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Parkinson's and Profanity

Monday November 27, 2017

As I’ve pointed out before, Parkinson’s has its own vocabulary, if not its own language. This ugly brute of a disease is adorned lavishly in terrific words and phrases, like a warthog wearing pearls. I hate experiencing festination, emotional incontinence, dyskinesia and postural instability, but as words, they are colorful, have interesting etymologies, and are esoteric yet highly useful on their turf. For a word-hoarder, connoisseur or aficionado, they are irresistible.

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There are, however another group of words Parkinson’s inspires that, while equally colorful, are not so august in status. These are vulgar curses, swear words, vile oaths and imprecations, and I would be lost without them.

When your balance fails, and you find yourself hurtling toward the hard tile on the floor, “Shucky darn” is not going to cut it. I usually let out a bellow of “(BLEEEEEEEP!!!!!)” right before impact, which somehow softens the blow. Then, as I attempt to gather my wits, I mutter “(Bleep) this (BLEEPING) Parkinson’s” like a soothing mantra until I pull myself together.

Say you are performing some delicate but everyday operation, for instance, threading a needle. By the fourth time you’ve jabbed your finger, a demure “Drat!” will be totally inadequate. No, this calls for a heartfelt (BLEEP!), or even (BLEEPING, BLEEPETY BLEEP!), or if you are especially fed up with this (BLEEP!!!) you could even go with (BLEEEEEEEEP!)

You think I’m (bleeping) with you? Let me just cite Scientific (BLEEPING) American on a study that showed swearing can (bleeping) alleviate pain:

“The study,… measured how long college students could keep their hands immersed in cold water. During the chilly exercise, they could repeat an expletive of their choice or chant a neutral word. When swearing, the 67 student volunteers reported less pain and on average endured about 40 seconds longer.”

The learned journal goes on to observe “How swearing achieves its physical effects is unclear, but the researchers speculate that brain circuitry linked to emotion is involved.”

Well, duh, no (bleep)

But Peter, I hear you cry, as my voice gets weaker and softer, how can I swear with any sort of real feeling, real authority? Well, this is one more reason you need to get voice therapy, and early on. If you are asked by your therapist to provide a series of words or phrases you would like to practice on, just tell them you want to rehearse (bleep, bleeeeeeep, bleeping, BLEEP!) If they give you any pushback, do what I just did, cite Scientific American, and then ask them what kind (bleep!) wants a sick person to feel more pain? That should shut their (bleeping) pie holes.

In the meantime, let’s all practice together. Repeat after me… (Bleep!)… (BLEEP!)… Good! Now left side of the room… Great! Now the right side… Brilliant! Now just the ladies … Whew! Don’t you feel better now? I know I do.

Unfortunately I must close with a word of warning the article points out, “The more we swear, the less emotionally potent the words become, Stephens cautions. And without emotion, all that is left of a swearword is the word itself, unlikely to soothe anyone's pain.” So don’t (BLEEPING) overdo it, OK?

Peter Dunlap-ShohlPeter Dunlap-Shohl
NWPF Blogger

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