they quickly become passed around, I suppose mostly by word of mouth. Not only are they picked up and widely circulated in the underworld of conversation, they often have staying power far beyond jokes that are less titillating. I guess there may be books of “Classic Dirty Jokes,” or “Jokes I Wouldn’t Tell my Mother,” or even “Dirty Jokes Up to Date,” but I’ve never looked into this possibility, not being an aficionado. Some dirty jokes are actually funny, many are disgusting or even “sick,” so it’s no wonder the authors might not wish to be revealed. But what an ignominious fate, being the master of jokes you cannot admit to being. Someone has to create dirty jokes. Is there an organized group that sits around the dinner table brainstorming the off-color, perhaps they meet regularly in bars, maybe they are mostly created by individuals while showering, I do not know, but I have wondered about it for many years. It’s like the tremendously gifted individuals who write their best material on bathroom walls but never sign their names. Pity.

Good taste is the enemy of creativity

Pablo Picasso

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