Tahoe Pine Nuts: No more swearing in Russian prisons, dam-it! | SierraSun.com

Tahoe Pine Nuts: No more swearing in Russian prisons, dam-it!

McAvoy Layne
Pine Nuts

Some Russian prisoners are missing the good old days of Stalin's gulag, when a prisoner could swear himself blue in the face.

Those good old days are long gone, comrade. No more "fenya" behind bars for pretrial inmates, and pity the poor boy who does not get the word.

So what's a Russian prisoner who stubs his toe on his bedpost at two in the morning supposed to do? Count to a hundred like Thomas Jefferson?

No, Mark Twain had more sagacious advice, "Under certain circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity provides a relief denied even to prayer."

And, Twain added, "When it comes to pure ornamental cursing, the native American is gifted above the sons of men."

Maybe that's it, maybe the Russians don't know how to swear in such a way that profanity becomes pleasing to the ear.

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According to Twain, "Swearing is like any other music. If it is not done well, if it is not done with a fine and discriminating art, and vitalized with gracious and heartborn feeling, it lacks beauty, it lacks charm, it lacks expression, it lacks nobleness, it lacks majesty."

Katy Leary, who was a 30-year Clemens household ally and servant, once opined about Sam's swearing, "He swore like an angel."

I suspect Russian prison fenya is full of wrath, so much wrath that a blasphemy might kick the dust up where it strikes the ground. It's the same way with blue jays and cats, as Twain tells us in his Blue-Jay Yarn:

"A jay hasn't got any more principles than a congressman has. And he can out-swear any gentleman in the mines. You think a cat can swear? Well, a cat can. Most people think it's the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain't so; it's the sickening grammar they use. But you give a blue-jay a subject that calls for his reserve powers, and where's your cat?"

Once, when Olivia, the wife Sam Clemens adored, heard him swearing in the bathroom she waited for him to come out, then repeated every word as he had said them.

He sat down on the bed, took her hand and said through broken laughter, "Livy, you got the words right, but the song wrong."

One has to imagine, there is enough friction in a Russian prison that a little swearing could be a lubricant. As one who loves the Russian people, I suggest we send a goodwill ambassador to Russia to teach her prisoners how to swear.

I would go myself, but my swearing is too coarse and has too many brimstones and fire pits in it to be of any help.

No, all I can propose to the Russian prisoner who stubs his toe in the night, is to pick a song, any song, and belt it out at the top of your lungs, "The hills are alive with the sound of music!"

If that doesn't work, I don't know what to tell you. Put a sock in your mouth, and say a little prayer…

Learn ore about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.