Tuesday, September 11, 2012

That’s Nuts!

Conkers Are The Dog's Bollocks

Fruit of the Horse Chestnut tree, AKA conkers. (See note below.)

Wikipedia, the People’s Font of Knowledge, helpfully informs readers that bollocks appear between prick and arsehole. For those with a passing familiarity with human anatomy, this might seem like an overstatement of the obvious, which it would be if it were about actual genitals. But the reference is to the words “prick,” “bollocks,” and “arsehole” as profanities, and how they are perceived by the British public in terms of severity (according to a study for the BBC). “Bollocks” ranked 8th (you can figure out where “prick” and “arsehole” placed).

In Britain, “bollocks” is a treasured bit of language that has meant more than testicles for several hundred years. Let’s face it: “bollocks” is a more descriptive word, isn’t it? It’s suggestion of the swing and heft of a man’s balls is onomatopoeic in a way that “testicles” just isn’t. Americans use the completely inadequate word “balls,” which is misleading, because they aren’t; they’re more oblate. As a swear word, “balls” lacks the tongue action of the word “bollocks,” which is more emphatic and sounds funnier when the speaker is drunk. A “ball” could be anything; a “bollock,” on the other hand, is a bollock.

The Wiki page will tell you everything you ever wanted to know and more about the way the Brits, Scots and Irish use the word. Most of them call to mind that other great British expression for something that has gone terribly wrong: a “cock-up.” The British people have a great affinity for references to a man’s wedding tackle, something that makes the language both tremendously exciting to use and also somewhat dangerous, as one trips among a verbal minefield in polite company. To have “bollixed” something up means the same thing, but with more inventive spelling.

If one has a cock up, it is possible to receive a “right bollocking.” Although it sounds terrifying, it only involves a lot of rather fierce shouting.

Though the word “bollocks” usually refers to a mistake, by Man or nature, or nonsense along the lines of “bullshit,” it can also (confusingly for non-native speakers), be a positive thing. When something is “the dog’s bollocks,” it means brilliant, the best, unsurpassed. Why? Because a dog can lick it’s own scrotum, which according to many gents, is an admirable talent. Being able to do so would be “the dog’s bollocks.”

If you use the English language — if you love the English language, then it behooves you to become fluent in its genitalia-related profanity. Doing so will not only expand your vocabulary in endlessly entertaining ways, but you will be practicing an ancient tongue that predates the fastidious censorship of dictionaries which have looked the other way when flashed the goods. 

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NOTE: In the autumn, British schoolchildren play a particularly vicious game called "conkers," which involves skewering a shiny horse chestnut, threading it with string, and smashing it against an opponent's conker. The one whose conker is smashed loses. Conkers, with their prickly exterior and twin nuts bear an uncanny resemblance to testicles. Watch the helpful video below and try not to imagine substituting the word "bollocks" for "conkers" throughout.


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