Before the dawn of language, when all utterance was Gibberish, words had no meaning; the first racial epithets Were born innocently as ancient spidery cave drawings.
Scratchy jagged lines depicting tiny insulting hand gestures; Flagellum tangents of middle fingers flipped between Protozoa and parasite, bacteria and amoeba—
Dramatic strife of microorganisms mushrooming as Intra species slurs amongst the animal kingdom increased.
The colorful bird of paradise calling a common pigeon A dull grey drone— The majestic king cobra, bold and supercilious, calling The humble garter snake a fraying thread from a bankrupt Farmers’ shirt—
The sleek nimble weasel’s smug indifference to the beauty Of the brindle patterns of big cousin wolverines’ coat— Full of potential for expressive hatred and derisive scorn, Smoldering with bad intent; the early racial epithets long Lay dormant; aging poisons fermenting, Larval words
Clustering into round, red lace doilies; a devil’s needle point.
The forbidden words waiting to be introduced into the Vocabularies of developing homo sapiens. The words Finding their true meaning only after cataclysmic world History played out—rivers of bloodshed flooding 7 continents—casualties of endless wars forming a vast Mass grave of victims and victimizers, reaching beyond Our solar system.
It was then, rising above the transient minutiae of life, The epithets were imbued with power, meaning and Context, having the wide ranging capacity to offend, Cause controversy and discord. The taboo words came of age, and men were struck Dead by lighting bolts of name calling.
Gangs of racial epithets; clusters of rolling red lace doilies Stampede like outlaw bikers or rabid hyenas, across a thin Skinned landscape as vulnerable as a newborn bunny.
The leader of the pack, King Slur, flashy flamboyant, So offensive it can’t be spoken, wears its ugly history Like a badge of honor; King Slur seizes the limelight Having the Alpha status of a fighting word, much Envied by lesser less offensive epithets with fragile Egos.
An epithets’ self worth is determined by frequency of use And maximum offense when spoken. Epithets suffer From neglect when for noble reasons they aren’t in Someones vocabulary.
Pity the wimpy slur, bland as tofu or cottage cheese, Which announces itself with a saccharine greeting Card jingle— Pity the declawed neutered slur, unable to offend, Useless as an old work horse sent to the glue factory—
Pity the obscure, antiquated slur uttered at deaf phantoms In a provincial backwater, not heard and dimly understood By the judgmental ears of a damned civilization—
Beware of epithets that get misconstrued as compliments— Beware of moldy tripe past its expiration date— Beware of sunflower seeds laced with tiny razor blades— Beware of sharks as cuddly as kittens—
If someone calls someone a bad word, and atomic bombs Are dropped all over again, take a vacation and sail to Epithet Isle where a pure slur language is spoken by Litigious masses in perpetual offense collapsing in upon Each other as they speak themselves into oblivion and King Slur is smiling and laughing at them vanish.
“The Hidden Evolution of Racial Epithets” (C) Richard Gessner 2023
Before the onslaught of fat and male pattern baldness, Richard Gessner made front page news during an April snow storm, long ago….
Richard Gessner’s fiction has been published in Air Fish: an anthology of speculative work, Rampike, Ice River, Coe Review, Another Chicago Magazine, Happy, The Act, Sein und Werden, Skidrow Penthouse, The Pannus Index, Fiction International and many other magazines. A collection, Excerpts from the Diary of a Neanderthal Dilettante & The Man in the Couch was published by Bomb Shelter Props. Gessner’s drawings and paintings have appeared in Raw Vision, Courier News, Asbury Park Press, Rampike, Skidrow Penthouse, and exhibited at Pleiades Gallery, Hamilton Street Gallery, Cry Baby Gallery, The Court Gallery and the Donald B. Palmer Museum. Richard wrote The Conduit and Other Visionary Tales of Morphing Whimsy. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
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Featured photo: Kaulquappen-Vergangenheitsbewaltigung. Richard Gessner