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Textual Healing: answers to the thorniest usage inquiries and conundrums

It's not the Patri, it's the Archy.

Pompous Q: I am a male (and proud of it!) economics professor at a large, respected university. Recently, I was having lunch in the faculty lounge. A couple of members of the Women's Studies Department were looking at a photo of a Neolithic statue of a female figure. When I overheard one of them refer to the figure as a "goddess," I had to interject. After all, just because a statue was ensconced in a large, elaborate building in the center of town doesn't mean they "worshipped" it; a more accurate term might be "fertility symbol" (sort of a prehistoric centerfold).

When I pointed this out to the woman who used the term, she looked me with great disgust, sighed, said "Oh, blow me." and stormed out. I was immediately struck by her use of the term "blow me." Since it is slang for the act of fellatio, can it be used by a female? When I asked the remaining woman (who also seemed inexplicably angry) about this, she smashed me over the head with a "party size" bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and also stormed out. I have three questions: Is "blow me" a gender-specific epithet, what were they so angry about, and do I have grounds for some sort of lawsuit? -- B.S., Hyde Park,Il
A: She probably meant it in the Lacanian sense, refering to the "phallus" that she possessed (having the power position of not being a presumptuous ass), and imploring you to metaphorically "suck" her righteous fury. Or, she might have wanted to strap on a literal "phallus" (found at many local establishments), have you get down on your knees, and wrap your puffy, pompous, reactionary lips around it (which would no doubt give you a new perspective on the meaning of "worship"). If you don't understand why they were angry, I don't think I could explain it to you, but our legal experts say that you would have no chance in a lawsuit (unless they were from the Business Department). Get over it

Flowers for Althusser

Q: Being a professor of cultural studies, I am constantly on the lookout for examples of Semiotics in action. Recently, while driving my new car near campus (I had only been driving a couple of weeks, but was really getting the hang of it), I began musing on those colorful designs painted on the center of the roadway. Could they have some symbolic function apart from their obvious aesthetic value? That would explain why so many motorists seem obsessed with these designs, often yelling and pointing at them as if imploring me to look. Others make odd, violent gestures which bespeak yet another code (and all of them are overly fond of those atonal music makers on their cars).

My reverie was interrupted by the flashing lights of a police car. "Ah," I thought. "Here's someone who might know about the designs." The officer confirmed my suspicions about hidden meanings, but then rudely berated me for my lack of adherence to them. "Well, excuse me for not being psychic," I replied. This threw him into quite a tizzy. Apparently, there are a whole slew of embedded meanings concealed in the driving environs (this also explains all the pretty signage), and people are compelled to learn all of these arcane portents in the obtainment of some sort of "license."

I tried to explain that the gentleman who sold me the car never mentioned anything about a license, and that the fact that I was tenured faculty should preclude any need for further documentation. This only enraged him further. In an egregiously raw display of power, the officer forced me to abandon my vehicle and accompany him to the station. I was then incarcerated until my department chair could negotiate my release. It was truly a Foucaultesque nightmare. I am now quite penitent regarding my ignorance of the social constructs involved in driving, but my question is, "How are people supposed to find out about these things?" I mean, I've never read a word about any of this in Granta or Social Text. Is there anyone I could ask? Perhaps some manual which contains them all collected together? --Anonymous, Evanston, Il
A: Some semiotic systems just aren't for everyone. The meanings embedded in the "driving environs" (as you so aptly put it) require virtually instantaneous interpretation with a minimum of cogitation. Therefore, this activity might be inappropriate for someone of your obviously deep and reflective nature (despite the fact that, having driven in Evanston many times, I know that your contemplative style of driving would not exactly stand out). If you feel you absolutely must continue this process, you might ask one of your graduate assistants (or the person who cleans your office) about where you might obtain the motoring "codebook." It would also be polite to inform them of when you plan on driving so they may be aware of your unique presence on the roadway and can act accordingly.

PS: Get used to hearing those "atonal music makers."

Evanston Driver

Newest Euphemisms and Acronyms for Unpleasant Terms

Unpleasant Term
New Euphemism
Initialism/Acronym
Prostitute
Remunerated Fellatio Provider
RFP / "rifpy"
Crackhead
Concentrated Cocaine Inhalation Enthusiast
CCIE / "coccie"
Stabbing
Subdermal Ventilation Event
SVE / "suvie"

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