“Nincompoop,” by Roger Sharp

Jul 12th, 2017 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

Editor’s Note: Adult language, but I swear it’s educational. (See what I did there…?)

The English language is replete with swear words, so I was not surprised when a friend’s four year old asked me, ‘Where does nincompoop fit into the lexicon of obscene words when ordered by shock value?’ What kid wouldn’t want to know that? At the bottom of the rung is nincompoop. Nincompoop is a nincompoopish word, not an obscenity at all, but anything with poop in it is game for a four year old. (For instance, poop deck would get laughs.) In fact, just saying poop is more offensive, i.e., better than nincompoop. You turd, even better, and You shit is at least at the twelve year old level. Adding nincom makes poop fairytale material. It’s like something from Dr. Seuss.

I am a nincom named Nan
I poop on lawns
Wherever I am
Before any other nincom can.

When talking about shit there are some interesting variations. It gets confusing, though, when religion is mixed with profanity. You don’t even need a whisk. Take holy shit for instance. Did an ordained person hold a pile of shit in his hand one day with those tissues that you select a donut with and whisper, “I bless you in the name of . . . [whomever]”? I don’t think so. Although still an obscenity, adding holy turns shit into an exclamation. You can really befuddle your interlocutor if you say ‘You holy shit.’ The discussion would probably end right there.

One can use the ubiquitous shit in oh so many ways. There’s: You shit-for-brains, You shit-eating [anything, such as aardvark], and You sorry sack of shit. Take your pick. (At least a person who is either of the first two can still stand up. Not so, the sack of shit.)

One thing that I didn’t mention to the four year old is that the power of obscenity changes according to many factors, not the least of which is size of the person speaking. If you’ve ever heard a ribald four year old say ‘You fucking asshole’ to his brother, you’ll be hard pressed to contain a guffaw and instead show unmitigated shock or at least disapproval. Another example of a small person with wicked words is the foul mouthed dwarf in the movie Bad Santa. You can’t help but watch slack-jawed when he says “I’m a mother fuckin’ dwarf. . . . I’m three-foot fuckin’ tall you asshole.” People watching such a sport react with “Listen to what’s coming out of the little guy’s mouth.” Or even “That’s so cute.” The words don’t make the dwarf any bigger and in fact, little people seem to make the words sound less obscene, more whimsical. Maybe they need their own set of obscenities like ‘You elephantine limp-legged monolith.’ Or ‘You overgrown glob-engulfed dick.”

The power of obscenity is also affected by gender. For some people, Mother fucker spewing from a woman has a different effect than it does from a man. And in today’s mostly gay-friendly society it’s a wonder that father fucker hasn’t become fashionable. Interestingly, the more powerful the person is, the more able they are to control the level of irreverence. Imagine a judge in court calmly referring to someone as six foot, white male, accountant, and mother fucker. Hmm. Seems normal. A judge can make it sound like a technical term one minute and make you incontinent the next.

A good fuck you is always powerful no matter what or by whom. It’s the fall back obscenity with spring‑forwardness. However, slight confusion ensues when someone says fuck me. Is it a show of generosity, saving you from having to say fuck you to them? And since that person has said it, what’s left for you to say? “Correct”? “Damn straight”? “No thank you”?

Prick up your ears when someone moves the ‘fucking’ modifier around. If you’re a fucking rotten egg, then you are an egg that is really, really rotten. But if you’re a rotten fucking egg, then you are an egg that fucks badly. Don’t let anyone get away with that.

If you’re in mixed company you may want to use a softer expression. ‘You scum dog’ works well even though no one really knows what a scum dog is. Sure, there are scum frogs but I’d save that for nerds. Allow me to propose the variation ‘You dog scum.’ You’re not even a dog—just scum. The kind that hangs from a Bullmastiff’s mouth all day and collects bugs and shit. It’s effective if the dog scum you’re addressing has half a brain. Otherwise, scum of the earth will do (the same scum that contains dead frogs). Of course you can always use the comically mean nincompoop.


Roger Sharp is a retired technical writer who sailed back to creative writing (which started in college when his poems were published in the literary journal). During his glorious, sleeper career he published articles in technical journals and since has published flash fiction in The Dirty Pool.  Most of his time now is split between writing and oil painting—what a life. Find him at https://twitter.com/sharpras.

Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.